USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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Sealed with a Kiss

Posted on Tue Jun 6th, 2017 @ 4:09am by Major Storr Garlake

Mission: S2E1 - Secrets
Location: The Garlake Estate, "Verlos" (Outside Lephalale, South Africa)
Timeline: Mission Day 86: 0930

"Pull!"

With a quick *whirr* followed by a *thunk*, the machine launched a small orange hand-sized disk shooting into the air, its arcing flight stable and true. Storr quickly shouldered the antique side-by-side shotgun, his cheek pressing against the African mahogany stock worn smooth with use as his eyes instantly focused on the small dot at the end of the blued barrel. Following the flight of the clay, he lead it by only a fraction and pulled the trigger. A resounding *BOOM* echoed from the barrel as it fired, pellets flying towards its target while the echoing report sent the morning songbirds to flight. Cape Weavers, Cinderella Waxbills, Collared Flycatchers, and Long-tailed Widow-Caddicks filled the air as the pellets found purchase, shattering the clay which burst into a shower of orange and black fragments. The two men watched for a moment in silence.

"Good shot, sir," Mtendere stated softly, breaking the calm.

Storr nodded as he lowered the shotgun, breaking open the chamber and flicking out the expended casing before filling both barrels with new red cylinders. Closing the gun, he made sure that the breach was locked and cracked his neck to the side before calling out again.

"Pull!"

The throwing machine fired out two clays in rapid succession. Quickly aiming and firing at the first, the MCO rapidly shifted targets and found the second clay *Front sight...* he said to himself as he focused on the bead, placing it just ahead of the clay that was now just past apogee and falling towards the earth. Pressing the trigger to the rear, the shotgun roared to life again and Storr was granted with another exploded clay.

Slowly lowering the gun, he broke open the action again and let the white and gray gunpowder smoke waft up into his nostrils as he inhaled deeply, remembering the countless hours he, his father, brother, and Mtendere had spent here or in the plains hunting their ancient prey with ancient firearms. Looking down at the fine piece, the shotgun he was using now was nearly five hundred years old, a treasure handed down from Garlake to Garlake through the centuries, beginning its life in the Purdey factory in England and making the perilous trip to the Cape just before the devastating Boer War. He wouldn't be surprised if some of the faded notches that ran along the barrel were from that conflict. Flicking out the spent rounds, he sighed as he closed the rifle and ran a hand down the long, smooth buttstock.

"Sir...excellent shooting. If I may, though," Mtendere said, gingerly taking the shotgun from Storr's hands, "it would seem that something continues to trouble you." The negro began to wipe down and clean the gun before wrapping it in protective cloths, ultimately to return it to the case to which it belonged in the house. Storr knew full and well, however, the old man was more than capable of multitasking, especially if it involved dispensing advice.

"I made an absolute fool of myself at the hearing yesterday," Storr began, plopping onto a stump that had been a seat for many generations. "I thought that they had meant one thing when it was something else entirely."

A simple "hmmm" emanated from Mtendere, Storr knowing full well that the man desired, though did not expect, details.

"I thought that the council was trying to dictate that Jaya and my marriage would have to be celibate. I rose and tried to defend marriage and...its physical union," Storr spoke the previous part somewhat quickly, blood rising to his cheeks, "given our traditions and our faith but it turned out that they meant us only being celibate to each other because of her Oath of Celibacy. They might as well have patted me on the head like a puppy for all the condescending I got...I embarrassed myself and made Jaya look like a fool for choosing such a 'lesser species' in front of her sister, the council and the Ambassador."

The Major stood, a toxic mixture of shame, anger, embarrassment, and frustration bubbling inside him. He circled the stump several times in a huff before veering off towards the stables.

"Master, I think that..." Mtendere began as he looked over his shoulder to see the back of the eldest Garlake son retreating. He chuckled and returned to his task, the last wipe of the barrel complete. Checking the weapon's function and satisfied with the results, Mtendere began the short walk back to the house to replace the shotgun to its place of prominence above the mantle. Storr always was one to be overcome by his emotions, especially negative ones, so he would give him some time before joining him in the stables. Besides, he wasn't looking to get pummeled with a hay bale...




