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JL | Empress Xue'Daio Nox, Cmdr Evan Merlin | "Across the Stars" pt 1/2

Posted on 241812.10 @ 17:46 by Xue'Daio Nox & Lieutenant Ra'lin Sha'mer

Mission: Lacuna

It had been awhile - too long, really - since Xue had taken the time to sit and think. Of course he was nearly always on her mind, helping direct her thoughts and acting in stead of some sort of saint. It wasn't that she prayed to him, but that he kept her grounded and centered throughout each and every one of her trials and tribulations - the primary one being her attempts to get through to Rochelle who, for the most part, remained ever aloof and distant in spite of the Empress' best efforts to curry warmth and friendship between the two.

Who could blame her?

For everything, and every reason, Rochelle had every right to be more than a little leery. It didn't stop Xue and, as it always was, the question 'What would Evan do?' crossed her mind and one thought lead to another before the regent paused in forward motion, stealing a second in the empty hall leading to her bed chamber, to close her eyes and breathe. By now her messengers had sent word. By now he knew, but had no recourse. By now she was the one guilty of neglecting duties, albeit duties of the heart, but duties none-the-less. Her heavy winter robes felt infinitely heavier as she thought about him and the distance lodged between them during a time she should, by all rights, be spending with him. Not Maec. This wasn't Maec's to enjoy - not that the Romulan was generating any particular happiness from knowing that his wife had taken up with a 'lower form of life. An unknown lower form of life. Universal ilk of society.', as he'd so delicately put it - while vehemently beseeching her to 'erase the evidence' that she'd 'been beguiled by the creature', no less. No. Her head shook gently as she found motion once again, the evidence of her so called beguiling would not be erased.

"I want to see him,"

Her chamber maid didn't need to know more, it was an easy guess as to who that 'him' was given the nature in which the Empress carried herself. She'd seen that look before - distant, lonely, her fingers worrying the strange, delicate bracelet that adorned her wrist. "Lady, let me draw you a bath--"

"I want to see him," Xue repeated, holding up a hand to still the woman's movement. Breti had been with her since she was just a little girl, the woman had every right to think that she knew better - but this wasn't her call. It was Xue's and try as she had to shake the need for him, she knew she'd never succeed. "Please," she prefaced, looking up from where she'd settled into the comfort of her favorite chair; a large velvet adorned piece that cradled her body in a semi-circular cocoon of warm fabric and stuffing. Comfort. Gods how she needed comfort, "Open a secure line." and pray to the stars that he's available. went without saying.

Pursing her lips and peering down at the young Queen, Breti heaved a small sigh before nodding and reaching to stroke her charge's soft porcelain cheek. "Yes, Lady, as you wish. You stay where you are, though, and cover up. We don't know enough about your condition to have you moving around more than you need to."

A small smile tugged at Xue's lips as she glanced down towards her well covered midsection while another layer, a soft sherpa type blanket, was placed over her. It was a sardonic sort of smile, maybe even a little sad, "Breti, I've carried before. I'm perfectly fine."

"But not with..." Breti bit her tongue and shook her head, "I'm sorry, Lady, I spoke out of turn."

To this Xue simply nodded. No one had this reaction when she carried S'anra, no one batted an eyelash - but this? One would think she'd signed her own death warrant by the way they treated her. The knot in her throat was a hard one to swallow, but when she looked up again she had masked whatever hurt had been inflicted, "Breti... The call. Please."

"Yes, Lady, right away."

Never in their history had she seen the aging woman so happy to retreat, even if it were mere feet away, to place the call.

"Commander, there's an incoming message."

"Aren't there always?" the station's XO muttered, looking up from the PADD he was reading. He was on report sixteen and judging by the pile he was plowing through, he was about halfway. He sighed to himself. The last yeoman assigned to Cold Station Theta had left the station after less than six weeks – as soon as the nearest inbound ship could take her back to the Federation, in other words. He had put in a request for a new one immediately, and of course Starfleet had sent him a politely worded message that his request had been received and a new yeoman would be assigned to the station 'as soon as possible'. That had been a month ago.
He'd thought about asking Fleet Command to lend one of their people, but in her current condition, the Fleet Admiral needed everyone she had. So the slack fell to the duly apponted person for miscellaneous tasks: the XO. It was a good thing, he often reflected, that he needed little sleep.

Right now, though, he put the PADD down. "Anything interesting?" he asked the Ops officer on duty.

"Can't say, sir. It's a message for you."

