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SIM:Nicholotti Behind Closed Doors

((Conference Room))

::Captain's Office? David blinked after Captain Nicholotti, suddenly uncertain if he had made a mistake somewhere that managed to land him in what pilots like to refer to as the "hot seat". He studied her expression a moment, but unlike last night, all he saw in her gaze was a cool, calm and collected captain. oO Uh oh... Oo Did he go too far last night? Or had his behavior in the Hub fallen to her ears? The last thing he needed right now was to get stuck back in some Medical wing. He had been inside Sickbays in holding for a good chunk of this year. Being out, about, working and being himself was the best medicine, far as David was concerned. ::

::But... there was no way around that request. Arching one brow, David acquisited and fell into step behind Captain Nicholotti, following her out of the conference room and down the short hall, across through the Hub, and right up to and through the Commanding Officer's Office doors parting way to let them through. ::

((Captain's Office, The Hub, Starbase 118))

::Kali led the way into her office as coolly and calmly as she could. Still, there was a flutter that traveled the entire length of her body as she stepped through the doors and moved towards her desk. Instead of walking behind it, though, she simply walked towards it and turned to half-sit on it when she was close enough. He was already in the room and the doors closed behind him when she settled on the edge of it. Her eyes, free to take him in now that they were away from the onlookers that comprised the rest of the crew, quickly found his and promptly got lost there. Her mind wandered.::

oOWhat the hell is it about you?Oo

::Falling into her gaze, David glanced behind him and thumbed the door. ::

Cody: Um... is it me, or the door?

Nicholotti: ::Quietly.:: It's not the door.

::Ever so slightly, her eyes narrowed. Never before, not as far as she could remember, had she ever been so incredibly captivated by anyone. Never before had anyone managed to scale the walls of her hidden insecurities or fears so easily and cleanly. Having been one to stand strong always, and never to bend, at least not within the sights of others, she was having trouble coming to terms with not only the actions that had literally taken her breath away, but by her own reactions and her sudden desires to pursue him.::

oOTell me. Please tell me before I make a fool of myself. What did it mean? What *is* this?Oo

::The ambiguousness of the dance, and his response to her touch last night; the way he had touched her, conveying the idea that he would make good on his promise to not let go, left her wondering if she was simply lost and attributing things to events because her mind was breaking down, or if this was something more. It was a feeling she had never experienced, in any of her years. She'd always been left to stand strong. Even Makal had kept his distance because back then, that was how she was. She could do anything, and she could do it all, completely on her own. Now it seemed different. It seemed as if there was a safe place for her mind within the eyes that looked back at her.::

::David paused, shifting as his thoughts refocused from the strange events from earlier and focused on the here and now, staring directly into her blue-grey swirl and inwardly, found his breath taken away in the space of a moment. There was a strong beauty in her, and not just surface-level. And yet, not realizing he stepped forward and came across the office toward the desk, there was a hurt written into her features. He hadn't seen it last night, when she was glowing from the promotion. Here in the office, he saw in her body language now, sitting at the edge of the desk, just looking at him. His own weather-hardened features softened. ::

::He was so used to making the decisions she was making now, David almost wondered if he crossed an invisible line the other night by stepping in as he did, drawn purely by a deeper sense of something he realized was sending short static bursts into his heart. He found himself asking himself something he had touched briefly with Jaxx last night, on family, and the first instinct to want to protect him. And... as he did once before, he asked himself if he were back behind that deck, feeling what he felt now, could he still give the order knowing he might send her to die. ::

oO You really do feel something for her, don't you? Oo

::And because he couldn't answer that without a dodge, David knew this was far more serious. Yes, he could send her in if the roles were reversed. And he would still feel the same strong feelings he had now, stopping at her desk to finish closing the gap. ::

::It was those eyes that had burned themselves into her mind since the night before. They danced in her dreams and chased away the nightmares that so often found her in the dark, which left her feeling even more at a loss to explain it. How could someone walk into your life and have such a dramatic effect? How had he gotten over the walls she had constructed in the years that followed her own death? Was he simply playing with her mind?::

oOWho *are* you?Oo

::She wanted so badly to be frustrated, with herself and the man who held her gaze in the stillness of the silent room, but there was something wholly calming about his eyes and the way he stood there. It was almost as if he was letting her collect her thoughts, though they simply scattered further the longer she sat there. The 'butterflies', as Jaxx had called them, hit her with renewed fervor and she found herself wanting so much for it to be. But something held her back.::

::Of everything she felt, of all the emotions coursing through her body, each and every one of them was wrapped up and wound tightly with thick tendrils of fear. What if she was wrong? She had been down this road before and she knew from experience that it hurt. It was that hurt that had constructed the walls, held together with the viscous glue that was fear made manifest. A disembodied voice in the back of her mind echoed out, taking the form of all those who had been in her life and left, telling her that nothing would change. History would always repeat itself.::

::But then again, there was something else there telling her that wasn't true. It was the ultimate mental war that was fought in the minutes she stood there wondering.::

::Here, for the first time since he had made his most definitive mark on her mind, she had him alone for a short while, behind closed doors. Here, she fully intended on figuring something out; some path to take. Yet the fear within strangled her words before they could be spoken. Twice, she parted her lips and made some kind of an attempt to speak, but the words got lost as quickly as she had in the blue ocean that was his eyes.::

::Finally, she forced her eyes to the floor, almost surprised at just how difficult that had been. Yet, it still took her a moment to speak. And in that minute, she became acutely aware that he was no longer standing still.::

:: After a moment of studying what was going on, David didn't have to be a telepath to know her redirected gaze to the floor had more to do with whatever was going on behind the necessary masks of command that more often than not layered the division. He pursed his lips as he thought about what to do, then perhaps just as daring as the night before, or moreso, he sat on the edge of her desk with her and followed her gaze to the floor. ::

::Both fear and euphoria coursed through her as he closed the gap and found his place next to her. Afraid of what she might do if she looked up, she continued staring at the floor. All premise of why she had called him in here left in the blink of an eye as she struggled to finally speak.::

Nicholotti: I've gotten so much more with this office, this rank, than I think I ever bargained for.

