SIM:JP - Lieutenant Karynn Ehlanii and Lieutenant Commander Ethan Brice - "Us"

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((Ehlanii's quarters, Deck 4))

::Karynn glanced around the room. The last couple of days hadn't gone so well, so she wanted everything to be perfect for tonight. The small table was set, complete with a few candlesticks, and she had even gone to Double Shot to acquire a real beer from Sarion for his dinner. Although most of the food was replicated - after all, her quarters didn't include a stove, so she couldn't really cook - she was planning to serve him a mix of Earth foods and traditional Haliian delicacies. She had painstakingly entered, sampled and edited all the recipes that she planned to serve. All she had to do was press "Enter" on the replicator.::

(( Corridor, Deck 4 ))

:: However, on the other side of the bulkhead, the Chief Engineer was debating with himself what to say and how to specifically say it. Of course, he couldn’t come out with the information off-handedly. How many people could react well to “Hi! I’ve come to say I’m leaving so… err… bye!” ? He blew a sigh and leaned an arm on the corridor wall, rubbing his eyes. This was fair, he couldn't contend that, but did it have to be so hard?::

((Ehlanii's quarters, Deck 4))

::The nervous Haliian glanced at the chronometer she kept on her desk and then in the mirror. He'd be here soon. Recent events, including their fight, had left her slightly apprehensive about their evening. She ran her fingers through her loose curls and smoothed a nearly non-existent wrinkle in her light purple top before turning back to the room. Walking over to the table she moved a candlestick to the left, then back to the right. She just couldn't get it to look perfect.::

(( Corridor, Deck 4 ))

::Ethan clasped his hands behind his back as he walked the last few paces from the turbolift to Karynn’s door. It was perhaps the last time for a long while that he’d make those steps and had ingrained them in memory; for what purpose, he didn’t quite know. His hand hesitated just before he pressed the enunciator at the side of the door. One great inhale. Now or never.::

::Luckily she was distracted from her perfectionist tendencies by the chime of the door bell. Her pale green, floor length skirt swished slightly as she walked to the door. Instead of a verbal command, she opened it with a touch of her hand on the panel next to the door. The sight that greeted her was only half of what she had expected. It was the right person but... something was wrong.::

Ehlanii: Ethan!

::He smiled, blocking out the thought of what was to come from the front of his mind, hurtling it into the recesses of the back and beyond.::

Brice: Good evening, Miss Ehlanii… Hope I’m not disturbing anything only I’ve been invited.

::Even though she knew he was coming, and even though his mood was somewhat surprising, she was still happy to see him. A soft smile spread across her face.::

Ehlanii: Come in.

::Ethan moved through the doorway into her quarters. It wasn’t the first time he’d been in there so it wasn’t all that surprising. For the first time, though, he didn’t know where to put himself. He scratched the back of his neck.::

Brice: Been busy lately?

Ehlanii: Of course. As usual. Our round with the Grendellai didn't make it any easier. I've got a few ensigns trying to stave off Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the firefight. And, of course, the regulars. And class. And trying to advise Commander Walker on how to best deal with Tess. Just another day at the office, really. How about you?

Brice: Oh yeah… yeah, swamped. After the Grendellai took out that display console, we’ve been trying to get it repaired and... it’s not been easy.

::Karynn smiled gently. They were both used to working hard. It was the same mission after mission. Work kept them swamped.::

Ehlanii: I'm sure you're doing a great job. ::It gently clicked over in her mind that he hadn't sat down yet.:: Have a seat, Ethan. I'll have our dinner on the table in a minute.

::The Haliian female tossed him a smile before she turned to the replicator, intent on getting the first few dishes of the meal.::

::He nodded and slipped a hand into his pocket, looking at Karynn move around the room. He couldn’t help the thought that she looked wonderful but she hadn’t changed since they’d met. She was still beautiful, still amazing, still had him guessing. He smiled to himself. Perfect in her own way, no one elses. He'd miss that.::

Brice: You’re beautiful, you know.

