SIM:Jaxx-Barefoot

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((Pierce's Quarters - USS Apollo))


::Sidney sat up slowly, groggily, wiping at her eyes with her hands. The soft duvet curled underneath her, everything in the room was set up for sleep. This was the second hour of her insomnia. It was almost like a faithful pet, waiting for her to come home, change out of her work clothes, and relax. Always waiting. She sat on the edge of the bed and put her head in her hands. The last dose of carbotryptamine had actively hurt going through her system, not unlike a mild sub-dermal burn. She rubbed her forearms compulsively, a ghost of the sensation crawling across her skin. Her non-medicinal methods of sleeping hadn't done a thing, and there was no way she was combining a sedative with her current regime. Liam would likely be asleep by now, and even if he wasn't Pierce didn't want to risk disturbing Cayden. There was nothing to be done on her paperwork until her father gave his commentary on the first draft.::


::Physically, she was exhausted. Extra swimming was out of the question. No distractions.::


oOUnless.Oo


::Looking herself over in the mirror, her choice of light cotton shorts and a t-shirt were decently presentable, and she didn't look completely terrible, just tired.::


Pierce: Computer, call the captain's quarters. ::thinking:: And keep the dialer quiet, if he's asleep I don't want to wake him.




((Captain's Quarters, USS Apollo))


::After making his way back to his quarters from his meeting with Vik, he quickly ditched his uniform. Grabbing a pair of silk blue shorts, he replaced his pants. With just one simple article of clothing, he was ready for however many hours he would be able to get of sleep. After reviewing the latest reports of the Klingons invading Romulan space, he felt as if the weight of many worlds was upon his shoulders. He replicated a cup of tea, just to have a change of pace. He found that he was quietly pacing the deck plates. He knew there was nothing he could do to slow their advance. It was not like he was in a position to, even if he could. He would need to look after the safety of both his ship, and the Mercury as well. It did not help to have the threat of a plot to assassinate Prianna, picking away at him. Once he finished his tea, he found his way into bed.::


::The room was hot. Three times, he lowered the temperature to find some form of comfort. No matter what he did, tossing and turning was all that he could conjure. His head was not hurting at the moment, which was a miracle. Off and on all day, he felt assaulted by the pain. Instead, he was alone with his thoughts. They were taking him everywhere, except to sleep. Staring at the ceiling was becoming a mastered skill. As he continued to look up, he thought of his night in reverse order. Vik had a big role if anything happened to him, or Liam. He knew of no other captain that would trust their ship to someone that wore the black uniform. Soon, his thoughts drifted to Sid. He `allowed' her to show him where her quarters were located. In return he was supposed to think of how lovely she was. It seemed that it was the only welcomed thought raging in the sea of mental dilemmas chipping away at him. He could see Klingons, Romulans, and even Cardassians...and somewhere in the middle was her smile. It took him a moment to even realize that a call was coming in. The person on the other end, had cared enough to keep it low. He wondered if it was an overachieving officer calling to let him know they were in orbit. It occurred to him that he did not even know what time it was. Rolling out of the bed, he moved over to take a seat in front of the monitor. The logo on the screen was replaced with Sidney, someone he had not expected to hear from so soon.::




::There was nothing for a moment or two, then the face of Andrus Jaxx came on screen. Pierce half-smiled.::


Pierce: I didn't wake you, did I?


Jaxx: ::smirking:: Not at all...I was just checking out the fascinating ceiling I have in here.


Pierce: I realize it's only been a few hours, but...


::It had not been that long since he left her to her quarters. Even after the doors closed behind her, and the goodnights were said...he found himself lingering slightly, before making his way to see Vik. Of the entire day, it was the one thing that was shining through like a beacon in a nebula.::


Jaxx: But?


Pierce: You asked before if anything had been bothering me. I can't sleep. I don't know that I've slept more than four hours since I came on board.


::He thought of what to say to her. Insomnia was part of the life for an officer. He had come to embrace the fact that he would never again know the comforts of a full nights sleep. He always had great intentions. He would make sure he would be in bed by 2200, and not drift off until 0200, to be awake by 0500. It seemed that three hours was enough for him to function, but over time...it got old.::


Jaxx: You try counting cows?


Pierce: ::slight giggle:: Something like that.


::Sometimes he would make a turn of phrase that reminded Pierce he was definitely from Betazed. Their people could look and act so similarly, especially when compared to other races, but every now and again something stuck out.::


::As soon as she answered, he began to wonder if it was ducks they were supposed to count. He knew that counting some kind of animal was supposed to help some people fall asleep. The thought was rather absurd to him, but he was teasing anyway.::


Jaxx: There are times I am tired, and not sure how much I can take. I wish I had a cure that would help everyone fall asleep a lot easier. I always thought it was just be though...you know, the burden of command?