::Of those who she served with, there were a choice few she felt able to open up much to. It was a side of her that few saw, but after last night she realized that he'd caught a glimpse already. What harm would one more such glimpse do?::

Cody: ::grim, but smiling:: I've sat where you are once. When the dust settles, the rank doesn't matter as much as just being who we are.

Nicholotti: That isn't exactly easy. Maybe even dangerous.

::His proximity to her was interrupting her flow of thoughts, though he didn't seem to notice. Retreating back into her head, she found herself amazed at how calm he seemed. He was in control, and in command, but she had to wonder just how deep this would lead. Could he handle the floods that the masks barely kept back?::

::She'd not gotten to where she was by letting her weaknesses show, though that was desperately what she needed. And though some wouldn't consider them the weaknesses that she did, they were still better, in her mind, buried; hidden deep from all who saw her and looked to her for leadership. He was one of them, one who she was charged to lead, but the feelings overwhelming her mind were making it very hard to keep up the masks that she inherited with the rank.::

::David looked over at her. He knew what he wanted to do, but it wasn't the right or appropriate moment. He looked back down at that floor spot she found, feeling what his heart said and what his head preferred. ::

Cody: You could call it daring, I suppose. I think of it as just being myself.

::Without thinking, she turned towards him to see him looking at the same place she had found on the floor. He'd caught a glimpse of her without the walls last night; in her weakness she'd nearly begged him not to let go. Half of her expected him to be back to the cool nature of work the next day, but it wasn't like that. He was here, talking of things far removed from Klingons, Romulans, or even Starfleet itself.::

::Watching him, her heart beat faster. The tendrils of fear reached up through her, threatening to drag her back down, but before they could, she said one thing, knowing the effect it would have on her. Her voice was barely above a whisper as she spoke.::

Nicholotti: David Cody, look at me.

::At that, David did turn his head toward her. Tantalizingly close, he didn't make a move to touch her, but kept at a relatively open space so that it didn't feel as though he was invading her personal circle. He felt her nose breeze near his and he found himself breathing a bit faster along with that thumping heart. ::

::Almost instantly, his eyes brought some kind of calm to her that she still couldn't figure out. Just inches from him, she could pick up his scent and feel his warmth. Her heart ached; she wanted so badly to find her way back into the arms that had held her during the dance, but something held her back. It was as if her fears had become thick vines that entangled her more completely with every second that passed. They were vines that compounded on more vines and while her heart raced, and her breathing quickened, she felt powerless to do anything about it.::

Cody: ::lowering his voice:: What I want to know, is what I feel in my heart mutual?

::A shock ran through her body as the words met her ears. Every part of her tingled with a longing she could never hope to put into words. He was so close to her; so close. Without breaking his gaze, she fought back the entanglement that held her down and found his hand with hers. Once there, she gripped it with a strength that came from the fear that nothing lasted in her life but her sense of duty and a loneliness that she was made to endure. Her voice trembled slightly as she nodded just enough for him to see it.::

Nicholotti: I'm afraid.

::So afraid that she found it difficult to move. Frozen in place, she felt half of her pushing and half of her pulling. It was true; he was here, now, right in front of her, but what about later? Could she handle it again? The faces of those she'd loved stood between her and the step her entire body was aching to take.::

::David kept a firm grip on her hand, but not crushing. He could feel the trembles underneath her cool, soft skin and brought his forehead to bear against hers, closing his eyes and letting his pulse convey his thrice-rapidly beating heart now, hearing her, understanding, and allowing her a comfortable space to work with. ::

Cody: :: softly, gentle :: Of being yourself?

::Slowly, her other hand moved, seemingly released from the now-whispy tendrils that had held it solidly down. She moved it slowly until her fingertips found the side of his face, where they danced ever so softly against the reality of his being. Tiny shockwaves moved through her fingers and amplified up through the rest of her body. Unable to focus in front of her, she closed her eyes and let her fingers wander, gently brushing his cheek and following his jaw line to his lips. Her breath was long gone as her hand moved away, running back up the side of his face and though his hair. She opened her eyes and brought her hand to rest back where it had started.::

::That kind of intimacy sent shockwaves. David lost himself in her simple touch, letting her trace her hand and fingers across his cheek, his mouth and chin, up through his hair. A part of him tensed... the part of him that had found himself on the short end so many times throughout his life. He took in a long, deep breath and released control, letting her do as she will. When she brought her hand away, David broke head contact to stay close, opening his eyes to meet her gaze. ::

::The most vulnerable look had to have crossed her face just then, because that was how she felt. She was out in the open now, where his next words might send her soaring, or crush her, but she now realized that it was too late. There was nothing she could do to go back.::

Nicholotti: Don't let go. ::It was a statement, from the night prior, that turned into a question.:: Did you mean what you said?

::There were several ways David could answer her, remembering his words as they brought their dance to a heart-pulsing close. Words were words. David heard a lot of them, whether off in some system tracking property, or fugitives, or flying on the chair in a starship. He reached over and touched her cheek, letting his fingers feel the electric fire zip through his veins as he caressed her cheek and down to her lips, then up over the other cheek as he leaned in. ::

Cody: ::whispering last night's words:: Not a chance... and I meant every word of it.

::Now they were so close that it sent near-constant waves of flutter though her. She felt weak and so incredibly intoxicated; wholly euphoric and lighter than air itself. Her head was spinning and all she could see, all she could feel, was this man who had walked into her life and changed everything. It was terrifying, but the longing that only grew within her begged to be satiated. No one had seen her like this, ever, and yet somehow he stayed. The promise of his words danced around like sparks in her mind, but she wasn't willing to stop with words.::

Nicholotti: Show me.

