USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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And It Happened One Night

Posted on Sat Jun 10th, 2017 @ 5:10am by Commander Akiva ben-Avram

Mission: S2E1 - Secrets
Location: Deck 14; Room 001
Timeline: MD 88; 1800

Another day down. Akiva hated the calm times when a starship was inactive. Sure, important work was taking place down on Nova Mercia, but the Vindex held a support role only among several other ships. He would prefer being out on another mission. Still, running a smooth operation was a reward in itself--even if only as backup.

The meticulous tedium, interspersed with hard moments like the hour he spent in Sickbay at Amber's bedside, would have been more manageable with his betrothed. Truth be told, though, he had not seen Laena since the day before yesterday, on the eve of their betrothal.

A distant part of him postulated that she was avoiding him, but he closed that off almost as quickly as it presented itself. It was cold confidence from here on out. Waffling diffidence had not done anyone any good, least of all himself. And, now that he was betrothed, it was time for him to stand up and act like a man--to claim what was his.

He buzzed Laena's door, then helped himself inside with an ancient Earth dictum.

"Honey, I'm home."

It fell flat. Akiva made a mental note not to use it again, then cast his eyes to and fro in search of Laena who was nowhere in sight. Figuring she was in her bedroom, he headed toward her door.

"I'll be out in a moment," Laena said, her voice carrying from behind the door to her bedroom.

Akiva felt anxious. Rather than sit, he rocked on the balls of his feet. As he looked around, he noted a conspicuous absence of moving boxes. In fact, everything appeared quite in place. Homey, even.

The anxiety from before tried to reassert itself, but he stuffed it down even deeper. Instead, he put on a brave face to greet his bride-to-be.

But the moments passed and the door to Laena's room had yet to be opened. Akiva took a breath and went to her door.

"Laena? Is everything all right?"

There was no answer.

"Laena..."

Akiva pressed through the doors into Laena's bedroom, alarm rising in his chest. Candlelight flickered across the walls which gave the dim room an ominous atmosphere. Try as he might, Akiva tried to suppress the foreboding and found he could not.

"Computer, maximum illumination."

"Cannot comply," the computer replied in its trademark warble. "Lighting has been disabled."

Akiva sighed with frustration. He tapped his commbadge to contact somebody, but then stopped.

"Laena, please talk to me. I'm this close to calling Sickbay."

"Why?" Laena asked, walking out of the bathroom as she ran a brush through her long black hair.

Akva felt sheepish at the sight of her. "I... I was worried when you didn't respond." He took a step closer. "Are we okay?"

"What makes you ask that?" Laena asked, not moving towards the man from where she stood. She continued to brush her hair.

"Well, you slipped away early yesterday morning, and I haven't seen you since," Akiva said. "And... you don't seem particularly happy to see me now."

He stuck his hands out and gestured toward the walls of the room and the rest of her quarters beyond them. "Plus you haven't seem to make any inroads toward packing your things. Is... is that what this is about?"

"Why would I pack my things?" she asked, as her eyebrows scrunched together and a slight frown formed on her face.

Akiva's heart sank. "When... I thought..." He hung his head low. "I need to sit." And he did so at the foot of her bed without asking.

"Do we need to talk?" he asked. "I know you went to see Amber. Did she say something to upset you?"

Laena swallowed hard. Amber was a subject she didn't entirely want to discuss, especially considering what happened. So she just shook her head in silence.

"Then what is it?" Akiva asked. "Two nights ago you insisted that we always communicate, and now..." He shook his head and returned to his feet. "I'll just go."

"Why do you run away when things get difficult?" she asked after him, not moving.

Akiva froze. "I'm here, aren't I?" His feet felt like lead weights, neither letting him leave nor turn around. "Why are you avoiding my questions?"

"Why do you get to choose everything?"

"Why..." The question came at Akiva completely sideways. He had no way to process what she was asking. "I don't understand. All I've chosen is you, Laena."

Laena sighed, shaking her head. "It's more than that," she said as she walked towards the bed. She sat down on the side and pulled her legs up towards her. "I love you," she said, looking up at the man who was standing in front of him.

Those words -- they shook Akiva from within. His hardened, glacial exterior began to melt. He sat down, his breath shallow in his lungs, and took her hands in his own.

