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JL | Com Ivanova, Empress Xue'Daio Nox | "Cosmos"

Posted on 241904.22 @ 23:49 by Commodore Rochelle Ivanova & Xue'Daio Nox

Mission: Lacuna

Commodore Ivanova," Xue'Daio smiled in greeting, raising a hand in the traditional Terran greeting, "I've been expecting you. Please, come in. Join me."

As a the Empress's handmaid and guards stepped aside, ushering her in, Rochelle held up her hand in reply before walking into the lavish room. It was large in spite of the way it had been meticulously and poshly appointed with the finest of furnishings and art. Some of them seemed far more Terran in nature when it came to aesthetics, more so than Stenellian, but there was an undeniable shift of space and arrangement that struck the Commodore as uniquely Romulan. Even in death, Maec Tr'Verelan's influence was easily seen, but hardly seemed imposing or cruel.

Behind her the doors closed, and only then did she choose to take a seat across from the black clad albino.

“May I offer you something to drink?” Xue asked, tilting her head as her bright rose eyes followed the way the human’s flitted about the room. She didn’t need telepathy to understand the thoughts that followed through the fire-maned woman’s mind. They were clear as day and written across her posture well enough. While she'd seen Rochelle plenty of times, even sat across from her what felt like dozens of instances, she'd never truly taken a look at who and what the woman was. Her russet locks had been pulled away from her face and gathered behind her head in a complicated bun, revealing her eyes. They were large, but not garishly so, bright blue and filled with an intense intelligence and display of grit that Xue instantly recognized as years of responsibility, loss, and life. They highlighted her delicate features, and physically, she reminded Xue of a woman she'd once known from high within the mountains.

Bringing her attention back to the Empress, Rochelle - acutely aware that she was being studied - shook her head gently, “No, Majesty, I wanted to speak with you tell you that I understand what you’re feeling right now.” She cleared her throat gently, crossing her legs at the ankles and setting her hands in her lap. The idea that she was sitting there, wide open, with the Empress of a band of worlds poised tense over a series of incidents, was undeniably reckless - but it was also undeniably diplomatic… Or at least it would have been had diplomacy and signing contracts been the the primary goal of the Commodore’s visit that morning.

It wasn’t.

Something more had compelled the redhead forth to speak with the Empress on terms not dictated by uniforms or control struggles. It was the common language of heartache and mourning that came with the loss of someone so very loved. Despite her dry eyes, Rochelle could see that the Empress's grief was palpable. The sag of her shoulders, the grim set of her mouth, her large, empty rose eyes staring straight ahead. The devastation seemed to have shaken her world. She knew all of this. Looking at the woman was not unlike peering into a looking glass back at the past some nearly six years ago. Jesus... Had it really been that long?
“I’ve been where you are now. It’s not something you can handle alone, believe me… I tried.”

The pain Xue had felt from upon her return home to find Maec still missing was still as raw as ever, and the feeling of helplessness and abrupt panic that had stricken her in that moment was as palpable as it could ever be. She nodded in gentle understanding. Of course Rochelle would know, the story of Landon Neyes was one often told and regalled throughout the Ascendancy after his waltz with the devil himself, but alas... Landon Neyes wasn't dead. He was simply lost to his own follies and hardly destined to be long forgotten. Just the thought of Maec's absence being permanent left the innumerable pieces of her heart as the only reminiscence of her tete-a-tete with reality and it shoved into the pit of her gut with a jolt stronger than lightning.

“Something told me that you might.” She finally acknowledged, swallowing the growing lump in her throat, “Perhaps we aren’t all that different after all.”

“No, I don’t think we are.” The Commodore agreed, this time her smile was quick and awkward, maybe even a little sad. Her tongue snuck out to worry her lower lip and she quickly uncrossed and re-crossed her ankles in an unbridled display of the fact that she’d long since exited her comfort zone. “About six years ago I lost my husband for the first time.” The flavor of the title she’d inadvertently chosen for Landon in this instance barely registered at the time, but it would later when she sat up and picked apart the entire experience, “I was young, naive… It was before we were married.” Rochelle explained, leveling with the Empress by opening her hands as if to say ‘so there’s that’, but it was still a thing, “He was Captain of the Vindicator then and I was his Executive Officer, but um… Yeah… For sake of duty, the crew, we didn’t act on our emotions or desires and long story short I thought I lost him. He was presumed dead for quite awhile and I felt my entire world shatter.”

“I’d heard something like this… That Tr’Bak had kidnapped him… So it’s true?” Xue asked, eyes widening behind the veil of steam teeming from her lifted tea cup.

“Yes,” Rochelle nodded, “It’s true… It’s why what happened our last go around on Apsha happened.” The memory of it would forever be branded on the inside of her eyelids, she’d see it every time she closed her eyes and tried to sleep while resting on Apshan soil. Landon striding up to rescue her from the arms of the insufferable Tr’Bak, the stench of burning flesh when the stalwart and steadfast Trill seared a Starfleet delta into the Romulan’s palm. The sudden flurry of activity, their escape… The battle that ensued… The destruction of Vindicator. Landon hadn’t been using then, had he? Of course he had… Of course he had… That part, she decided, would be left out of her tale. “Anyway… I know this seems different because at the end of the day Landon came home and what’s happened between us is twisted to say the least, but I understand loss. I understand the pain and the hollowness you must be feeling… And I can only hope that you can accept my offer to sit and listen.”