::Bridging the gap, David brushed her lips with his first before taking her in his arm and bringing her close, sealing their lips with a long, tantilizing and lingering full kiss, swept up trying to figure out why she meant so much to him. And within a fraction of a milisecond later, decided it didn't matter as he let their mouths do the exploring and lose himself in her sensation and touch.::

::From the moment he had taken her in his arms last night, and she felt the way he held her; from the moment he instantly scaled the walls around her mind and heart, she had fought her longing for this moment. The entire universe melted away when he pulled her close and in that feeling she found what she had been looking for, for so long. There was no rank, no feeling of being alone, no pain, and no sorrow. The sparks that were created as their lips met chased away the tendrils and vines that had been her fear, creating white-hot fire that burned only brighter and brighter.::

::The questions that had been plaguing her faded and she found, for whatever reason, that she trusted what he said. It was opening herself up to a whole new world of pain and loss, but something told her that this was different. She maneuvered so that she soon found herself wrapped up completely in his embrace, in a place that felt both safe and cut off from the rest of the world. Her arms pulled him even closer until there was no space between them.::

::It seemed to last forever, but was over far too soon. But when it was, and she pulled back slightly, she did not try to leave his arms. To her, it was the most wonderful, amazing feeling in the world just to be held. Leaning her forehead against his, and free of the fears that had been there only minutes before, she smiled an honestly happy smile. A single tear fell down her cheek, though this one for a far different reason than the one she'd she for Rowena.::

Nicholotti: You have no idea what you've done. Or what you've gotten into.

::Feeling her head against his, David smiled, and held her close, unwilling to let go of Kalianna just yet. He kissed her again, and simply held her. Despite what some thought, the reality of it was just being able to hug and hold close superceded any other idea a couple could think of. Sometimes the simple act of sharing came in the hug of someone who meant the world, and for the first time, David couldn't imagine being anywhere else or in anyone else's arms. This is where he wanted to be, with Kalianna. ::

Cody: What if I do?

::This was the most alive she'd felt in a very long time. The emotions that normally built up within her, that overflowed and poured down like floods when they could no longer be contained, seemed further away than ever, and she felt overcome with emotions she'd not felt in a long, long time. More than anything though, she didn't feel alone. The warmth of his body against hers sent her soaring in ways she couldn't hope to explain to him. All of this danced in her eyes as she looked at him then.::

::And found his with a peculiar expression behind them. He still held her in his arms, and he wasn't letting go anytime soon. A tinge of fear gripped his heart, hoping to hell he wasn't going to get his heart broken. But, life was too short to linger on such thoughts, and all he knew was he didn't want this moment to end, even though it had to. ::

::He found himself brushing back Kalianna's hair, and letting his hand rest on her cheek. He could spend the rest of his life gazing into her eyes, and tried to convey things he didn't have words for in his eyes as he met her gaze again. ::

::Time, and space, stood still. Her skin tingled with something so new, and so different, and so incredibly, completely, intoxicating. Her emotions raged like a storm as she looked into his eyes, and deeper now, into, perhaps, his soul. Reflected back at her was everything she had been engulfed with that day, and so much more. There was understanding, hope, and the promise he had made not only with his words, but by the way his arms surrounded her, holding her close and protecting her, at least from that moment, from the entire outside universe. She burned every second of it into her mind, never wanting it to end, though realizing that it must. But as each second passed, she knew that there would be more.::

::He simply held her, holding onto something that meant as much as B'Sarah did, and then kissed her again while holding on. ::

Cody: ::softly:: I think you know my intention and heart here.

::Even his voice sent shockwaves through her as the feelings she'd seen in his eyes became words manifested in the silence they shared. She smiled a soft smile, one that would be reserved for this man, who had somehow found his way into the fortress that was her heart. She nodded.::

Nicholotti: Yes. And you know mine.

::Kali was complex, she'd admit that to herself, and she still wasn't sure that he knew the depth of what he was diving head first into, but she made a pact with herself then that she would protect this amazing thing they had discovered; that she would guard him and his heart the way his arms guarded her now and the way his voice brought her out of the darker corners of her own mind.::

::For a moment, David just held her and felt... he didn't know what or how to describe it. It was just being there, holding on to something both shared and precious. He didn't know what tomorrow would bring, but he knew about today, and all of its strangeness. An El Aurian who worked for him under Security, Cameron, once told him life was a short thing, even for those who lived hundreds of years. He had no intention of missing life anymore than he already had. Nothing needed to be said in this moment, just holding each other for this brief moment before chaos rained on them. ::

::She paused, thinking for the briefest moment what life suddenly would have been like had he never arrived on 118. It was something she had a very hard time imagining. Instead of dwelling on it, she simply kissed him again. It was something she'd never get tired of. With life really coursing through her now, she finally grinned as much to herself as to him.::

Nicholotti: And to think I actually did have a reason to ask you in here.

::David crinkled his eyes as he smiled, feeling suddenly more energetic than how the day started. ::

Cody: Oh yeah? And what would that be?

::It had been a front for figuring out what was going on between them, and just what his intentions were, but there had been something she'd meant to ask him. It had gotten lost in the growing flames of passion that had been set ablaze in that room when he kissed her for the first time. She held him close, knowing their time was inevitably growing short, and after laying her head on his shoulder, she pointed towards the corner of the room.::

Nicholotti: A fish tank.

::David followed her arm toward the corner of the office. ::

Cody: ::unable to resist:: Where?

::Laughing in a free spirited way that she'd not heard from herself in a very long time, she looked up.::

Nicholotti: No, it's in Ben's office. I never had it moved.