The XO raised his eyebrows. That was a fairly rare occurrence. "Addressed to the station XO or to me personally?" he asked.

"The latter, sir."

Something inside the XO, something which had been empty and cold ever since a certain person had left the station, began to glow with a faint but radiant light. He jumped up, his wild curls dancing, eyes alight. "I'll take it in my office, Lieutenant, thank you."

And he was off, leaving a rather puzzled looking junior lieutenant behind.

A personal message, addressed to him. Not just a message, he realised when he slid behind the desk in his office and activated the screen. An open channel, heavily encrypted and bounced off at least three relay stations in order to reach him. The symbol on the screen was one which made his heart race. He took a deep breath and activated the channel.

"Evan." Xue's fingers tangled in the blanket over her lap as she puffed his name into the warm, dry winter air. Seeing him, however far away, however pixelated, brought an immediate smile to her face - erasing the morose lines of quiet quiet and fatigue that had done their damnedest to set in and age her features. Her hands ached to reach for him, to cup his cheek or tug him to her - ached to prove that he was real and that he was hers... But proof of reality, she realized, was far closer to home.

The bracelet... The pregnancy... Those were real, tangible, and there.

Her teeth caught her lower lip and she shifted her weight in her seat, taking a position of power instinctively. Somethings would never change, that urge to be in control even when things spiraled into the realm of uncertainty was most definitely one of them. It didn't stop her from positively glowing, shining with the mirth that befell her the moment he'd flickered into view. The fact she'd used his first name, or rather the moniker that has been chosen for him, barely even registered - at least with her. Breti, however, raised an eyebrow, took a quick look at the raven haired man with oceans for eyes on the screen, and nodded briefly... Maybe in understanding as to why the Queen she'd helped raise had done something as risky as bedding a Starfleet officer.

"I take it you are well?" An easy ice breaker, still dignified enough to devolve the conversation into something far less personal if that was the path he chose to walk - but something in his eyes promised her that it wasn't. They were too open, too wide, his pupils perhaps even a bit dilated - not at all unlike hers.

The Starfleet officer smiled, that radiant smile which seemed to encompass an universe, eager and wide open. "I was well before you called," he said, and the warmth in his voice was there for her alone. "I'm weller now."

He took her in, first as a whole, then focusing on the different aspects which were her. The pregnancy was too early to show, yet already there were telltale signs he could see. There was a glow over her which wasn't part of her usual radiance. Something in her face, something in her eyes. He knew that if he were near her, he would be able to feel the presence of the little one.

Yet there were other signs, too, and they were more worrisome. Something other than the weight of her office, which had enveloped her completely once more upon her return and which weighted her down. How he yearned to go to her and help lift that burden, to ease her weariness. But she was there, and he was here, and duty kept the two of them apart. Others would have to care for her in his absence – and they either could not or would not, so it appeared.

"And how are you?" he asked in return.

"Weller." She replied in kind, her lips twisting in amusement and her head nodding briefly as she uttered the grammatically poor response. She didn't know everything there was to know about Standard, but she was absolutely certain that such a word didn't exist - nor did she care. It was uniquely him and she'd accept it for the off the cuff weirdness that it was. Being under his gaze, knowing that he was studying her, reading her, it should have left her feeling bare and perhaps even a tad bit uneasy - violated even - but no such ill feeling dared to rise, let alone persist. She let him look and let him read - let the wild train of thoughts buzz along through his mind as he worked over thoughts and responses and drew whatever conclusions he chose to.

It gave her the chance to watch him and the ascertain his mood - watch the colors of his eyes shift and his brows move in barely perceptible ways that gave charge to the notion that he was indeed thinking and working things out. The corners of his mouth were a dead give away, he held tension there that he likely didn't realize he did, and while it wasn't that he'd easily loose a hand at poker with that face they were all tells that spoke volumes to those who knew him as intimately as she did.

"I sent word." Xue softly asserted, realizing part of what he was looking for wouldn't be readily apparent, "That news hasn't changed, all is well." Too professional, too... Distant. It burned her - but so too did the realization that Breti was still lurking, folding linens, in the hall just off her study. She knew the woman was listening, but she also knew the woman could be trusted and that there was no big secret as to who the man on the screen - and his significance - was. "I thought it would ease how much I miss you..." She panted a small, sardonic little laugh, her brows quirking as she shook her head and wet her lower lip, "Couldn't fool myself. I miss you more because of it."