"I... I love you too." Cotton mouth made his tongue dry, but he forced the words out. "I told you when I swore myself to you that I would make us work, no matter what it takes. Please tell me what I can do and I will do it... not because I must, but because I love you."

"I tried to be honest with you the other night, and..." Laena looked down at Akiva's hands. They looked different than she expected. Softened by the time in Command, but they still had the weathered look you only got from working hard. They were an Engineer's hands. The hands of a man who enjoyed fixing things and correcting mistakes. Oddly, his hands made her smile slightly.

Her thumbs rubbed along the skin between his index finger and thumb. "I understand that your culture has tradition and customs. And I'm going into this relationship with the knowledge that, for some things, I will need to bend to those customs." She finally looked back up to him. "But I don't like to feel like I'm in a cage. I just can't."

She took a deep breath, willing herself to continue. "When I was a young girl, my father sold me into the Orion slave trade. And I spent many years being abused by many people. Until finally, one day, I was able to break free. And I started my life over with nothing. And despite how my position has made me soft over the past few years, I am a strong and independent woman."

Laena closed her eyes, holding back the memories that were creeping at the edges of her mind. "I need you to understand that I cannot and will not give up the freedom that I've worked so hard for. I'm asking you to be ok with that."

Akiva nodded. "Is that how you see me?" He caught the tears forming at the edge of her eye with his thumb. "Is our marriage a cage to you? Because I see it as freedom."

He flopped onto his back and spoke upward to the ceiling.

"I cannot do things to the middle." He paused and then reworded. "Half way. It is more than just my culture, Laena; it is me. I suspended myself between two women because once I choose to dedicate myself, that is it. There is no more doubting or questioning or wondering. There is only our future... together."

His earlier emotional breakdown and reconstitution in Sickbay rushed to mind, but Akiva quickly dispelled it. He was with his bride now. No one else was allowed.

"No more will I have to define myself by things that can be taken from me -- youth, career, performance." He turned his head up to watch Laena's back as she listened to him. "I will be a husband... your husband... and that can not be taken by anyone or anything."

"Akiva..." She turned to look at him. "It's not that I see this as a cage. I just..." She stopped, unsure of what words to use to best describe her thoughts. "This is a new feeling for me. I have been in a relationship before, but it was not as final as this one appears to be. And it is new. And it is scary. And I fear for the future. I'm afraid that I will lose myself to you."

"That is the point," Akiva said. "We aren't just bunkmates. Our old lives will be gone. We start a new one together. Singular. One life with two people. If you don't lose yourself to me, then I will be at a disadvantage, for I have already sworn the loss of myself to you."

Laena stood, as she walked up to the dresser where the candle light danced against the wall. "I love you, but I also love myself," she said, her voice distant and haunting. "There are things in this life that are important to me. Things that I wish to accomplish. Not for us. But for me." She turned back to her betrothed. "I need to know that you understand that this relationship doesn't mean the end of me as a person. And I will not become a slave to the patriarchal society that you cling to."

"I see." Akiva stood up from the bed, his face and body rigid like stone. "It appears you entered into an agreement which you do not understand if you think that instead of enduring loyalty that I offered you slavery. These words you say... you cannot mean them."

"Akiva, what I want is to know that we will be equals in this relationship. That both of our needs will be met. That both of our goals and dreams can be achieved." She took a step forward, wanting to reach out to him, but not daring to do so. "I just want to know that I have a say in this."

"What does marriage mean to you?" His tone was low and diction crisp. "Who do you think I am? I cannot imagine what you have been through with your ben zonah of a father and the men to whom he... he sold you. I must know who and what you see standing before you that you ask me these things. Do you see your father? Those other men? I am not them, Laena!"

He forced his hands down, realizing the potential miscommunication the gesture could send. Lowering his raised voice wouldn't hurt either.

"If I am to marry you, then you are as my own flesh to me. Tell me, do I look as though I restrain my body or punish it for spite? What exactly are you afraid of?"

"I..." Her voice lowered, almost to a whisper. "I don't know. You ask me these things as if I am supposed to know what a good marriage looks like. And yet I have seen no examples." She looked up at him. "I do not see my father in you. I do not see those men in you. What I see is a man that heard what I wanted and asked me to do the exact opposite. And it frightened me."