Pierce: My mother thinks it's because we don't spend nearly enough time technically being outdoors. "The holodeck only works so well," etcetera. ::dismissive wave:: I do think it has a lot to do with being isolated in space, and I'm sure the addition of so many responsibilities on so few … we're in our own little worlds here, constantly.


Jaxx: Have you tried everything, or do you find that you are not trying very hard? I know I lay awake night after night...and never seem to be able to find sleep, even though I am constantly stalking it.


::Not sleeping had become part of his day. There was only one thing worse than not being able to fall asleep each night, and that was making peace with the fact. He never expected to fall asleep at a decent hour, so it never happened. As he looked at the screen, he found that he was making meaningless small talk, but why? In an attempt to keep her on the screen even longer? It hardly seemed to make sense to for him to do that...she was the one that called. He found it ironic that she called at the exact moment she was dominating his thoughts. He decided that was most likely the reason he was so happy to see her face. She looked tired, but he still wanted to see that smile that she seemed to hide so well.::


Pierce: I have my methods. Breathing exercises as prescribed to me by Doctor Thomas, a glass full of warm water, lemon and honey, just like I had when I was a kid. ::She smiled at him:: It's sheep, by the way. Counting sheep.


::He let out a nice laugh. He knew that he often got the Terran sayings wrong, but few ever thought to correct him. It was another one of those little things that Sidney did to make it obvious she was not intimidated by him. It was among her most attractive qualities.::


Jaxx: Yeah...I am not great with those. I spent years trying to master the one about killing birds with rocks, but I can never remember that one when it counts.


Pierce: I wouldn't worry too much on it, I'm hardly an etymologist.


::What was happening here? This brought her back to conversations long gone, held far into the night until she had fallen asleep at her desk. Is that why she had called so late at night, to try and satisfy an old habit? Or was there something more at work here, beyond the rhythm of conversation. It was nice to see him again, even though it had only been a few hours. She self-consciously brushed some hair behind her ear before stilling her hand and bringing it back down to her lap. She was nervous. Old habits die hard.::


Pierce: I hope I'm not bothering you.


::All of the boring facts that were flying through his head disappeared and it was just the two of them. He allowed a smile to form on his face. He was not sure if it was to reassure her, or because even if she was bothering him...he would welcome it.::


Jaxx: Not at all. You have rescued me from the void of nothingness.


Pierce: What do you do, when you can't sleep?


::It was a simple question. It was also one he did not have an answer for. Well, he did but it was not a great one. Turning to look at the replicator, he glanced back.::


Jaxx:The next day, I drink more vreeca. ::snickering:: Honestly, I have not been able to fall asleep quickly, unless I take something to help. By the time I result to that method, I am left feeling groggy the next day...::shrugging:: which leads to even more vreeca.


Pierce: ::laughing:: That's one way to do it. I tend to like brandy or sherry myself. I'm trying to keep away from that sort of treatment for the time being. I just... want to fall asleep on my own.


Jaxx: Something on your mind, keeping you awake?


oOYes. No. Oo ::Her thoughts nagged at her, as they always did. Every day added another worry, and every worry made the bad dreams a little deeper. A little too close to home.::


Pierce: Usually. ::smiling:: Right now, I can tell you that I'm pretty nervous to go back to counselling. We have an interesting selection of personalities on the Apollo. It could stand to be a tall order.


Jaxx: It could be quite the task. ::winking:: I think you will do well. oO You calm my thoughts down. Oo


Pierce: It does mean that I won't have to worry about Vid talking back to Emma in front of me, though. I wish more of the crew would treat her like a person. She is more or less a crewmember.


::Keeping the smile on his face, he thought of Vid-Lotilija. The woman was odd from time to time. She had these moments of purity, surrounded by mischief. He would love to dive into her counseling reports and add some observations of his own. It was not his job anymore, the torch had been passed long ago.::


Jaxx: She is not the easiest person to get along with for the flesh and blood people. We could all only hope for the kind of resilience Emma has. To have the ability to just not care...::shaking his head:: sometimes it would be a welcomed break.


