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A Small Comfort

Posted on Thu Mar 13th, 2014 @ 3:20pm by Commander Khelev ch'Koro [Halan] & Lieutenant Commander Vanora Stele

Mission: Photons Everywhere Part 2
Location: Khelev's Quarters
Timeline: post-Debriefing

ON:

Starfleet officers were supposed to be prepared for the unexpected. But the gruesome images that the members of the Away Team now had emblazoned into their memories were not the sort of thing even veteran officers expected to see within Federation borders. Maybe in deep space, or in conflict areas like the DMZ or the Badlands. But not right here at home. Of the group that had beamed aboard the Wasp, Vanora was certain that Khelev was feeling the effects more than the others. After all, for him it was personal, and thus so much more painful.

She made her way to his quarters as soon as she was able to and rang his door chime. She was genuinely worried about him, the way he had looked both on the Wasp and in the lounge when they were debriefing the Commander.

Khelev had just gotten back to his room and unzipped his uniform jacket when the chime rang and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He wasn't sure he wanted company but he couldn't ignore the chime. Finally he headed for the door and opened it, his irritation ebbed when he saw it was Vanora. Stepping aside, he motioned for her to come inside. "It's good to see you Vanora, I think you're one of the few people who wouldn't irritate me right now."

"I'm honored to not be an irritant." She walked in and let the door close behind her. "I'm not going to ask you how you're doing, because I already know. I'm so sorry, Khelev, for your loss. What happened to them, to Vidar and Kelly, and everyone else on that ship, we'll find the monsters who did it and they'll pay for what they did."

"I know, and thank you. Most do not understand how strongly we feel about family and while I would consider very few family that are not Andorian he was one of them. I will avenge my brother and I know that I will leave a wake of bodies," Khelev said with a nod. "It's the lack of answers right now that seems so infuriating. A mysterious symbol and bodies drained of all blood. A vicious battle in Engineering and only a couple of things taken... I keep going over and over it in my mind."

"That, too, I understand." Vanora took a deep breath before continuing. "I haven't told many people, besides counselors, really, but I've lost someone I loved, too. I wonder if you remember, the first time you and I met, you'd told me that you might want a freighter of your own some day, and I'd told you that I'd had one, until some Ferengis attacked us and nearly killed us all. I didn't tell you that day, but my husband was on that ship, too. We'd only been married for a year, but after the attack, he wasn't anywhere to be found. No DNA residue in any of the disruptor burns on the corridors, no sign of him from any of my contacts. That Andorian captain I mentioned, the one who came and saved me and my crew. Captain Keval P'Trell. He let me use his ship to continue the search for months, even after he and Starfleet had given up any hope." She shook her head sadly. "I just... I just wanted you to know, you're not alone in this. I'm not going to let you be alone in figuring this out. Not the way I had to be."

Khelev listened intently to Vanora's story, he could understand her reluctance to tell anyone about what had happened to her husband and he also understood why she told him now. Walking to his cabinet, he opened it and took out a curved bottle of saurian brandy and set it on the counter. "That means more then all the I'm sorry for your loss talk that's for damn sure. As your shipmate I grieve the loss of you husband with you as you grieve the loss of my brother. We should toast the honored dead, will you share a drink with me?"

"Ah, a shared tradition then between Elasians and Andorians," she said with a weak smile. "Of course, Khelev, I would be honored." Vanora took the bottle in both hands and raised it, before carefully filling Khelev's glass. "On Elas, we pour like this for each other as a sign of respect and trust. Something about not being about not being able to reach a knife when your hands are full." She set the bottle down.

Khelev picked up the bottle with both hands and poured her a glass in the same way she'd done for him. Once he set the bottle down, he picked up his glass and held it up with her before knocking his own back and letting out a satisfied sigh. "What do you say we sit down on the couch and have a couple more glasses from that bottle."