"The word was sent and received,"the XO said and smiled again. "And I think it was the best news the bearer ever brought." He noticed the obscure way she spoke and realized once again that for a woman in her position, true privacy was a rare luxury. Even on the station it had been difficult for her to be alone from time to time, dismissing all servants and officials on her staff. On her own world it would be more difficult still.

So, going with the spontaneous impulses which characterized him, he suddenly called out: "Hi to whoever else is in the room!" and waved.

There was a chortle, something of a surprised snort really, from Breti and a climbing scale of surprised laughter from Xue. Caught off guard, it was hard to hold her composure when all she wanted to do was enjoy his company and set aside the preface of power and nobility and all the bits and bobs of etiquette that came along for the ride. "Breti... I think you may have met her briefly," Xue tried to talk, to regain control as she glanced towards the woman who very much looked like a hen that had been startled off her nest; fluffed up and disgruntled, "She's good people. Breti..." She gestured from the woman to the screen, "This is--"

"I know who he is, Lady. I apologize for eavesdropping. Now if you'll excuse me, there's tea to be fetched."

Xue's lips pursed in wild entertainment, simply nodding and allowing the brusque woman to disappear in a flourish of robes. The only thing missing was a few clucks and growls as she disappeared into another room entirely, her folding clearly forgotten. It took a second before Xue was able to turn her rosey eyes back in Evan's direction, "You're incorrigible." She admonished him softly, "lucky for you, I find it to be rather endearing."

"I don't like pussyfooting," the XO said with a grin. He added, a bit more seriously: "It's always good to meet people you know and trust." People who can be there for you and who can be there when I cannot be, he thought. No need to speak that thought aloud, he knew she would be able to read what he thought anyway. There were so many other things he didn't need to say; 'I miss you', 'I love you', 'I wish I was with you'. "Tell me where you are," he said instead. "You look cold."

"Ah yes, direct and to the point as always." She chuckled, running her hands along the plush fabric of her blanket. His comment regarding people, trust, it didn't go unnoticed, but she chose not to engage it and instead simple offered a small smile and nod that said all she needed to say about the topic. It was what he didn't say that resonated deepest within her - things that were whispered by his soul and reached her even from far across the stars. "Home," Xue finally answered, now plucking at the blanket, "I'm close to sweating, actually, Breti has me bundled and swaddled as if I'm going to break." The amusement was tainted by a hint of sadness this time, "The only people treating me with any sense of normalcy are your people, Evan. Starfleet. Ivanova knows, she's not a stupid woman after all, and it hasn't stopped her from being aloof or distant and anything but warm during our conversations." She paused, canting her head to one side as she considered the statement, "Come to think of it, it's frustrating but rather comforting." Xue sniffed and shrugged, "Odd how the status quo, however an annoyance, manages to soothe... Isn't it?"

The commander nodded slowly. "Well yes, that makes sense, I suppose. You are very important to your people, and if anything happens to you, that'd be quite devastating to a lot of them – especially the ones near you, who depend on your well-being for their jobs and positions. And now something has happened which has…" a fleeting smile there, "unexpected effects. No wonder it makes a lot of people nervous." He leaned slightly back, still looking at her, allowing himself to be looked at in turn. How meager those two senses were, sight and sound, when his fingers remembered her touch, his nose remembered her scent, his mouth remembered her taste and – above all – his mind remembered all of her.

"Starfleet, on the other hand," he resumed, "has no such emotions mixed into their dealings with you. If something were to happen to you, then they would have to deal with another ruler. They would hope for a good one, be prepared for a bad one, and do their diplomatic best to deal with either." He gave a wry shrug. "Still, I can imagine their professionalism is easier to bear than…" and there was that mischievous grin again, "being swaddled like a babe."

"Indeed it is." Her posture relaxed as they spoke, allowing her to nestle into the posh confines of her seat and tuck her legs up until she was sitting 'Indian style', whatever that reference truly meant. It wasn't dignified, but it was comfortable and with him she had no true need to be that rigid picture of nobility - with him she was allowed to relax and breathe and simply be alive. It was a wondrous feeling that warmed her from within, "You'd think they'd realize that swaddling me is like swaddling a bassinet instead of the babe. I'm fine, no worse for wear, but they seem to think otherwise."

And that was the bizarre notion.

---
To Be Continued...
---

Empress Xue'Daio Nox
Queen of Apsha
Ruler of Aleine
Stenellian Ascendancy

Commander Evan Merlin
Executive Officer
COLD STATION THETA, SB-1170

 

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