::Jaxx thought of his comment after he said it. He was usually so quick thinking on his feet. For some reason that skill was diminished at the moment. He was never accused of having that filter from his brain to his mouth, like most people had. It also came with being a Betazoid, they did not usually have the ability to sugar coat things. They were often found to be blunt, and even perceived as rude.::


::It was a poorly kept secret during the Academy that Pierce had a love and affinity for working on small pieces of programming, notably holodeck sequences. Had she not done so well in the actual programming classes, more people likely would have looked into how much time she spent with the buffers running. It was not a small number of hours. In that time, she had struggled to make her characters more human and to treat other holograms as people. It was the only way, in her opinion, to have a fully integrated crew if one member of that crew wasn't flesh and blood. Still, this was not something that she'd expressed to many people, and certainly not to anyone on the crew besides Liam.::


Pierce: ::quietly:: I don't think you appreciate the value of being able to care on an extra level.


Jaxx: I am sorry for that. I was just saying that she is lucky her feelings could not be affected by the words or actions of others.


Pierce: ::smirking:: Her program has had the emotional response unit locked down. I'm guessing another unit somewhere in the fleet has an Emma who cared too much.


Jaxx: ::smiling:: It could be much worse...she could have been your department head for longer than an hour!


Pierce: ::wincing:: I bet there are worse people to have, but I don't think she would have been very sympathetic to the idea of sneaking in late when I have a hangover. ::pausing:: Not that I do that often. I uphold the Federation standards and the bylaws of the fleet.


::She could barely get through the sentence without laughing. If she sat down and thought seriously about every class or final she'd eased her way into, head pounding, she would probably have used up several full personal days.::


Jaxx: ::laughing:: I can see that...if I try really, really hard.


Pierce: Maybe it'll get easier to sleep when there's any semblance of a routine. I've already been a Science officer, a Doctor, the head of Medical, and now I'm the Counselor. Either you have a great deal of faith in me or you're waiting for the right time to tell me I'm going back to do the entrance exams again. ::laughing::


::Jaxx knew about taking a step backwards, he had done it once. Though, he could not imagine going back to the Academy, other than to teach. At the same time, it was way too early for him to start contemplating retirement. He thought of the entrance exams themselves...what sort of evil person came up with them. oO Most likely a Vulcan. Oo::


Jaxx: When it comes to faith, I believe in a lot of things. Faith is the art of believing what you cannot see, or prove. I can both see, and prove that you will be fine. So I have confidence in you, not faith.


::It was one of those moments he was able to vocalize what he was feeling. It was also work related, and that he had been much more successful at. Telling her she looked adorable, even when she had been tossing and turning in her bed...it was something he would have to work on. He found himself giddy, as if he were a child again. In current times, he could not think of any instance when he talked to someone in this manner. Her quarters were not that far away...either one of them could have made the two minute walk. He toyed with the idea, but was just not that bold. He had the idea of telling her he would be right back, and heading right to her door. But part of him screamed how out of line he would have been. It was odd for him, they had just had dinner...it was a nice dinner, but he barely knew her...the real her. He knew what kind of officer she was, probably better than anyone, save Liam. When it came to the woman under the uniform, he was just scratching the surface.::


Pierce: Thanks. I hope I can live up to that.


Jaxx: You will be fine. And if you stumble, I have your back. ::winks::


::This was like so many nights as a teenager, unsure of where the boundaries were but willing to push them as far as they could go. For someone who would later train to be a counselor, the idea of being able to confuse and otherwise addle the brains of other Terrans had been something of a joy. Her mouth quirked at the corners as she thought of it. Sidney had already considered going over. More than once. Which would look ridiculous at this time of night, she knew. Her head ached, but not with the dull pain of withdrawal, but with her attempts to understand where things were going. ::


Pierce: I've got no doubt there. I can't imagine why.


Jaxx: So...did you get any sleep before calling me? Or were you tossing and turning all night?


Pierce: ::sighing:: Tossing. Mentally, mainly. I stay in more or less the same place. I suppose I was prepared for it, though. Didn't even bother climbing under the covers tonight.


Jaxx: ::jokingly:: Do you need me to sing to you? I will.


::He let out another laugh. He was way more worried about her getting any sleep than himself. Jaxx found himself getting attached to the woman. With her hair tucked back behind her ear, and in her cute little t-shirt, he found himself reverting to his masculine thoughts. She was attractive, even when she wasn't trying. He could not help but wonder what Liam would say. Here was Jaxx, shirtless, sharing a late night call with Sid. Dinner he could explain easily. This, was purely personal. The small talk about work only served as a way for Jaxx to avoid talking about feelings. It was only his feelings he could not talk about easily. It took a nice program, and some great conversation...not to mention fantastic barbeque sauce, to get him to open up just the slightest bit. Saying the simple words should not have been as hard as they were. oO Do you have any idea how beautiful you are? Oo It was one of those moments he wished she was telepathic and could sense what he was thinking. Or at least empathic, so she could sense what he was feeling. Words were too hard for him to master.::


Pierce: Are you... good at... ::laughing:: I feel like this may be some sort of trap. This is the part where you tell me you've been mastering the finer points of Klingon opera, and then I laugh at it, right?