::Ah, now he had a better idea about what was afoot. He wrapped his arms around Kalianna and measured the corner of the office. He'd have to steal into Ben's office and take a look at the tank to see if it was something that would have to be dismantled (although probably, since engineering would have had to build regulatory systems for the tank. ::

Cody: ::kissing her cheek:: I'll take a look at the tank and see what needs to be done. I might have to talk to Kevin about installing filtration and regulatory systems in here before we can move it. ::

::Smiling, she finally was letting everything sink in. The flames weren't dying, but she felt slightly better able to control the flutters that his gentle touch was still sending through her. Composed? She didn't think she could possibly get rid of the glow that she was fairly sure surrounded her now, but then again, she didn't care. The feeling she had was one she didn't want to go away. Her thoughts drifted for a moment and she suddenly looked at him seriously.::

Nicholotti: David. I..I don't know what may happen tomorrow. ::She realized she didn't even know what was going to happen later that day, but that wasn't what she was getting at. She had told the rest of the crew to take the night and spend it with family, with friends. Now she knew what she wanted to do with her night; take her own advice.:: I don't want to be alone tonight.

::Blunt. Perhaps. Certainly straightforward. But there was no double meaning to it. She could sit all night and just look into his eyes and be perfectly content, though she knew that somehow, she'd wrap herself up in those arms.::

::David grew still, still looking at the corner as his heart did a double flip. And found himself flushing red a little too quickly for his liking as he covered his mouth to cover his surprise. He chased away the obvious after a moment and met her eyes, taking her hands in his. He nodded finally. One night, just to be normal... to just sit and talk, relax and cuddle over a glass of wine. ::

::Before tomorrow came. Before they were plunged into uncertainty to what this invasion would bring... ::

Cody: Then let's share this night together. :: he flinched as an inexplicit image of the Ixvapyan Warlord, Hadrian, flashed before his eyes, the glint of a pair of Scythemii daggers flashing :: Before the storm comes.

::It was what she had hoped he would say, though the expression and slight flinch did not seem to convey the intent of what he said. She narrowed her eyes slightly, realizing that something wasn't right.::

Nicholotti: What's wrong?

::David said nothing for a moment, grim and feeling somewhat withdrawn. ::

::Immediately, the part of her that was a doctor, and the part of her that was a Captain looked for the problem, while the part of her that he had solidly captured in the hands that now held hers found itself concerned on a whole other level. The longer he sat, saying nothing, the deeper the overall concern grew in her eyes. Holding on to his hand with one of hers, she moved the other to the side of his face, resting it gently there hoping to convey a sense of understanding, and support. She waited for him to speak, simply being there for when he would.::

Cody: There's a part of my life I can't quite remember... from when I disappeared out of my Ready Room on the Independence up to where they found me. Even with rehabilitation, certain parts of my memory... it's like a black, impenetrable wall. And then out of the blue, I start remembering things, little flashes, of things that happened before I vanished.

::Now she frowned slightly. She'd read the reports, and though she was fairly sure they only told her just what she needed to know and no more, she had an understanding that something bad had to have happened. And something bad was one thing she had experience with. Leaning her head to the side slightly, she gently moved her hand and caressed his cheek in an attempt to sooth him.::

Nicholotti: Sometimes the mind does that, after traumatic events. ::She remembered her own recurring nightmare that still kept her up some nights.:: It walks into our lives when we least expect it and least welcome the intrusion.

::But he still seemed somewhat distant. Overwhelmingly, she felt the need to do something, but helpless in knowing just what aside from holding on. She knew that, save for behind closed doors, she was far from the rock that her outward image would usually convey, but her feelings for him suddenly invoked a whole new level of strength. It was funny how emotions could do that, and how one could ride the tides of adrenaline when it came to protecting the ones that one held dear. She had no idea what the issue really was, but suddenly she knew she would ::

Cody: That's not what scares me. What scares me are these waking dreams I'm having.

Nicholotti: ::Narrowing her eyes slightly.:: What kind of waking dreams?

::Searching for the answers was never easy, especially when one suddenly found themselves emotionally invested in ways they couldn't even explain to themselves, but Kali, being who she was, wasn't willing to back down or be scared away, especially now. She held his hand tightly as much for her own benefit as for his.::

::What kind... David broke away from his floor spot staring and raised both his head and eyes up to Kalianna. He smiled then, and touched her cheek letting his fingers glide back to run through her hair. He let his hand rest on her shoulder and rubbed it. ::

Cody: All I know is there's a chair in the center of a room. And some kind of white whisps in an expanding sphere. Smoke and mirrors, or something like that.

::The description was both confusing and slightly unnerving if for no other reason than the fact that she couldn't explain it, but she couldn't help but reflect his smile back at him as she felt his fingers move through her hair. Still, concern shone in her eyes as her mind tried to dig answers from incomplete information.::

Nicholotti: Maybe you've been there and have just repressed the memories.

Cody: I don't know. Earlier, before the meeting, one moment I was in the Hub... and then everything just froze, and suddenly I was elsewhere. Where exactly, I don't know. Just that damn chair and that field with white objects around it. And yet... the way the Kalipso crew tells it, I've spent the last almost two years on some godforsaken backwards planet that doesn't have more than the combadge that was with me. Something's just not right about that.

::That's why he had looked so...tired. She looked into his eyes and conveyed the most serious look that said she meant what words came next with every bit of herself.::

Nicholotti: We'll figure it out. You and me.

::Her mind kept returning to how he had held her and promised not to let go. As he closed his eyes for a moment she concentrated on his hand on her shoulder and just watched him. When his eyes returned to hers, he seemed to have recomposed himself. That didn't stop her from being concerned though.::

::And the pulse that verbated his ears and made him feel as though he was insignificant, less human. Every time, little details came out, a bit more clear- he closed his eyes a moment and closed off the line of thought. Whatever this was, it was a problem for another day when there weren't Klingons rampaging through the systems and the report of an assassination attempt on Kalianna's life. He squeezed her hand and found a knot in her shoulder. He rubbed slowly to loosen the shoulder muscle up. ::

Cody: Whatever it is, it's for another time, another day. We need to worry about you.

