SIM:JP - Lieutenant Karynn Ehlanii and Lieutenant Commander Ethan Brice - Same Old Tree

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((1900, Holodeck 2, Independence-A))

::Checking the panel, Karynn made sure every detail was just the way she wanted, down to the rain that would start in about 30 minutes, before starting the program and stepping inside. She had borrowed the program... or stolen it really... from Ethan, choosing the holoprogram he had shown her the second evening they had spent together. It was a composite he had designed of the various forests of England that he had spent time in as a child. The first time they were here, Karynn had run off and climbed a tree. She smiled as the doors swished shut behind her. In front of her loomed a massive tree, just asking to be climbed again. It would be the perfect place to sit and chat.::

::She felt the soft warm breeze brush against her face, carrying strands of her hair back. reaching down she brushed the holo-grass with her fingers. It felt so real. Standing up, she gently wiped her hands on grey pants, before heading over to the tall tree not too far away. Within minutes she was resting in a nook formed by a branch, a little way up the tree. Now, all she had to do was wait.::

::Getting the message to go to the Holodeck, Ethan entered through the archway and it disappeared immediately after. He smiled to himself and slipped his hands into his pockets. It was perfect, just like it was the first time. Grass, small branches, fallen green leaves… everything. But where was Karynn?::

::She smiled as he entered, taking a few minutes to watch the look on his face as best she could before calling out.::

Ehlanii: Up here!

::Hearing her voice, he looked up and in the branches of the tree was the Counsellor. Another grin spread over his face, this time a larger one.::

Brice: Up the same tree, huh?

Ehlanii: ::laughing:: I remembered that it was a great place to talk. Come on up!

::Ethan climbed up the tree, making sure to keep his boots on the right branches. When he was finally up, he chose a branch underneath Karynn and got comfortable. Trees were very comfortable places if you knew how to sit.::

Brice: Fancy a talk then?

Ehlanii: I was rather hoping we'd get a chance to chat, yes. You like the setting then?

Brice: ::laughs:: I can’t believe you stole my program. Must’ve taken some doing.

Ehlanii: ::grinning:: It wasn't that hard.

Brice: Come on; you broke into my Quarters right?

::He stood up on the branch, holding onto the one Karynn was sitting on and leant on it, steadying his weight.::

Brice: Nicked my favourite program, probably pinched my favourite shirt as well, some of my aftershave...

::Karynn laughed and played along.::

Ehlanii: Yup. I sleep in the shirt and the aftershave helps me remember just how good you smell.

::He smiled, looking at Karynn, seeing past the green eyes and dark brown hair into the woman underneath.::

Brice: You look beautiful in a tree.

::A deep red color crept up Karynn's face and her cheeks suddenly began to feel uncomfortably warm. The man had an annoying habit of making her feel rather self-conscious. Not that compliments were bad. She just usually didn't know how to respond. She shook her head gently and a few strands of her loose brown hair fell over her face.::

Ehlanii: ::softly:: Thanks...

::Ethan smiled at the tinge creeping into her cheeks.:: Brice: I think I can say you're beautiful and not fear any kind of repercussion. A year down the line and you still can't take a compliment from me without going red. It's very sweet.

::Karynn laughed. It was true. He'd been complimenting her for quite some time and she still had no clue how to take it. Nor what to say afterward. At least she didn't still have the annoying habit of denying it. Jaryl had always hated that... She mentally shook that thought away. A nice date with Ethan was not the time to be thinking of a previous boyfriend.::

Ehlanii: So... you mentioned wanting to talk?

::He made a "hmm" noise and picked off a leaf from the branch of the tree.:: Brice: A lot of things have been going on lately, I just wanted to spend some time with you. Hopefully talk about... ::he sighed:: What we don't talk about.

::The Haliian nodded. That "what we don't talk about" category was important. They both knew it was there. And although she could talk with most anyone about nearly anything, being the one to broach that subject just made her... uncomfortable.

::She dropped her hand to his and brushed it gently with her fingers, relishing the familiar link that formed between them.::

Ehlanii: So shall we catch up with the easy banter or go ahead and try to tackle the stuff that we both find a little more ... challenging to approach?

::She mentally smacked herself. Apparently her "counseling mode" was in full force. How was that a good way to talk to one's partner? She chewed on her lip slightly, anxious about what his response might be.::

::He touched her hand with his thumb. She could feel his emotions and read him almost as well as he couldn't feel hers. He knew first hand that their "hard" conversations were difficult for them both.::

Brice: If you don't want to talk about it... ::he looked up at her, from eye to eye:: ... then we don't have to. ::he paused:: I do love you, Karynn.

::Karynn smiled gently, her eyes softening. She looked down at him and squeezed his hand gently.::

Ehlanii: I love you too. ::she paused:: I didn't mean I didn't want to talk about it... just that... it's always a struggle for me to figure out how to say those four simple words. ::she laughed.:: You'd think it would be easy for me...

::She trailed off. It didn't make much sense for her to find it difficult to tell him that she loved him, that she cared about him... There were probably reasons, but she had never really sat down and tried to figure them out.::

::Blowing another sigh, Ethan smiled to Karynn and ran his forefinger along the branch's outer layer of bark. It was soft to the touch. They'd talked so often, spent evenings in one another's company and inwardly debating how to say all those things they wanted to, but not finding the words.::

Brice: It could be worse. We could still be sat at the other ends of a table on DS17, admiring from afar.

::Karynn laughed again:: Ehlanii: Quite true. I suppose we've made some progress. I think... ::she paused:: I think I'm just worried that somehow... well, somehow I'll hurt you... or Matthew... ::She looked deep into his eyes:: And that's something I never want to do.