Jaxx:::laughing:: Klingon opera? Really, who listens to that?


Pierce: Because, I mean, if you have a strong desire to sing ballads from Gav'ot toH'va, I can't say that I won't stop you ever. Just not immediately.


Jaxx: ::laughing even more:: Now I want to give it a try. Just to see what it would sound like.


::Her arms were warm again. She brushed her forearm idly with a hand and then froze, trying to keep herself calm. Something, some long-lost impulse got the better of her.::


Pierce: Can you hang on a second? Just, a second. I'll be right back.


Jaxx: Sure, I will be right here...nowhere else to go. ::pausing:: Unless those darn lights start flashing red. ::snickering::


::As soon as she stepped away from the console, he looked up Gav'ot toH'va. He was not very versed in Klingon music. He knew quite a bit about them, their culture, battle strategies, belief systems, and even some governmental issues. Their opera was not something that he ever cared to learn about, let alone hear. As soon as he brought up the information, he remembered the other piece of Intel he wanted to find out. That house on the hill was still vivid in his mind. Of course he wasn't `supposed to' look it up, but it was minor technicality. He was already versed in how lovely she was...it was now time to research something else that made her tick. Learning the small details like that would go a long way in learning about her. As he sat there, he started looking through the programs, and using standard search protocols, was unable to locate it. It seemed there were many programs that involved a house overlooking a shoreline. He started looking through her saved programs, but it seemed like there were too many to even wonder about. Many of them were authored and designed by her. It was something he did not know. Tinkering with small projects was one thing, but from the amount of things he could find with her name on it...holoprogramming was something she really enjoyed. He started to wonder if she joined the academy to go into engineering.::


((Corridor, USS Apollo))


::Limbs still heavy with sleep, she got up and grabbed her comm badge off of her uniform, then took off down the hall at a run. The distance between their quarters wasn't that impossible, but it had been a long time since she had performed serious feats of athletics on land rather than water. oORidiculous. Shoes. You're not even wearing shoes!Oo She passed a startled crewman on her way; evidentally the woman recognized her, because she tapped her hand against her forehead respectfully. Pierce managed the same, but the effort broke her stride a little. She stumbled and righted herself, skidding to a barefooted halt outside Jaxx's door.::


oO Okay.Oo


::She took a deep breath, hunched over with her hands against her knees.::


oO O-KAY. Oo


::She pressed the keypad.::


oO Oh God.Oo




((Captain's Quarters, USS Apollo))


::Sitting in his seat, he realized how hard off a task it would be to track down that program. He realized he would not have time to locate it at the moment. It took him a second to wonder what happened to her. It was not like she was gone for that long, but he did have time to do a crude search through holodeck programs, and even read up a bit on Klingon opera. He kept thinking about how he could joke that most of the solo pieces were for a tenor, something he was not. At the same time, it was something that he could make an attempt at to make things even a bit funnier. His concentration was broken by the sound of the chime at his door. Turning in his seat he looked toward the living area with a confused look. He turned back and looked at the screen and still nothing. He turned back and looked toward the living area once more with his eyes narrowing.::


Jaxx: Computer....locate Lieutenant Sidney Pierce


Computer: Lieutenant Pierce is located on Deck Three, forward corridor.


::Letting out a laugh, he closed the channel and darted for the door. Moving as if the ship were being attacked, he miscalculated in the dark and kicked the corner of the chair. Hopping on one foot, he did a quick circle before employing use of his foot once more. Moving over to the door, he grinded his teeth once more, before replacing it with a smile. As the door opened, there she was. In her shorts and t-shirt, he could not help but glance down. She did not even take time to put on shoes. He kept the thought to himself, as his eyes trailed back up her body, settling on her eyes.::


Pierce: Hi.


Jaxx: Hi there. You alright?


Pierce: ::flushed:: I may have... been running.


Jaxx: In a hurry?


Pierce: I didn't want to lie about being gone a second. In actuality, I think it was more like forty-five seconds?


::Bringing a hand up to her forehead to push some hair away, she laughed.::


Pierce: That was apparently the most important thing. To be timely.