It had taken some doing, but Jaya had finally given Storr's family the slip at the breakfast table. Riswan had reluctantly accepted the invitation to stay with them, and even more reluctantly taken the burden of explaining the intricacies and nuances of Deltan culture to the curious younger family members.

Jaya had traded winks with her sister as she skulked away. It seemed she would owe Riswan yet another favor. But that didn't matter, not when she hadn't yet seen Storr that morning. Her empathic link led her away from the main house to... the horse stable. Her mind took a moment to recall its name and function.

"What are you doing there?" she wondered aloud.




The full, rich and pungent slightly tangy/earthy smell of young alfalfa filled the stable as the massive Marine grunted, yet another hay bale sailing through the air, sweat beading across his muscled shirtless chest and back. The square bales were freshly cut and held together with wire and heavy; thanks to the higher moisture content from the recent harvest, each weighed at least 80-100 pounds.

It was the second time that Storr had moved the entire stable's inventory from the ground to the loft and he felt like he was only now starting to get a handle on himself.

"I thought your family employed servants for menial tasks such as this one."

Jaya's tone was teasing, though her eyes conveyed the utter pleasure she found in observing Storr's sweaty physique in action.

Storr grunted as he dropped the bale down at his feet, his breath coming heavily as he looked over his shoulder. He had felt Jaya's presence only a moment before, his physical exertion or mental state (or both) clouding his usual receptiveness to their link.

Turning and sitting on the bale, the MCO wiped his brow with a red bandana he pulled from his rear jeans pocket. "Don't tell Mtendere that or else he might have to start working for a living." Without missing a beat, a familiar voice wafted from the garden plot outside the barn

"I heard that..."

Storr couldn't help but chuckle and roll his eyes. He wasn't sure how the man did it, but Mtendere always managed to find a way to break the tension and get everyone back on track without them realizing that he had done so. Storr's gaze meeting his betrothed, the thoughts dancing across her shining face not difficult to imagine. She seems a bit more cheery, he thought to himself, patting the bale beside him and looking to Jaya with a cheeky grin. "Care for a seat?"

"So kind of you," Jaya said. She folded her hands behind her back, stuck out a hip, and thrust out her chest to accentuate her feminine curves. "With all the fun you've been having out here by yourself, I was beginning to think you'd forgotten all about me."

"You know, Beautiful," he said, wrapping his left arm around her and scooping her up with his other hand before standing himself, "there's an old Earth saying about taking a 'roll in the hay'...care for a lesson?" Without waiting for an answer, the Marine turned and tossed the petite Deltan into the large loose hay mound behind them before turning and diving after her himself.

"Storr!" Jaya laughed loudly as her man crashed into the hay pile next to her. When his antics turned to intimate caresses and cuddling, her laughter broke into eager, enticing giggles. The touch of his hands searching for her final frontier sent a shockwave through her.

"Storr... my heart," she moaned with pent up desire. "Are we wed yet? Please tell me we are."

"Not soon enough," Storr groaned as he rolled onto his back, dragging his hands down his face. He closed his eyes and had to take several deep breaths to keep every instinct inside him from ravishing the beauty that now draped herself over him, seemingly challenging the Afrikaner to lose himself into the heady passion that was crackling between them like lightning bolts.

"You're not helping matters boervrou," he lamented, his hands seeming for all the world to naturally find their place on various intimate points of her body while hers seemed to search for an undiscovered country. The edges of his vision began to tighten as heat began a tingling throughout his body, his breathing coming in shorter and shorter pants.

"Then you really should be careful what you ask for," she whispered into his ear before giving his lobe a playful nip.

Storr stood with a start and heaving breaths, leaving a gently falling trail of hay from his skin and clothes. Kneeling over with one hand on his knee, he put out the other out in the universal "stop" symbol while he caught his wind. He really needed to change the subject; frak, change their whole location. "You...you should really try the horses. Have you ridden before?"

"I have never seen a horse in person," Jaya said meekly. Her eyes fluttered toward one and looked upon it as one might a newborn child.

The MCO grinned as he held a hand out for Jaya, bringing her to his side and beside a gorgeous 14-hand silver Arabian mare, her mane intricately braided with ribbons and flowers. It was his sister's favorite and even though Odele was away with a family of her own, she still loved to keep Mandisa "to the manner in which she had become accustomed" when she visited. Storr took the ornate saddle and hefted it atop the compliant horse before helping Jaya astride the mare.