Brice: I know... ::he smiled:: ...I know; but I should let you know that Matthew was asking about you. He wants to know if we'll take him to the zoo when he comes at shore leave. I don't think he's worried about it. ::he lifted an eyebrow:: I'm not worried. Things happen. Sometimes things happen for the best. I'd rather enjoy what we have and hopefully what we will have in the future without worrying what could happen.

::Karynn smiled, while at the same time fighting back the tear that threatened to build in her eye. She wasn't exactly sure why it wanted to leak out onto her cheek. Perhaps it was just that she felt... a tiny bit more free to share herself and her feelings with him.::

Ehlanii: Well... if that's the case then... I think I can try to not worry about the future. ::She gently played with his fingers.:: You've talked before about wanting to feel how I feel. Would you like to try the canar?

Brice: Is that the stone that lets me be able to feel your emotions they way you can feel mine? ::he nodded, feeling the tickle on his fingers:: I could go for that. Doesn't that usually require dinner and a late holo-movie then back to your place or mine?

Ehlanii: ::nodding:: That's the one. A late holomovie is optional, and I've already had dinner, but I could go for a dessert. I think my replicator is capable of producing some good ones. ::she grinned::

::Threading his hand in hers, there was a slight hesitation inside while at the same time not. He wanted it, he wanted to go through it, just like he would any other part of a relationship with a human female. It was part of the Haliian process and he appreciated that she wanted to share it with him. Ethan looked up into her eyes, looking from one eye to the other, to her smile...::

Brice: Your replicator is much better than mine, I'm sorry to say. Looks like its your place.

::Her rich musical laugh echoed slightly in the holodeck.::

Ehlanii: The engineer's replicator is worse than the counselor's? What a sorry state our ship will be in!

::The laughter danced in her eyes as she began to attempt a descent. Just then, the pre-programmed light rain began. She could hear it hit the leaves of the tree they were in, and it didn't take long for her to begin to feel the drops that made it down through the foliage.::

::A droplet plummeted down onto his cranium, finding it's way to his scalp through his hair. As they climbed down the tree trunk and branches, the light rain was coming down, determined to make this another wet evening for the two. Ethan wiped the exces water from his face, revealing a grin underneath as his feet hit the grass.::

Brice: Traditions don't die easily, do they?

::Karynn grinned and shook her head.:: Ehlanii: It was always a good sign in the past!

::She reached out her hand and tapped his shoulder before taking off running across the open field. Her voice, along with a giggle, echoed back.::

Ehlanii: Mitz!

::Ethan took off after her, the challenge established and a large grin spreading across his face. She could run, but he was catching up. As his hand touched her arm, he skidded to a halt and changed direction.::

Brice: Tag!

::Karynn laughed and skidded as she stopped and turned. She ran as fast as she could after him, but with the wide open spaces, he could definitely run faster than she could. The arboretum had been easier to keep up with him since with the maze he couldn't have gotten up to a full-out run.::

::It was getting harder to breathe... and her side hurt a bit.::

Ehlanii: ::gasping:: Hey... wait up...

::He stopped, hearing her voice and slightly out of breath himself. Waiting for her to catch up, he grinned as she did so. He felt rain drops plumet down the back of his undervest and moved his shoulders to dislodge them.::

Brice: You know, you get wetter by running through rain then walking? And you're still "it".

::She bent over next to him, her hands on her knees. The rain dripped onto her back and her neck, and her hair hung in thick soggy strands by her face.::

Ehlanii: I hadn't heard that before... about the running and walking thing... ::standing:: and I'm still it? MITZ!

::She reached out and tapped his arm and took off running again.::

Ehlanii: Arch!

::Ahead of her the doorway appeared. If she could just make it to the corridor...::

::Why the scheming... Ethan ran, his heels coming into contact with the wet grass beneath but only making the journey shorter. The arch appeared in front of them but the Engineer was nearly there! The doors opened and he knocked her arm.::

Brice: Tag!

::Just before he used the corridor wall to cut short his speed and leant his back on it, out of breath, gasping for air.::

Brice: Safe to say... Victory is mine.

Ehlanii: Aye. ::Karynn stretched up on her toes and kissed his cheek.:: You've won. Now, shall we go dry off at my place?

::He took her hand and pulled her back to him. Warmth was the first sensation. Bowing his head gently, he kissed her lips and then tip of her nose.::

::She took a moment to savor the kiss.::

Brice: Rematch? First one to your quarters?

Ehlanii: Wouldn't we get into trouble for running in the corridors?

::He smiled and kissed her lips again, feeling them soft and warm against his own.::

Brice: What is we humans say? Throw caution to the wind? Besides, it's an emergency.

Ehlanii: Emergency? How so?

Brice: Because if we keep dripping in the corridor, we'll constitute as a hazard. We're only doing our Starfleet duty.

Ehlanii: ::laughing:: Then maybe we should get moving... but not running, mind you... I still think games of Mitz are a no-no. ::she slipped her hand in his.:: Besides, if we're playing games, we can't hold hands.

Brice: Then I think it's a fair trade off. No running, no games. Just me, you and a turbolift.

To Be Continued...

Lt. Karynn Ehlanii
Ship's Counselor
USS Independence-A


Lt. Ethan Brice
Chief Engineer
USS Independence-A

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Lieutenant Karynn Ehlanii
USS Independence NX-1776-A
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Lt Commander Ethan Brice
Chief Engineer
USS Independence NX-1776-A
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A Touch Deeper