"I'd say that's a good plan." She downed her own glass and then carried the bottle to the couch, dropping into it with a satisfied sigh. She unceremoniously refilled her own and waited for Khelev to join her before topping his glass off, as well. "Something I've found helps, and feel free to stop me if it is too soon, but I found that, even early on, it was helpful... A story, about your friends. Tell me about a memory of you and Vidar. Or, if you'd prefer, I can bore you with a story about me and Tang."

"I should probably start," Khelev took a drink from his glass, this time he didn't drain it and he closed his eyes as he thought back over Vidar and his friendship. There had to be a good place to kick this story off. "Just before I left for the academy, Vidar scored a couple of fake IDs and took me out for a night on the town. It was our first real taste of alcohol and the night got pretty crazy. We started off in a small dive bar, ended up getting kicked out because he wouldn't stop grabbing the waitresses ass. Then he decided it was time to pick up some girls, we headed for a bar in a nicer part of town. I ended up running into a couple of real babes, they were older then us for sure and for some reason they decided to join us. After a couple of drinks we started dancing and the evening was going great until they clued us in on the fact that they had boyfriends. Vidar was ticked and managed to convince them to stick around. Their boyfriends showed up together, they were friends. We got into a fight with them and wound up arrested, spent the night in the dunk tank. The best part was the two girls came and picked us up in the morning. I guess they were impressed."

Vanora managed a small but genuine smile. "I can't say I approve of the part where he assaulted that waitress, but it does sound like the sort of mischief two young men would get into before going on a great adventure. An adventure to open an adventure." She chuckled. "Men also fight over women on my planet, though somehow I suspect the cultural context is different. I assume that if they were impressed, you and Vidar had won the fight with their boyfriends?"

"In a manner of speaking, I was brought up by a Father who'd spent time in the Imperial Guard on Andoria and spent time on a merchant ship. He taught all of his children martial arts," Khelev replied with a half smile before he took another drink from his glass. "Those two boys didn't have a chance."

She spun the glass around slowly, watching the alcohol stick and then release from the surfaces. "You and Vidar grew up together?"

"We did, I met him when we can aboard and we spent most of our time getting into trouble with our parents," Khelev smiled at the memories. "What about Tang? Tell me of him."

The drink in her glass had accelerated into a tiny whirlpool as she set the beverage down on the small table in front of her. "Tang," she began, pulling her legs up onto the couch and under her as she propped herself up on one elbow. "He taught me to be patient. I was always running, trying to get to the next gig, the next haul of cargo. Pushing the ship too hard, pushing myself too hard, finding a deserted planet with a little bit of atmosphere so that I could jump out of a shuttlecraft. Actually, at first I thought he was a stick in the mud," she chuckled. "You know, this real straight arrow, by-the-books type. I almost kicked him off my ship right after I hired him on to be my security detail. He was always going on about contingencies, wanting to do extra searches of goods before we onboarded them. The final straw was when he wanted to put one of his men on me at all times, like I was some sort of diplomat or admiral. Can you imagine it? This little cargo ship with barely twenty crew and he says the captain needs a personal detail. So I told him, 'Only if you do it yourself.' He didn't blink before agreeing to." She reached forward for her drink. "So, of course, I rush into a deal with some Nausicans without checking them out, like he tried to convince me to do. I get to them, sign the transfer of goods to them, and as soon as my thumb imprint is on the document, both of them come at me with hidden blades. I'd have handled one of them, but two Nausicans? Nope, I was done for. Except that Tang with there, and he, unlike me, had done his research. Knew these guys were no good, that they were as likely to try to kill me and run off with the cargo as they were to pay me. He had both of them on the ground and unconscious before I even pulled my own knife out."

"Sounds like he's was a good security officer," Khelev said, he'd had his own run ins with Nausicans himself and he never found them to be very friendly. Perhaps it was just in their nature? "So you said he disappeared without a trace? No DNA? I don't suppose you'd let a grumpy Andorian engineer take a look at those scans?"