"We're actually going to ride them?" Jaya asked. She patted the mare along the neck. "Poor things."

Storr quickly moved to the next stall and expertly mounted a midnight black 17-hand thoroughbred. "Don't worry," he said, guiding his stallion alongside Jaya to take the reins. "Mandisa is very gentle and will follow Kefentse here to hell and back...they've grown up with each other just like me and my sister. Just hold on, don't let her know you're afraid and you'll love it." The Marine lead the two outside and into the bright, lightly clouded outdoors, the sound of hooves echoed in the courtyard.

Jaya took a moment to adjust to the rhythm of the horse's trot. She felt the strong, burly creature resent her at first, though the long years of training took over.

~You don't have to do this~ Jaya pushed the feeling through her hand and into Mandisa's neck. ~I will not force you~

Mandisa stopped for a moment and shuffled her front hooves for a moment. Though no words were returned to her, Jaya felt a clear response from the mare. Mandisa liked the smell of her, and would do as she asked.

~I honor your choice~ Jaya stroked the mane and gave Mandisa another pat on the neck. ~Thank you~

Storr looked back to make sure that Jaya was situated (as best as she could be) and grinned brazenly "Kom ons gaan!" he shouted and with that, the two steeds broke out into a full gallop.

"Come on, girl," Jaya whispered, leaning low on her head. "Don't let him show us up."

Mandisa shot forward in a brisk gallop, directly challenging the other horse, Kefentse. Jaya whooped in excitement and cast a dazzling smile at Storr as they brushed past each other.

Storr was quite surprised when the lead that he had evaporated and he was passed by his bride-to-be. This being her first riding experience, the competition quickly turned into concern as she began to disappear from Garlake's sight.

Jaya ignored the calls for safety coming up behind her, instead spurring Mandisa onward in their joined empathic surge of adrenaline and adventure.

At the height of their gallop, the ecstasy Jaya felt from Mandisa was cut short when a piercing whinny and shriek came from behind. The mare slowed to a halt and nearly pitched Jaya over the saddle as she whirled about on her two hind legs.

Kefentse was riderless, stomping at the ground in a frenzy while Storr lay on the ground cradling one leg.

Jaya slid off Mandisa and began to run to Storr's side.

"Stop!" Storr bellowed out, causing Jaya to freeze in her tracks. Wincing in pain, Storr reached down to his boot and retrieved his trusty KABAR, crawling over to Kefentse and speaking sternly yet as calm as he could given the circumstances.

After several tense moments, the stallion backed away with a whinny and the dust cleared, leaving a mostly flattened 5-foot puffadder sprawled across the trail. The fat snake twitched twice, much to the consternation of Kefentse and then fell still. Not realizing that he had brought himself to his knees in anticipation of having to attack the snake, Storr immediately collapsed under his weight on the broken bone.

"No, oh no!" Jaya knew basic first aid, and it took every ounce of her emotional equanimity to control the panic that begged for release. After determining he was not on death's door, Jaya caressed his face and held it softly. Her other hand found its way to his solar plexus and nestled into the space between his hard chest and abdominals.

"Shhh, my love," she whispered. She sent comforting waves of peace over him, hopefully targeted toward his nervous system to promote endorphin reception and ease the pain he must be feeling. "Everything will be just fine."

"You say that...my mother's going to kill me on your behalf," Storr said with a chuckle and then winced again, the pain quickly reminding him of his less-than-desired situation. Of course, the soothing touch and beaming smile of his fiance was a great help.




"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today..."

The wedding that afternoon had not been delayed by the horse-riding accident. Jaya admired that her soon-to-be-husband was so insistent, but also frustrated that he had went against doctor's orders. When she looked down at the cast from shin to thigh on his left leg, she had to admit that her frustration lied more with herself than him.

"I'm sorry," she whispered yet again while the minister continued his homily.

Storr shook his head and mouthed "No you're not" with a smile, the two taking each other's hands at the minister's direction. Reaching into his right pocket, he removed a wine red felt box and produced a family heirloom, his great great-grandmother's ring, forged from gold from the Witwatersrand Basin. Slipping it onto Jaya's fingers, he recited the Dutch wedding vows as he looked into her eyes. Wiping his eye while muttering something about "allergies", the MCO looked back up and met her gaze.