The Albino nodded and set her cup back on its saucer, “Such an offer is a two way street, Commodore,” she began. Hearing any more, any details, would have been far too heavy a burden for her to add to her struggling shoulders, “Should I take you up on it, there would be a degree of trust that we haven’t yet come near approaching. A bond of secrecy would be forged, but somehow I don’t believe that your degree of empathy would allow you to break such bonds.” Her eyes shaded briefly, her long alabaster lashes acting as a cover as she studied the porcelain cup sitting there on the elegantly carved wooden table between them and smirked. It wasn’t a cruel smirk, but one made in relative realization of the how strange a path they’d come to walk together. No one would have believed it had they heard it from either source - the truth was stranger than fiction in that regard.

“I was going to send for you this morning anyway,” Xue’s resplendent eyes met the chill of the Terran woman’s again, looking to break the painful nature of the conversation with something more civil and kind. Neither one deserved to fester in the wounds they’d received when it came to loss - and she herself wasn’t yet ready to speak of the insurmountable measure of guilt she felt over taking another man during Maec’s absence. Perhaps in part it was because she knew such things were considered taboo by Terran standards when they were openly embraced by Stenellis society. Maybe more so because he love for Maec had been tarnished by frustration and anger that he’d chosen to go and missed check in after check in… Never once did she consider that he may be dead. She’d never believed him to be fallible.

“I have decided that the Ascendancy will grant the Federation a provisional alliance… A trial period, as your kin call it. A way for us to work together and decide if the fit is right without the pomp and circumstance routine of sending diplomatic attaches back and forth - not that I mind that my cousin has joined your ranks and chosen a suitable husband.” Ah yes… Si’a would be wed in just a few days time, bringing joy and hope to a people heartbroken and deeply entrenched in their mourning over the loss of the Emperor. Such a wedding only cemented the fact that the Stenellis, and the Ascendancy, were open to change and to exploration beyond their system. She would be the second member of the ruling house to wed outside of her race and the coming birth of her child would mark an entirely new era - just as Sanra’s birth had… Just as the child in her womb would regardless of how tarnished and jaded by bucked conventionality their conception was.

The news, however, wasn’t something Rochelle was ready for. While it was exactly the sort of thing that would have sent the Federation, and Starfleet as a whole, into relieved celebration, the Commodore couldn’t help but wonder the motives for such a sudden and paramount choice being made so soon on the coattails of the Emperor’s death. Her head tilted and she drew breath to question the Empress, but quickly exhaled. She knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth or question someone who was so deep in grief as to their motives. And though she may have frowned initially, she nodded in acceptance and understanding, “So long as this is something that you want.”

“It is. It’s been in the works for awhile, Commodore, you may relax.” Her gaze left the Phoenix once again, this time finding rays of sunshine pouring through the stained glass panes of her windows. It was ill timing and poor fitting, hardly apt to the mood of the entire world. It should have been pouring. “You have shown great strength and courage, never once being paltry or petty… And you haven’t stooped to pretty pose and other metrics of groveling and pandering that some have warned me your people would.”

Outside a bird sung a sweet tune, muffled by the glass though it was. An ear twitched instinctively towards it, listening to it lilt in recognition of the sunshine and shift of seasons. Spring had finally sprung. “For that, I am grateful and in that vein of thought, you’ve earned my respect, Commodore. You’re unyielding and unrelenting, too proud to resort to petty parlor tricks… I can see your honesty and integrity in your eyes. I could feel it when you offered me your ear. You shared with me something of your past, something damning, with little regard or hesitation.” Xue smiled, reaching a slending, shining hand towards the other woman, “It’s hard to believe that Terran is the only blood that flows through your veins. Truly. It’s rather remarkable. So many would have broken before this point, and yet here you are… And this sector, this space, this is your home within Starfleet.” She nodded, affirming her decision, “Yes, I will grant them a provisional alliance and you will return home with the news just as soon as Si’a Dai’xun is wed.”

Rochelle was given no chance to respond as she joined hands with the Stenellis, marking the forging of their worlds. No sooner did she begin to formulate words did a handmaiden scoot into the room, her fingers clutched about a small digital scroll. “Majesty, I am so sorry to bother you, but Lord Kaei’lain has sent word that--”

“Yes… A new finance minister must be appointed if trade is to continue.” Xue sighed, flashing the Commodore an apologetic look that was quickly received and returned as one of understanding. Life was never simple and never dull.

“Yes, Majesty. That and the Cardassians will be sending a delegation. I believe they wish to honor you in your time of mourning by lending their arms as a sign of solidarity against any that would think you week… Or so Lord Kaei’lain has said.”

“Lord Kaei’lain wishes to be Emperor. No doubt he reached out to the Union himself.” Another sigh, another scowl and this time Xue lifted her elegant form from the settee she sat upon, “Commodore… What I’ve said remains true and iron clad. I’ll see you at the wedding.”

“I understand, Empress. I’ll see to it that the pieces fall into place.”

Of course she would… Rochelle had no other choice but to honor the wishes of the Empress before her. No other choice but to believe that things could be peaceful between the Ascendancy and the Federation, finally erasing lines drawn in the dirt between the rest of the civilized galaxy and members such as the Cardassians. It was a blessing that rode in on a wave of despair, proof that hope springs eternal. She’d do what it took to make it work, to keep peace in this lawless chunk of space.

---

Commodore Rochelle Ivanova
Commanding Officer
USS VINDICATOR NX-78213-F

Xue'Daio Nox
Empress of the Stenellian Ascendancy
Queen Regnant of Apsha
Queen of Aliene

 

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