::He smiled once more. He had the same thought, but was able to fend off the urge. Yet, there she was standing in his doorway, in the middle of the night. If he were a decade younger, he would be reading way more into it than he was...or was he? He had this slight feeling of confusion. It dominated his feelings at the moment. So much so, that he forgot she was still standing right there in the corridor. Finally allowing the shock to leave, he moved out of the way.::


Jaxx: Please...come in. ::pointing into the room::


::He found it slightly strange that she had the same exact idea he did, and even a bit shocked that she had the impulse to act on it. As the doors closed behind them, he walked up toward her. His thoughts and emotions were racing. He tried not to think about it too much, but his brain was always analyzing things. She was there, right in front of him. They were having a nice conversation, and there was nothing she had to say in person, that she could not have said to the console in front of her. He was worried how it would look if he showed up at her door. That was the thought dominating his mind...appearances. His emotions drove the idea of going to her quarters, but why? What would he have actually done when he got there, have tea? He was not sure what anything meant and his sense of empathy was not as honed as it usually was. He could have normally sensed what she was feeling from across the ship. He found it hard to put a finger on her motivations. It was not his style to invade the thoughts of someone just to prevent himself from acting like a fool. In this instance he had to go on social cues. Dinner was great, they agreed to see each other on a social level, he walked her to her quarters while sharing a nice chat. That was what he thought the end of the night was...then there was a call. He never viewed her as the direct type. What changed? There he was, once more over analyzing every piece of data he could. It was the job of a starfleet captain to get every detail you could, then make an informed decision. There he was, standing in the middle of the dark room looking right at her. All of the evidence lead him to one conclusion. Before she could speak her sentence, he lowered his shields, closing the distance between them even further. He found himself hovering his lips just a mere inch away from hers. He was willing to go that 90%, just to leave her the out in case he misread something somewhere between the Klingon opera, and the mad dash to his quarters.::


::She leaned in, still fresh with endorphins from the impromptu jog. It had been a while, longer than she would care to admit, since she had kissed anyone. While not precisely the reason she had originally set out, there were no complaints. In fact, barely any cognitive function at all. It was almost as if they were sharing a set of thoughts; the call hadn't been out of order, he had been waiting at the door when she arrived... oO Although that could just be because he heard you leave your quarters.Oo This wasn't the way things normally progressed. Her nervousness got the better of her nine times out of ten, leaving her sitting shyly at the back of the room, keeping to herself. From dinner onward, she had the feeling that she was doing the right thing, that Andrus was thinking the same thing. But was he? That was the advantage he had, to be able to see the extra layer above what she could. Leaning back and looking at him, she took a slow breath.::


Pierce: Well.


Jaxx: ::rubbing the back of his neck, slightly embarrassed:: Yeah...I uh...


Pierce: It wasn't my first thought in coming here.


Jaxx: ::smiling:: What was on your mind?


Pierce: Oh no, no no. It's my only thought now. I don't appear to have any other thoughts. ::smiling:: Maybe I need to go through my own dream therapy to get those back.


::Dream therapy was an interesting thought. There was also something to be said about the dreams themselves. Had he been able to fall asleep, there was no doubt she would have had a starring role in his. There was so much packed into the day, and he thought it ended well the first time. Now, he was there watching how the subtle light from consoles behind her seemed to make her glow. There was a reassuring feeling that he did not make a fool out of himself, but he had an underlying concern eating at him. Why was he unable to really sense her emotions? He thought of the pains he experienced earlier in the day, and now this. It was a warning sign, but it had never been his empathic abilities. In the past, the injury caused issues with his telepathic issues and caused him a basic control failure. He had always been able to sense those around him. It was not a complete void. He could sense the people on the ship, and basic emotions, but the more complex ones were hidden in the darkness.::


Jaxx: I have to admit...I feel like a teenage boy, not knowing what the heck I am doing.


Pierce: I'm right with you there, although I think I may be a little closer to remembering what that's like. ::grinning::


Jaxx: I had the same idea you did, but found myself conflicted and could not act upon it...and I am supposed to be the `bold' one. Yet, here you are standing.


::Something about the way he was looking at her finally set off her nerves, and she stuttered slightly before looking away. It would take a moment to regain her composure. Her mind felt... full. Not so much the general buzzing of a mind hard at work, but a feeling as if all of her brain was occupied. The kiss had truly stunned her. It wasn't an action she would have taken, but then Jaxx had just admitted that he'd stopped himself from heading down the corridor to her quarters. Perhaps that was it. They seemed to be thinking the same thing, feeling the same way. There was no true need for the shyness if she was correctly anticipating what he was thinking. And so far, so good.::


Pierce: ::a bit quietly:: I hope I'm not disturbing you.