::Her mind had been so focused on other things that she had completely forgotten about what they had learned at the briefing. Immediately she shook her head in an attempt to shrug away the apprehension. Perhaps that was one of her not-quite strengths; never caring to address the issues surrounding herself, and always throwing herself into keeping everyone else around her afloat. It had resulted in near drowning in the depths of helpless emotions here and again, but she'd always kept that to herself.::

::For the briefest moment she looked into his eyes and thought that maybe she didn't have to do that anymore, just before she put herself back on track and shook her head more solidly at both the thought of subjecting him to the depths of her mind and to the thought of hiding from whatever was out there.::

Nicholotti: I'm not hiding in the background. There's too much at stake.

::Apparently, she didn't know him that well, yet. David grinned. ::

Cody: Trying to keep you from jumping front and center I suspect will be a futile exercise. ::a wolfish smile:: I had something else in mind.

::His grin hid behind it something mischievous that made her look at him and smirk slightly. Raising her eyebrows, she nodded slowly.::

Nicholotti: Alright. I'm listening.

Cody: ::hesitant:: How do you feel about designing a virtual lookalike? We can use the station and Victory emitter grids to create a physical you can turn on and off at will.

::It was an idea she'd not even considered. Furrowing her brows, she asked the first question that came to mind.::

Nicholotti: Like a holographic me?

Cody: That's exactly it. As the EMH is able to touch and interact with patients, so would this holographic you.

::She thought about it for a moment and wondered. So many questions came to mind that her head had trouble wrapping itself around that for a moment, though it did seem like a genius idea in light of things.::

Nicholotti: How easy will it be to tell that it isn't really real?

::David considered the question. Starfleet knew about the technology to make a hologram as real as Kalianna was right here. They were still "reverse-engineering" the technology. But... as long as the hologram was on the grid on either the station or the ship... ::

Cody: You'd need a tricorder the system couldn't fool.

::But it would still require hiding away, or at the very least, staying within the confines of safer areas of the station. Abruptly a thought came into her mind and she actually contemplated, for a moment, all of the things that she suddenly didn't want to lose. Having chosen the life that she had, she rarely thought about the things she might lose if things did go bad out there, but now, looking at David, getting lost in his eyes, feeling his touch, and realizing that she had something in here, and family just beyond her office doors..it made her seriously pause. When she spoke again, her voice was less steady than she would have liked it to be.::

Nicholotti: Do you think this whole assassination thing is seriously and possibly real?

::David looked off for a moment, evaluating what Zehn had brought to the table back in the conference room. As far as intelligence officers went, he was one of the better ones David had met over the years. Enough to take what he came with serious enough. If Zehn believed there was an assassination attempt, then, yes, he needed to take it seriously, whatever the dubious source was. ::

Cody: Yes, I think we need to treat this as the real thing.

::As a Captain, who had been integrally involved in many things that probably made many different people and groups upset, there was no telling who wanted her dead this time. The thing was, never before had she caught wind of a serious attempt. For a moment, she halfway struggled with the idea of death.::

Nicholotti: I'm not going to hide. ::She was able to force that part out strongly, but her voice cracked slightly at the next part.:: But I don't want to leave now.

::Perhaps at one time, death did not scare her. She willingly threw herself in front of the Hirogen blade to protect Jaxx and the chain of command. Never before could she recall being quite so concerned about her own life, but the future seemed too bright not to be worried. And all at once, the Captain who was normally strong, solid, and unshakable let something get to her. Maybe it was because she felt safe showing those thoughts, and feelings, with him there to hold her, or maybe the emotion pools were simply overflowing; whatever the case was, she suddenly knew fear.::

:: David took her back in his arms and drew her into a hug, holding her close and gently rocking her. The last thing he wanted was for her to think she was alone in this. Not anymore. And it didn't matter whether it was them, or the crew and her. She needed to understand, she wasn't alone, and nor would he let her face this alone. ::

Cody: Listen to me a moment. ::knowing her instinct would be otherwise:: I'm here. Your crew is here. I know, maybe better than most, that you'll probably sacrifice yourself for us if it came down to it. As a former commanding officer, I'd do the same.

::He didn't let go, meeting Kalianna's eyes with his own, dead serious so she would understand they were on the same playing field. ::

::The look in his eyes sent the strangest feelings through her. Never before had she seen something quite so fiery behind another's eyes, save her own fierce need to guard and protect those who served under her and around her, and those, like Jaxx, that she loved. The understanding that seemed to pass between them brought her to a whole other level. The feeling of relative safety that materialized out of how he held her solidified themselves as he continued.::

Cody: But if you cut us out... if you cut me out, because of some self-sacrificing notion that only you can deal with this, I'll confine you to quarters and guard the exit myself. We're in this together, whether you like it or not.

::Her eyebrows rose at the 'threat', though from the dead serious look in his eyes she could tell it was no bluff. For a moment, she saw her own feelings and thoughts reflected back in his eyes; a fierce need to protect the ones who you cared for, especially those who had somehow captured much more than just your attention. She still thought he had no idea what he had done, though what she was looking at when she looked at him told her that perhaps she was wrong.::

Nicholotti: What you're saying...::she smiled ever so slightly as some of the fear melted away as he held her.:: I don't think I've ever been threatened quite like that before. ::Looking at him seriously, she nodded.:: But I believe you'd do it.

Cody: ::smiling:: Maybe I'm just as stubborn as you. Kalianna, I can't tell you what to do or not do... but I can say you need to let us figure out what we are. Because tonight, whether it's your quarters or mine, all we are is David and Kalianna. Not a Captain, or a former commanding officer turned operations chief. Just us. I have no problem if you want to be front and center. But I do have a problem if you try to sideline ether the crew or myself.