Vanora shook her head. "I've had the evidence scoured so many times by so many experts that there's nothing left there but dashed hopes. The best theory is that he was..." She stopped herself. "Let's not do this. You get to a point, you know. There's a time when you just have to figure out how to continue, or else you get lost in it. I really hope that doesn't happen to you, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that we find out who did this and bring them to justice. It won't be enough, but it's important."

"No, you're right. I'm sorry I should know better then the drag up such things. The engineer in me can be a little impulsive when he's curious," Khelev replied, he poured himself another glass of brandy before offering her more. He was just starting to relax and her company was a comfort in many ways. "Although, if you ever need a warrior to help you gut your enemies, you only need to ask and my Kal'hris and phaser are yours."

"Ah," she smirked, "You should be more careful in making such promises to an Elaisan woman, Khelev. We take such oaths to serve as another's warrior very seriously."

"And you think a man born of ice doesn't?" Khelev asked, his antenna raised up in slight surprise before he pointed them at her but only for a brief second. "Of course we may be meaning two different things, I am not getting the feeling it's more of a mating ritual and I maybe stepping out into the deep end of the pool."

"Not a mating ritual, per se. Or, maybe put another way, not only a mating ritual. A male warrior making such a promise to a female warrior can be taken as an oath of fealty to a clan chief, or to a smaller household. It's not a promise of a relationship by either side, but the male warrior is expected to fulfill the oath. Sometimes, work and pleasure get mixed together," she smiled wryly. "But you're not Elasian, Khelev. And I am neither a chief nor on Elas anymore." She stretched, then settled back into the couch. "I think you would really like Elas, warrior. So long as you didn't accidentally get yourself married while you were there."

"I think I would really like it and I think I would end up coming back very married," Khelev laughed at that before pouring himself another drink, he was relaxed and felt rather good. His antenna were beginning to wobble unsteadily the more he drank and they seemed to tilt her direction of their own accord. "I only offer you my prowess in battle and I do not make such oaths lightly. On Elas or not, you are a beautiful woman. That alone makes a man promise a thing."

"Flatterer," she laughed. Vanora was also getting a bit tipsy. "I'll take you up on that, if I need it. And, perhaps," she said with a glimmer in her eye, "I'll take you with me to Elas, next time I have enough shoreleave saved up."

"I am very much a flatterer and I've always been attracted to human girls," Khelev's cheeks flushed a little purple as his antenna curved slightly towards her again. "I know you're half Elasian, but that means you understand a warrior's instinct... Perhaps I should stop talking now?"

"Why?" she narrowed her eyes. "Women love flattery. Isn't that true of Andorian women as well?"

Khelev laughed at that and nodded, it was a human gesture but one he'd picked up considering how long he'd lived among them, "Yes they do, although flattering an Andorian woman is a little different. I can't say, my what lovely antenna you have, how long and supple, for example. I can say that your dark brown eyes captivate me, although I cannot say they are as sweet as chocolate because chocolate is not sweet to an Andorian. It makes us very, very ill. I can say that I hope yours lips are as soft and sweet as they look."

"You could say those things," she smiled. "And it would be excellent flattery. But do you know what Elasian women appreciate even more than flattery?" she asked.

Khelev watched her quietly for a moment, trying to recall what he knew about her culture. The sum total wasn't much and the three glasses of brandy weren't helping. "No, I honestly have no idea. I'm still learning the rules with you."

They were already close, the conversation drawing them together, imperceptibly over the moments. It was not a long trip for Vanora to lean forward the rest of the way and take Khelev's lower lip between her own. A shiver ran through her as his surprisingly warm skin brushed softly on her own lips.

Khelev was surprised for the first moment, but recovered quickly. His antenna responded first, brushing through her hair as he touched his lips to hers, kissing her with boldness. One of his hands moved up and lightly caressed her cheek. He never wanted this moment to end.

~Fin~

 

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