Jaxx: ::softly:: I am glad you came. We were able to take the ambiguity out of the air. Believe it or not, I cannot quite put my finger on you. Your emotions are strong, but I just cannot...I will just say that in this moment, I can almost imagine what it is like to be Terran. In the end I based that kiss on the fact that you were here. And now, I do not want you to flee back to your quarters as fast as you left them.


::He was conflicted once more. He was a very bold individual, and he was no on the cusp of verbalizing what he is feeling. The fact that he could not sense hers, made him see things through the eyes of those that lacked the ability. In this moment, he realized how important words were. They were the base of the foundation of all forms of relationships. They would always have body language to act as a subtle indicator, but there was nothing more powerful than a shared thought. The words were used by many species to give those thoughts life, and as a tool to help relationships flourish.::


Pierce: The reason I came here, and so suddenly is... it just occured to me all at once that maybe you could help me sleep. ::A frown flickered across her face for a moment, then she had the decency to look embarrassed:: I realize how that sounds, that's not what I... I mean, don't think that I wouldn't....


::She seemed quite conflicted in her words. It was one of those moments he wanted to be inside her mind, and project everything he was thinking at once. The Terran forms of communication were complicated, at the same time, he realized how complicated telepaths were to everyone else.::


Jaxx: ::reaching out, he placed his hands on her shoulders:: It is okay...


Pierce: I came here because I wanted to, and because I thought it might be the right thing to do. I had a feeling that being near you would work, and I realize how that sounds, and I don't really care. What I'm trying to say is that I had the strange, out-there idea that maybe you might be able to help me sleep. I just.


::Sidney gestured helplessly for a moment before realizing that her words had eluded her at last. That was really it. She had felt the deep impulse to run this way, trusting in the fact that when she got here, there was something he could do. But that wasn't everything; not all just a desperate, selfish hope. She had wanted to come but had been wary that it would be too much, too soon. To go from a single dinner to turning up unannounced in her pajamas was … foolish. Reckless, even, when viewed from the outside. This was her CO. Perhaps more importantly, this was the man whose evaluation could change the course of her career, even determine promotions and recommendations. It would turn her record on its head.::


oOBut when have you ever cared about your career? And when else have you ever felt like there was something you had to try, no matter what the outcome?Oo


::She looked at Jaxx and shrugged softly. Her words were gone.::


Jaxx: Whatever the reason was, you came. You called. You had the idea for dinner. The least I can do is make an attempt to make this easier. ::taking a deep breath:: I have no idea where this might lead. All I know, is that you are in the exact place I want you to be, right now. At dinner I was a bit subtle, and for that I can only hope to redeem myself.


::He paused for a moment thinking of all the things he wished he could have told her throughout the evening. He organized them in his mind as if they were facts from an exam he was about to take. Nothing about what he was doing felt wrong. He was able to get the base evaluation out of the way at the beginning of dinner. It was an important reason for them to meet, but far from the only one. She would not be the first woman under his command he would date. There was always the possibility of colleagues seeing each other. She had said it herself, they were stuck out in space. You work with someone every single day, you were bound to get to know them on a personal level. With his thoughts complete, he looked into her eyes.::


Jaxx: I feel that you have no idea how beautiful you are. You are smart, funny, and full of life...but you seem to keep people at arms length for some reason. I do not want to complicate things for you at all. The way I see it, we can look forward and see where this path will lead...or we can just be friends and work together. ::finding room for a joke:: Either way, I am still going to look over that paper of yours.


Pierce: ::laughing a little:: Good, because it really needs some work, I think. Listen, Andrus... I haven't really stopped thinking about you all day. I wasn't anything more than startled when you came to find me on the Holodeck, I genuinely put thought into what I wanted to make for dinner, because I am so dreadful at it … and I found myself overanalyzing everything I said and did. Not just because you're the Captain or you're my evaluation officer, but because I was really worried I'd look like less than the person you thought I was.


::The last sentence slipped out before she could stop it and hung there in the air. That was one of the truest things she'd ever said. Overthinking everything for fear of damaging the image she'd built.::


Jaxx: This is one of those moments of truth, where we have to evaluate where we are, what we are feeling, and what to do about it. I for one, want to head down that path just to see. But if we find that it does not lead to a place we want be...I am scared about how that will affect us. How is that for some verbal truth?