::His comment caught her off guard. Slowly but surely a light pink crept into her cheeks. She never was quite sure what to say to that. She turned back to him.::

Ehlanii: ::shyly:: Thanks. I... uh... you're... pretty... handsome yourself... oOWhat the heck is wrong with you? He compliments you and you stumble over your words? And not only that, it almost sounds like you didn't mean it. Even though you did... what in the world is he going to think?Oo

::Ethan chuckled and pulled out a chair from the table. He took off his black jacket and dropped it over the back of the chair, claiming his space. His sleeves were rolled up underneath, some things just don’t change per occasion.::

Brice: Pretty handsome, eh? I’ll have to remember that one.

Ehlanii: ::laughing slightly:: I know I must have sounded so stupid. I never did figure out how to take a compliment well.

::Ethan smiled again and moved to her slowly, touching her cheek gently. He remembered the feeling, a very soft cheek beneath his fingertips and the tinge that covered her pink skin either side of her nose.::

Brice: You should be used to them, by now.

::The light pink color deepened slightly.::

::A heartbeat of silence passed, with two valid options they could take. One where he leant down those few inches and the other…::

::Karynn gently closed her eyes at his touch, absorbing the moment, taking in the familiarity of his emotions... all except... there was something deep, something...::

Ehlanii: What's wrong, Ethan?

::The moment it was out, the moment she had asked, she almost regretted it. Maybe there was a reason it was buried so deep.::

::The Chief remembered himself and dropped his hand, placing the two of them back into his pockets and smiling sadly.::

Brice: We need to talk.

::Karynn's heart jumped into her throat at the words. They sounded so... ominous.::

Ehlanii: ::hesitatingly:: That doesn't sound good...

::His hand found the back of his neck again as he turned away, walked a few paces and then stopped again.::

Brice: Well, I’ve got something that I need to... that you need to... ::his hand stayed outstretched, waiting for his sentence to continue:: ...understand. Might be easier if you sit down.

::There was a part of her that stubbornly wanted to stay standing, that wanted to deny whatever it was that he was going to say. There was another part that knew that he suggested that she sit for a reason. She decided to trust his wisdom. She sunk down gently in the chair he hadn't claimed.::

Ehlanii: Ethan? What is it?

::He chewed the inside of his cheek and his hand dropped.:: Brice: I’ve been transferred.

::It took a few seconds of silence for it to sink in. When it did, she shook her head "no" silently, almost imperceptibly, in shock. She felt the tears begin to build up at the edges of her eyes and fought them back. Transferred? No. She couldn't, wouldn't believe it. He must be mistaken. When she tried to speak, the words just wouldn't come.::

Ehlanii: ::almost silently:: No... they can't.... they wouldn't... no....

::Another beat of silence. Ethan didn’t know what to say, whether to explain it to her, that he’d taken it freely and willingly or blame it all on Starfleet - bad them. He didn’t feel that would be the right decision to take and in his circumstance, with them getting closer everyday, it would be wrong to even think of lying to her.::

Ehlanii: ::quietly:: It's just not fair... not right...

::He perched himself on her coffee table opposite, getting them at eye level.::

Brice: I agreed to it. Willingly agreed to it, I mean.

::As the shock wore off, she started to find her voice.::

Ehlanii: Where? When? How?

Brice: When we dock with DS17; I’ll be leaving then. They’re on shore leave at the same time as us so...

Ehlanii: And you... couldn't you... ::she closed her mouth, trying to get her thoughts together so they'd come out coherently.:: You didn't request the transfer, did you?

::After she said it, she realized why he'd be transferred. It made sense really. Tess had barred him from her decks - permanently - for his stunt. But she had been clinging to the hope that somehow they would stay together. On the Ronin.::

Brice: I didn’t - ::he sighed:: It’s a Prometheus Class starship in the Ithassa Sector in need of an Engineer. It was the only post this side of the Beta Quadrant I could get.