::She got quiet, catching the meaning on multiple levels. The promise of tonight, in a place where she knew she could be herself without having to hide it, something suddenly new to her, made her feel almost human again. It was strange how quickly he'd gotten into her mind, but however he had done it, she was supremely thankful. With Jaxx gone, and Tressa and the kids even further away, she'd had no one left. Then this man stepped, no, waltzed, into her life.::

::Sure, there was the fierce need to protect him, and the crew, but she also knew what he said to be true, no matter how much she hated putting anyone other than herself into danger. Her voice got quiet as she answered him and made a pact with herself at the same time.::

Nicholotti: I won't.

::Long ago, Jaxx had told her that no one was alone. There would always been those around you to lean on. More recently, she remembered telling Ben Walker how everyone needed someone and that having someone there, and relying on someone else was vitally important and part of what made us who we were. Those words now returned to her, albeit from a different perspective and in a new voice that she had come to realize she wanted in her life. He brought her close again and in that moment, she lost herself in his arms and in the kiss.::

Cody: ::taking a moment to bring her close and kiss her, tasting her lips:: Our first instinct is to shield those we want to protect. I know this because I once stood where you stand now. Our crew means everything, and we'll sacrifice ourselves before we let harm come to our crew. We don't need to be shielded. We need to be able to stand with you.

::Her mind told her he was right, whether be it from experience or simply an intelligence that transcended normal thought, but it wouldn't stop her from retaining the protective thoughts she had regarding her crew, and more recently, the one who stood before her.::

Nicholotti: But you all don't know quite what you've signed on for. ::She frowned.:: Trouble tends to seek me out most days. Seek me out, and throw me down.

::Among other things. Since she had been in Starfleet, she couldn't even count how often terror, death, destruction, and chaos had fallen down around her. He didn't seem afraid though.::

Cody: ::unable to convey what he felt about this woman who stood before him:: We fall all the time. :: tearing :: What matters is we're there to extend a hand to help us stand and learn from those moments, so we may rise again.

::There was a lot about her that he didn't yet know, and perhaps, just as much about him that she had yet to discover, but in that moment, watching him, she realized just how much she wanted to be there to do just that. Holding him tighter, she tried to put it into words.::

Nicholotti: I'll be there.

::It was all that she could come up with, but then she smiled slightly returning to the moment that had been the catalyst for this whole moment.::

Nicholotti: I don't know how you did this...how you got inside my head so easily. And I know it won't be the easiest thing for me to fall back on anyone. I've never been one to do that...

::She was right. He didn't know the whole story. But David did know he would fight like hell to make sure what did come didn't fall on her like a ton of latinum. As for getting inside her head, he "pffted". He didn't start out to do that, and the only thing he was guilty of was being himself. If that meant they had a lot of things in common... so be it. All he knew was here was someone who accepted him, despite all the weirdness and the hell. He conveyed everything he felt through their hug, hoping she picked up on the feelings he couldn't convey. ::

Cody: Believe me when I say, I know all about keeping yourself in control, and never giving an inch.

::A somewhat resigned smile appeared on her face and she nodded. He had told her he wouldn't let go, and for some reason, she found herself wholly trusting that. Through everything that had led her to this point, this moment...through all of the pain, the heartache, and the suffering, something inside was telling her she was no longer alone. Things were no longer the way they were.::

::She was no longer lost in the dark by herself, running from the terror that glinted in the night.::

Nicholotti: I know I'll fall, but if you promise to catch me, I promise not to have quite so hard of a head.

::At that, her smile grew into more of a grin. There was something freeing about saying it out loud, and resigning herself to the idea that this, between them, and the crew as a whole, it had grown into something far deeper than she had ever expected. They weren't just officers that came and went; they were family, and family stood together.::

Cody: :: lost in the moment, simply drinking in her fragrance :: It's okay to have a hard head. As long as we don't forget to keep an open mind.

::For a moment, his attention wavered, broken by the image of the darkness and the chair in the center of the room. He shivered briefly, as if somehow it was the epitaph above his grave. And for a moment, David felt strange, as if he was suddenly on borrowed time and that all too familiar bringer of death, the Grim Reaper of hundreds of worlds, was waiting just inside that darkness with a demonic smile, waiting to welcome him home. ::

::Was that even fair to her? ::

::Glancing out the window just then, she caught sight of the still pinpricks of starlight. It seemed so peaceful now, but she knew it wasn't like that despite how it looked.::

Nicholotti: There's a storm raging out there.

::Shaken out of his disturbing thoughts, David glanced out the window and smiled. If death was coming, then he was going to make sure every single moment meant everything. And because he had a sense of Kalianna, decided not to tell her. He didn't know what was going on with him, but as he nailed her earlier, while she didn't have to face everything alone, he didn't exactly apply the same principle when it came to these personal things, his own demons, as they seemed to be. ::

Cody: :: suggestive :: Seems there's a storm raging right here.

::She leaned slightly back to really look at him, brushing her hand once more across the side of his face. Leaning forward again, she kissed his forehead.::

Nicholotti: ::Grinning.:: If you're gonna stand with me, then we need to prepare. ::Pausing for a moment, the grin shifted into something far more impish.:: Prepare now, cause tonight doesn't belong to the rank.

:: David nodded, kissing her back and keeping her close so they could watch the window together. In the reflection, his own features stared back with blackness for eye sockets and what looked like a skeletal appearance. He shivered, and held her close.

Cody: What does it belong to, then?

::Hardly understanding it, she simply said what came to the tip of her tongue.::

Nicholotti: Tonight you shall have Kalianna, and just Kalianna. I'm still not sure you're completely aware of what you've gotten into, but we can figure that out together.

::Strange thoughts, desires even, and dreams she'd long ago tucked away floated around in her mind as she looked at him with a deep caring in her eyes. She didn't want to let him go just yet though, so she stayed where she was.::

::David held her, afraid in the next moment everything would be a dream, and he would find himself suddenly yanked away. An image fell into his vision, of empty corridors and no life aboard Starbase 118, with a thick layer of dust indicating the passage of time, and dead, or dying systems long abandoned as he walked through a corridor, shielded by the confines of a space suit of unknown origin. ::

Cody: ::whispering:: Side by side, we'll do this together.