::The great Andrus Jaxx just admitted fear to a member of the opposite gender. It was not something he had planned to do, but it was time to honest and vocalize that honesty. His relationship track record was not that great. He felt as if he was only good enough to be a short term bet, one that would never pay off in the long run. When it came to making a relationship work, he was not that great. He thought of the kiss and how he felt at that moment. Her lips were as soft as he felt when he touched them. His cocky, arrogant demeanor was stripped away when she was so close to him. It left him feeling vulnerable and unsure of what to do next. She had the thought that he would be able to help her sleep. Was a close proximity to him really that calming? He had the ability to project emotions, and it made him a juggernaut in negotiations. And here he was, feeling as if he had just entered the thirteenth hour of them.::


Pierce: It's more than... I deserve. For now. Given what little we've shared so far, I just... thank you.


Jaxx: You are more than welcome to stay here. ::pointing to the sofa:: I have the ability to keep my hands to myself, and I am even willing to sleep on the sofa. That is, if you want to be here...


Pierce: :: taking a stilted breath :: You don't need to go so far as to sleep on the sofa. And I'm quite sure that I want to be here.


::It was enough truth to put some of his fears at bay. He wanted her to stay, but still found it difficult to say the words. He did so, in a roundabout way. For the first time, he really did not care about how things looked. He did not care if anyone saw her darting through the corridors, running to...him. And first thing in the morning, he would not care if they were seen leaving together. Of course, there was that little bit of worry in the back of his mind. Liam's quarters were just across the corridor, and slightly further down. From Jaxx's door, he could see Liam's. He knew that they were close friends, but not sure how he would feel about what was going on. Jaxx knew what it was like to be protective of a friend that you cared about. In the past, he found himself playing the big brother role, making sure to do what he could to safeguard a woman's heart. Jaxx was not worried about what Liam thought as First Officer, either. He was dating a civilian when they launched the Apollo, but nothing changed when Cayden got her commission.::


::And then. And then. Her mind raced with possibilities, things she'd considered in private but would never bring up in public. Relationships, in Pierce's experience, had been passionate but short-lived. She liked men with a temper and found being put in certain personal situations brought her anger out as well. Everyone left with their feelings hurt, and that was that. This was a situation that required a bit more fine-tuning, if only because she did not want the end result to be pushing him away. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Now that he was close, all she could think about was wrapping herself up in his arms.::


Pierce: You don't need to keep your hands to yourself completely. Just... some.


::Temperature-wise, onboard a starship Sidney's quarters usually stayed a bit on the balmy side. It reminded her of poolside sunlight and warm water; it also kept her asleep, when she could get there. The dull chill coming from the captain's room indicated he did not share the same love of warm quarters. The thought of a warm body beside her own was pleasing in more ways than one.::


::The thought of just cuddling up and going to bed was a welcoming one. He would much rather stare at the back of her head if he was unable to sleep. The scent of her hair would be enough to ease him into a mental place where he thought sleep would easily come. Of course, he realized how chilly his quarters were after turning down the heat so many times. It was likely that she needed him to cuddle with her just to keep her alive. It was one of those times his basic form of humor took over. While he would have been very comfortable on the sofa, he would have done so just to keep her there. Instead, it was clear that they were capable of climbing into bed and actually sleeping. Who knew? Maybe they would be able to get more than four hours.::


Jaxx: ::taking her hand:: That cold in here?


Pierce: It's a bit colder than I'm used to, I'll admit.


::Leading her into the bedroom, he grabbed an extra pillow from the compartment under the bed. He moved over, deactivating the console that initially started the sequence of events that led her to where they were. He thought for a moment, as the darkness engulfed the room.::


::The door closing behind them, Sidney felt the gentle pull of the dark room around them, urging her into bed. Feeling the warmth of his hand was all that was keeping her planted firmly in the present. Everything felt soothing.::


Jaxx: Do you prefer the right side...::pointing:: or the left? ::moving the pointing motion over::


Pierce: ::thinking:: Usually I wake up on my right side. So ::pointing:: the left side would probably be the most natural.


::Sidney smiled as Jaxx continued his efforts to make her feel welcome. He was being so considerate, it was impossible not to like him. Tucked away somewhere was the cocky senior officer that she had met on her first day aboard the Apollo, who had looked at her marked record and decided that her application was worthy enough to serve alongside her excellent crew. This must be something else, some other lurking part of him whose one thought was to care for others, regardless of the cost.::


::He did not care which side of the bed he was on as long as she was in it. Wrapping his arms around her and closing his eyes, seemed like such a warming prospect. He knew that women were oddly prone to being cold. He thought of raising the temperature of the room slightly, but realized if he did that...it might allow for space between them. It was a bit manipulative, but he chose to leave it as it was. His quarters were a little bigger than what he imagined hers to be. He had not had a chance to see what sort of accommodations the rest of the crew had. He was lucky to even know what his quarters looked like.::


Jaxx: ::pointing toward the door next to the bed:: Bathroom is through there, in case you need it for anything. ::pointing toward the door they came through:: Replicator is out there in case you are up before me and want something to eat or drink.