::Karynn wanted to close up like a little ball. Instinctively, she pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. On the chair it wasn't easy, but it was do-able. After all that, Ethan was leaving. Willingly. And there was nothing she could do. The tears that had built up at his announcment threatened to spill over onto her cheeks. As hard as she tried to keep them in, one managed to leak out, running down her cheek. She tried to hide it behind her knees. She leaned her head onto her knees, not knowing what to say.::

::He touched her hand with his own and traced the back of her index finger. It hurt, to know that he'd caused this and he'd have to live with the regret of doing so, every day. Every day that he was away from her. Being so close and then being ripped apart by a decision that, if he could do it over, he wouldn't have acted on.::

::Karynn wanted to withdraw. She wanted to pull her hand away. But the first thing she felt was his concern and his tender feelings toward her. She let him continue.::

Brice: I was hoping that we could spend the shore leave together; you, me and Matthew, if his grandparents bring him up to DS17.

::There were many emotions tied up in her words, but it was her pain speaking more than anything else.::

Ehlanii: ::quietly:: Why? So I can say goodbye to both of you?

Brice: ‘Cause I wouldn’t be going unless I thought that I could come back to you. ::he looked down to her hand again:: I’ve spent the last year getting to know you, Karynn, I don’t want to lose that.

Ehlanii: oOThen why are you leaving?Oo ::A slow stream of tears spilled onto her cheeks:: I don't want to loose it either... to loose you either...

::A heartbeat of silence went past and the knot in Ethan's stomach loosened. He looked up again.:: Brice: And, to top it all off, I’m in love with you.

Ehlanii: You're... ::she paused, letting his words sink in. Then she looked up into his eyes.:: I love you too, Ethan.

::He swallowed; somehow he hadn’t been expecting that.::

Brice: If you don’t feel like that, it’s oka-

Ehlanii: I do. Your choice of timing may have caught me off guard, but I really do love you.

::Involuntarily as it was and the wrong moment entirely, the Engineer smiled despite himself. Having just broke some rather bad news, he was now in a good mood.::

::Karynn smiled slightly. The tracks her tears had made glistened on her face.::

Ehlanii: Good news to soften the bad news I guess. So where does this leave us?

Brice: Well… ::he toyed with her fingertips:: This leaves us in love but miles apart at the same time.

Ehlanii: The whole situation stinks, you know.

Brice: I won’t go if you don’t want me to; I’ll go to DS17...

::Karynn shook her head no, almost violently.::

Ehlanii: Absolutely not. Don't even think about saying no. Playing in warp cores is your dream and I will not be the one to stand in the way of that. We'll figure this out - how to do this millions of miles apart miles apart, but I won't have you turning this down... not because of me. Besides, it looks like we'll be dealing with Tess for a while. And... with you not allowed to touch her, like you said... its probably better if you're assigned to a different ship for now.

::Leaning over, he gently kissed her cheek where her tears had made silvery tracks from her eyes. The contact was brief but had so much depth. At least everything was now in the open and they could deal with it together, if nothing else.::

Brice: I wanted us to spend some time with Matthew; this might be the last chance we get to see him together before I move and... I want him to get used to it.

::Puzzled, the Haliian raised her eyebrows.::

Ehlanii: Used to what?

Brice: Us, together. You’re an important part of my life now and Matthew should know that; if he’s big enough to run around and stick his fingers in things then he’s old enough.

::A slight smile spread across her face. "Us". It sounded good. Despite the bad things, to know that they were in it together was still comforting. She intertwined her own fingers with his. He was willing to let Matthew get used to them together. That in itself spoke volumes.::

Ehlanii: Us... I still like the way that sounds.

::She took a deep breath in and let it out as she looked around the room. It would be a hard road, but together, she was pretty sure things would ultimately be ok.::

Ehlanii: So... are you still hungry?


The End

Lt. Karynn Ehlanii
Ship's Counselor
USS Ronin

and

Lt. Cmdr. Ethan Brice
Ship's Counselor
USS Ronin

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