::She'd never heard a better plan, and so she nodded. It was a strange road they would embark on, and one that had quickly appeared, but it was a welcoming path that had brought a part of her long dead back to life. With a voice barely above a whisper, she repeated the words back.::

Nicholotti: Together.

::And then he held her, more tightly, and she got the strange impression that he, too, feared something. Settling in his arms, perfectly content to hold on, and be held on too, she tangled herself up in the embrace.::

:: David just held her, closing his eyes and unable to explain to her why he felt an impending heaviness on his heart, as if his own death was coming. ::

Cody: Whatever happens, whatever comes... just remember this here, right now, is real. :: having a bit of trouble with his words :: Right here with you, always.

::A new, strangely urgent tone seemed to seep into the words, and the slightest flicker of concern danced into her own. What was he scared of? Was it the same things that she had been fighting in her mind? Everyone had their demons, but she had no doubts that together they could face all of them down...she tried to convey that to him as he had conveyed his own feelings to her, but she'd never been good with words. At least she didn't think so.::

::But in the end, it was that she tried. Somehow she knew he would see past the bumps in the road to what she was trying to say. Somehow he'd seen her for who she was, and in doing so, gave to her the most precious thing; the very thing she'd been searching for, a safe place to rest her mind and be just herself.::

Nicholotti: I've not ever felt anything this real. ::Not sure why she felt the momentary flash of cold move through her, she gripped him a bit tighter.:: I wouldn't want to be anywhere else than here with you.

::Turning her around, David took Kalianna into a long, deep kiss, conveying everything he felt about her. He refused to let his own sense of impending doom cast a dampening field. Tonight was their night, and no one else's. ::

::So much feeling, so much depth filtered through the way his lips met hers and the way his arms wrapped her inside a deep passion she'd not before known. Her eyes closed tightly, she met it with her own feelings, deeper that she even realized they had gone. Seconds turned into minutes, and minutes continued on as they found themselves completely lost in an embrace laced with things that both intoxicated her and hit her mind leaving her to reel still trying to figure out where, and how, and even when.::

::In milliseconds, the questions evaporated as her heart raced. She'd meant all that she'd said, but it didn't scratch the surface of the emotions that surged and boiled up within her. Suddenly, bright lights and welcome thoughts appeared, chasing from her mind the darkness of the nightmares.::

::The glinting of the blade, however, seemed to duplicate itself. One became two, and together, flashed behind the strange fog that had replaced the pitch black landscape. Images of places, of creatures she'd never seen sped through her mind, never giving her a chance to focus on any of them. Surprised, she gasped slightly and pulled back just a bit, looking at him with widened eyes.::

Nicholotti: What was....that...?

::Startled, David arched a brow, gazing back at Kalianna, somewhat alarmed.

Cody: What was what?

::She shook her head as if to refocus at least one of the many images, but with each second that passed, they too faded into nothingness. Somewhat desperately, she tried to hang on to the very last threads of what she'd seen, but they were getting thinner, and thinner as well. Questioningly, she looked at him with slightly narrowed eyes.::

Nicholotti: I'm not...::Did she go into this now? They hadn't even figured out half of anything yet and she wanted to bring up the darkness that plagued her? Taking a deep breath, she just spoke.:: I have my own nightmares, from a time long ago. They chase me in both sleep and the waking world. But this...

::She smiled now, if only for a moment.::

Nicholotti: You chase them away.

::A sense of worry descended as David sought more, but whatever those nightmares were, Kalianna didn't seem to want to share them, at least at this point. oO Fair enough, Oo came the thought. He had things he wasn't exactly sharing either, and felt a pang of guilt in his heart, but the truth of it was if he told her the truth, he feared he'd never get out of Medical.

Cody: ::getting his thoughts under control:: Was... was this about those nightmares?

::Her face changed as she re-lived the last few minutes again, ultimately coming to the point where things changed. The images she remembered so vividly faded and melted into something she'd never seen before.::

Nicholotti: But this time there was something else. ::She paused and tried to put her finger on it.:: Two blades...::Her eyes shot up and met his.:: Two blades, instead of one.

::Shivers ran down David's spine as he pulled himself back, a little short of breath. oO Impossible... Oo There was no way she could have known, and the Scythemii daggers inherited from... David paused and winced, feeling a pressure in his forehead. From Hadrian, the last Ixvapyan Warlord... if those were anywhere, they were in the possessions of his Starfleet had bundled up and put into a box, in case his belongings ended up shipping back to Deborah on Mars. There was something about that he felt he should remember... and the pain that lashed at his forehead grew worse the more he tried to remember the exact events that led to the Ixvapyan's demise. ::

Cody: Do you want to share those nightmares?

::Looking down again, she avoided the memories from that day, saying only as little as she could get away with.::

Nicholotti: The day I died, it was a Hirogen blade that did it. I see it in my dreams. In my daydreams...::She shook her head again and looked back at him.:: But this was different. It changed into something I've not seen before, all of it surrounded by a white, wispy fog.

::David stopped cold, staring at her as the life drained out of his skin. Unbidden, images of that room, with its weird, spherical shape and the wisps of fog-like shapes surrounding the chair contained within made his breath speed up slightly. He fought to control his breathing, so as to not rattle Kalianna, but found himself looking away at the window and through it, watching space outside the confines of the station, haunted. ::

Cody: Just dreams...

::But the tone of his voice failed him, and he very much doubted Kalianna bought it anymore than he did, when he had dreams, both in sleep and waking, that she had touched on. He didn't think she was telepathic, or empathic. Closing his eyes, he took a moment to just breathe, and found a calm the Vulcan scholar taught him decades ago after a moment. ::

::She could pick up from the tone of his voice that something wasn't right. With a slight frown, she moved in an attempt to catch his gaze and see what emotions were playing behind his blue eyes.::

Nicholotti: David....