::He felt a bit ridiculous giving her a tour. It was not like it was one of his family's homes on Betazed. Then he would need to draw her a map, or have one of the servants escort her where she needed to go. Their quarters were pretty basic, even for the captain. The biggest difference was the larger bedroom, and living area. Of course he also had the water and sonic shower options as well as the large tub. He was aware that below decks, the junior officer's quarters only included a sonic shower. It was even worse for crewmen that had to share one, for each set of four. He found himself babbling instead of dealing with the urge to give her another kiss before they actually made it to bed. The first one was nice and filled him with the feelings he had not felt in some time. He also felt that he was a bit awkward with it. He could have done so much better, but at that moment there was always the chance he was wrong. There was nothing worse than kissing someone that did not want to be kissed. They either took a swing at you, or stood there with their eyes glued to you and their lips as hard as the ablative armor. It was nothing like that, but he felt as if he did not give it his all.::


Pierce: Thanks, it's not so different from my own. I would have figured it out, given enough time. Though maybe not with the lights off.


Jaxx: Do you need an extra blanket or anything?


::He was starting to feel as if his awkwardness was starting to show. If she needed something, she either knew how to get it, or where it was. He could not shake the slight feeling like he was a teenager and he just snuck her over under the noses of his parents. Whilst he was sure that nobody would come barging into the room to yell at him, he could not shake it. They were both adults, and in the scheme of things, they were just sharing the bed and some body heat. There was the other form of warmth that was accompanied by softly touching her skin, but the more innocent he made it sound in his mind, the more he was able to keep those feelings of doing something wrong at bay.::


Pierce: I think that I'm going to try to sleep. I doubt that it will happen right away, under the circumstances. But I was thinking since we're in your quarters, maybe you'd like to join me?


::Sleep would be nice. She was right about the circumstances, and it complicating the prospect of sleeping, but he had confidence that with their eyes closed, and the feelings of weirdness behind them, it would be something that would have come much easier than if he was there staring at the ceiling.::


Jaxx: I think I can give `sleeping' another try. ::smiling::


Pierce: ::smiling, climbing into bed:: I could pretend that this was my own bed and annex you to the couch, but I don't actually want to.


::He smiled thinking that the bed would be much more comfortable. Moving to his side, he pulled the covers back and climbed in. Once he was in the bed, he moved closer to her. He rubbed her arms slightly, to help get any residual chill off of them, before wrapping his arm around her. It was much more comfortable than he imagined. Of course, he was thinking about her quite a bit, even during his meeting with Viktor. He thought of moments like this, and placed them further down the road. At the same time, they were small moments shared as if they were something to build upon. He thought of his past relationships, and realized that Sidney already knew some of the things about him he neglected to share. She was well aware of his medical condition, though it was not something he ever talked about. He disclosed a broad tone with Viktor earlier that night, but Sidney had been able to see his file. It was much further than he allowed anyone before. Of course, it was due to her position at the time...but there was something comforting about her already in the loop on it.::


::Putting her head down on the pillow, she felt herself tense and hold her breath as he slid in beside her. Her shoulders gave a barely perceptible shudder, not of any sort of negative feeling, but one of nervous joy. This was new. This was all new. Not quite like anything that had ever come before it, which had been rather more a tangle of limbs or a rain-soaked, alcohol fueled wreck of a kiss. Things did not start off soft and they certainly did not start off this raw, even with Sidney being as concerned and nervous as she was known to be. Taking a few even breaths to slow her heart-rate down, she pressed her shoulders against his chest and felt, for the first time in quite a long time, safe.::


::Taking in a deep breath, he realized how right he was. The smell of her hair was enough to calm him down significantly. As he laid with his arm around her, and her body close, he felt his eyes getting heavy. He had never felt this sleepy so fast after laying down. Moments before, he was no more tired than he was when she called. But now, sleep was no longer out of reach. Instead, it was right there...just as close as she was.::


TBC


Captain Andrus Jaxx
Commanding Officer
USS Apollo

&

LtJG Sidney Pierce
Counselor
USS Apollo

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