The gold ring on Jaya's finger felt heavier than it looked. She flexed her fingers and turned her hand over for inspection. Marriage was a foreign concept, but gifts were not -- particularly jewelry.

She reached into her sleeve and grasped a ring that had been given to her on her first birthday of adolescence when she entered adult life.

"I can speak the only vow I know," Jaya said. "I swear to be joined with no one, save you, and thus remain celibate for the duration of my... our lives."

The altered adaptation of the Deltan Oath of Celibacy felt clumsy, but it would have to do.

Jaya placed the ring on Storr's finger, then pulled his head down to kiss him before the minister's pronouncement.

The ring felt odd on his hand. It was not heavy and burly like the cold, iron family crest that he wore on the opposite ring finger. The wedding band's warm, smooth finish seemed to ingrain itself into his flesh as if it had belonged in that place since he...well, since he could first remember. All this rumination was disrupted however by Jaya's hands reaching behind his neck and pulling the husky Marine low, their lips meeting in a cacophony of sound and fury.

Storr wrapped his arms around his now-bride's waist, lifting her into the air and spinning the giggling Deltan around, her dress twirling in the light breeze which wafted the chuckles and rounds of applause across the lawn and into the rustling leaves above.

Reverend Arnout Siemen smiled as he closed his well-worn leather bound 1599 Geneva Bible, waiting for the couple to finish their impromptu celebration. The elderly minister had baptized Storr as an infant and had worried after the eldest Garlake son for years after he left for England and later Starfleet. Seeing him here with his new bride was good news to his soul.

"I know pronounce you man and wife." Reverend Siemen said, the two turning and facing the crowd. "I present you Mister and Misses Storr Garlake!"

Jaya leaned in to whisper, "I still get to keep my first name, right?"

Storr couldn't have grinned wider. "Just smile and wave, Darling...smile and wave."




The newlywed throes of passion extended long into the night. Neither of them were strangers to love or the making thereof, but the longing and the waiting and the romantic vows of commitment had turned marital consummation into a transcendent joining of body and soul.

For Jaya's part, she had never been happier, and her bond to Storr had never been stronger. It was difficult to note where her happiness ended and his began. As she lay on her back to catch her next wind... was it the fifth, sixth, or tenth?... she turned to watch Storr do the same. His chest rose and fell in a slow cadence.

"I promised I'd be gentle," she cooed into his ear.

His eyes remained closed. She teased at his side along his ribs, and he did not so much as flinch.

"Storr?" She patted his cheek. "Storr." When he didn't rouse, she feared the worst. "Oh, no! Wake up, Storr! Wake up!"

The Deltan Foreign Ministry had warned her over and over again, and she had protested. She knew. They had taken responsibility for the risk of intimacy, and now...

Storr's seemingly lifeless form merely deadened her blows, the sound of her hand against his cheeks and then ribs a dull *thud*. A final slap against his cheek (far harder than either of them imagined she meant) simply rocked his face to the side, causing his mouth to open and tongue to erupt out in an apparent final expenditure of energy leaving his body. As his new bride straddled his form, tears streaming down her face, a single eye popped open beneath her.

"Gottcha" the MCO said, his formerly listless countenance erupting into a smile that had all the elements of the cat that ate the canary. As the Deltan's reaction quickly surveyed a myriad of emotions, Storr wrapped his massive arms in a bearhug around Jaya's petite, naked form and spun her over on the bed laughing all the way. Unfortunately, he had underestimated the amount of room that he had remaining on the bed and the couple fell onto the floor with a quick yelp.

The Marine's breath was knocked out of him and as he struggled for air beneath her to simply laugh, he couldn't help but see the smirk that Jaya wore as she dug her elbows into his chest to rest her chin upon her hands.

"I'm going to get you for that," she said flatly. Her smile turned wicked as he finger tapped a trail up his neck onto his mouth to trace a line around his lips. Her voice softened into a coo. "And you'll never know when it's coming." She placed her own lips against his ear and whispered, "You're mine now, Major."

All that Storr could think of, other than the beauty that rested atop him, was what he had truly gotten himself into...

 

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