Cody: ::after a long moment :: ...you remind me of a couple of things going on. Although how the hell you could know...

::So there was a connection. It was more than just strange thoughts; more than their lips had come together in that moment, and she held on somewhat firmly as if to say she was going nowhere.::

Nicholotti: ::Tilting her head slightly.:: What am I seeing?

::He wasn't certain if he wanted to share those memories. There were, for lack of a better explanation, emotional spots when it came to the Ixvapyans. Unbidden, the tall, black-shaped terran-like Ixvapyan towering over seven feet form with glowing tribal tatoos came to mind, brandishing the twin scythemii daggers inherited from the Trials... ::

::David shook his head. Trials? Where the hell did that come from? ::

Cody: :: grim :: There was an incident... an unknown race we hadn't encountered before back in the Ithassa Region. Ixvapyans. Warrior race. Nearly destroyed Deep Space 17 and stole the Phoenix-C. Scythemii daggers were their... :: what? Tradition? Symbolic? Practical? :: They dueled with them.

::The pressure in his head was increasing. David winced and touched his right temple. In the back of his mind, something was screaming to let it go.

::The wince made her start, from inaction to action; something was wrong and she worried. Following his hand with her own, she looked at him seriously.::

Nicholotti: So I'm seeing those...but why the connection?

Cody: ::forcing a smile:: I inherited a set of them when I was forced to kill their last Warlord.

::Watching his reaction, and gently moving her fingertips near where his hand had retreated, she searched her mind for potential reasons. His records had shown little, other than normal results that had allowed him back on duty, but she could clearly see that something wasn't right. Her other hand moved to the other side of his head and she softly rubbed his temples.::

Nicholotti: Shhh. Don't worry about it now. We'll figure it out.

::The last thing she wanted was to dredge up bad memories, images that invoked involuntary physical responses that became a detriment to the daily happenings. For a moment, she simply stood here, trying to help the memories, or dreams, or whatever they were to him, fade. Finally, she let her hands fall to his shoulders, where they found each other behind his neck.::

Nicholotti: How often does that happen?

::David didn't meet her gaze, alarmed by the direction this was going. There was an assassin after her, supposedly, as well as an invading force of Klingons rampaging throughout the systems. His problems paled in comparison, and the last thing he wanted was for her to get distracted. Although... wasn't it him that said they'd deal with it together? oO Funny how easy it is when you're applying it just to her, Oo he reflected. He didn't want to tell her, as so not to worry her. But if this was going to be something, he knew on a deeper level she deserved the truth, no matter how strange, personal, or somewhat vulnerable it made him. ::

Cody: I can count on at least one incident a day.

::Frowning slightly, she just pulled him close again. Her voice was a whisper as she let everything else fade away. Whatever was there, they would tackle later. Her touch conveyed that she willed that it would be alright. She would make it alright if it was the only thing she could do.::

Nicholotti: I won't let go either.

::Flashing a smile now, she tried to pull him from the depths that he seemed to have fallen to. It worried her; all the talk of fog and strange blades, of places she'd never heard of and feelings of frozen time, but as he had told her before, whatever came, they had now, and now was real. Despite everyone around them, despite not knowing and not understanding, she knew she had found something so special that she would willingly face the chaos and war, the twin blades of frightful memories, the fog, and the pain, if it meant that she could stand by his side.::

::David reached up and cupped her head in his hands, kissing her lightly. She had bigger things to worry about than this strange stuff going on. As he recalled from the other night talking with Mal, sometimes the universe just threw in random things to make their lives much more complicated. Letting go, he took her hands in his and let his weathered, somewhat hardened features relax into the natural smile, opposed to the crooked one. ::

Cody: Don't worry about me. :: making a face :: And I suppose you're going to tell me to not worry about you.

::Nodding, she grinned.::

Nicholotti: Finally coming to an understanding on that eh?

::Yeah... that was an issue David doubted would ever be resolved. It went with the title of commanding officer. Instead of trying the normal responses, he chose to do what he'd rather do, and drew her back in for another long, lingering kiss that blasted away the thoughts of chairs, dark rooms, Ixvapyans and twin Scythemii blades. And hopefully, whatever nightmares plagued her. He got lost in her touch, her simple, yet unyielding force, and remembered what Anassasi said about him being a rock. ::

Cody: Let's forget about all of this and get out of here. Your place or mine, grab a bottle of red, I'll whip us a couple of King Cut Porterhouse steaks and a garden medley.

::The offer was more than tantalizing, and she found herself nodding in agreement long before her mind actually caught up. Eventually thoughts of work filtered back in, but she shrugged them off. She could work and take in reports just as easily from her quarters as she could from her office. Besides, with someone out to kill her, perhaps it was better this way anyways.::

Nicholotti: That sounds like the best plan I've heard all day...

::And with that, she finally pulled herself from his arms, temporarily, and grabbed her padd from the desk, turning towards the door with him close behind. Just before they parted, she glanced back.::

Nicholotti: My place.

::With a wink, she stepped out into the hub far more confident than she had stepped in. Whatever was coming, let it come. Knowing the feelings she knew now, she found a whole new reason to fight...and fight she would. For the crew, for Creena, for the Thracians and the Romulans, and for Starfleet, the Federation, and all of the precious lives scattered throughout the galaxy. But now, she also fought for something else. She fought for this feeling, this bond, somehow forged and shared on so many levels.::

::In the most human sense, far from the duties and attitudes that made her a good Captain, the woman who was Kalianna Nicholotti fought for David Cody.::

TBC!

--
Captain Kalianna Nicholotti
Commanding Officer
Starbase 118 / USS Victory

&

Lt Commander David Cody
Chief Operations Officer
Starbase 118 / USS Victory


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