"What have I asked of you, Laena, except to keep your word?" Akiva fixed her with a stare of defiance and pleading. "You asked me to choose you, and I have done so. It was not a temporary choice. Unless that is what you want, then I don't understand how I have dishonored you."

"You have asked me to bind myself to you for life when we are still in the stage of getting to know each other," Laena said. "But the fact still stands, you went against my wishes."

Akiva bit his lip. "I thought I was what you wanted. If you think you can do better, then I will release you."

"That's not what I mean!" Laena said, her voice raising slightly in frustration. "I'm not trying to say that I can do better, it's just..." She sighed, "It's just all happening so fast. Why does it have to be so fast?"

"Life always happens fast!" Akiva grabbed the back of his head with both hands. "That's the point of marriage... and family... and everything! That no matter what happens, there you have a sure thing in this world to depend on."

Akiva sighed. This wasn't working. "Laena," he said, stepping closer to gently cup her face in his hand. "I don't know what's going to happen, but I don't need to in order to know that I will be at your side when it does. If you turn into a person that I don't know? Fine." He offered a wan smile. "I will grow to love that Laena as I do this one. I may run away from my problems, but never my duty. Serving and loving you as myself is my duty now. What more do I need to know before making this final? Nothing."

"And what if I my graduating from the Academy requires reassignment?" she asked, looking up at him.

"Starfleet deals with that all the time," Akiva said. "If either one of us wants to pursue reassignment, then we'll handle it together."

"Even if I want to be assigned to a science station to conduct astronomical research?"

Akiva shrugged his shoulders. "Sounds good." He looked at her with eyes held wide open. "Home is where you are."

Laena's hand went to the man's face as her eyes sparkled to match the smile that had grown. "I love you," she said, her voice soft but smooth. "And I don't want you to leave."

"Try and make me."

As he leaned forward to take her lips with his own, Akiva realized how pure and intentional this kiss felt going in than others that had been stolen. When his mouth met Laena's, he closed his eyes and relished the love for which he had longed since they'd last been together.

"I'm ready for us to start our new life together." He stared down his nose with the top of their foreheads pressed together. "If you have conditions, then I will meet them. I just don't see any reason to wait."

"You're talking too much," Laena said, her mouth meeting her betrothed's once more. She pulled his body close to hers as her hands gently slipped beneath his shirt, pressing her palms against his muscular back.

Akiva shivered at the touch of Laena's hands against his bare skin. Her bodily warmth sent chills through him, raising goose flesh wherever her hands trailed.

"Do you mean...?" His whispering words trailed off.

Laena didn't respond as she lifted her arms up his back, bringing the fabric of his shirt with them until she had taken it off. Before her stood a man. Her man. And she had never desired someone as much as she wanted him now.

Akiva stood immobile, feeling bare underneath Laena's scrutiny. This was the point where most of his dreams faded to black. And yet now he remained, heaving lusty gusts of air, marinating in the fact that he was alone in the flesh with the woman to whom he had pledged his life and strength.

Desire exploded out of him, spreading outward from his loins through his feet into the ground and his hands upon Laena. He forced her onto the bed with a light push, letting her fall free onto her back, then quickly followed.

"I've never done this before," he said shyly. His arms planted like pillars on either side of her. There seemed the need to say something, but he didn't know what. His heart held but one sentiment.

"I love you, Laena."

Laena laid there for a moment, her eyes locked with the man who was propped above her. Things weren't perfect, and they would have a lot to work out in the future. But there was no denying that what he said was true. He did love her, she could see it in his eyes. She could feel it in the way he touched her.

She wasn't sure what the future would hold. Maybe they would work out and be happy for a hundred years. Maybe they wouldn't. But he was right, life was short. Laena didn't know what would happen, but there was one thing she did know: this felt right.

"I love you too, Akiva," she said as her hands went to his pecs. Her fingers ran down his abdomen, around his sides and behind his back. She opened her mouth to say something else, but nothing would come out. Because in this moment, with them here on this bed, they needed no words. She leaned forward and planted her lips to his as she grabbed him by the hips and pull him towards her.

 

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