Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"The Beginning of a Beautiful Lie"

By Christina Moore
_____


So, since you want to be with me
you’ll have to follow through
with every word you say
And I, all I really want is you
for you to stick around
I’ll see you every day.”

~ “Follow Through” by Gavin DeGraw



“Be aware, Commander, that I’m referring to personal involvement.”

Sumner’s mouth formed a thin line. “Is that right?”

His visitor continued. “You may have to go beyond mere friendship. With no timetable by which to plan this operation, there is no way to tell how long it will go on. Could be weeks, months, or even years. If the girl takes a romantic interest in you, your objective would have to evolve. She may want more from you than casual dating or an intimate relationship.”

“Are you talking about marriage?” Sumner asked incredulously.

The man inclined his head. “Children, also, may become an issue.

“Commander, I realize that this is a lot to process all at once, and I know that there are some agents who’ve a strong resistance to investigating a fellow officer. But if what I’ve been told is true, then we must act.”

Sumner remained silent for several moments. “If—and only if—you are correct, and I am selected for this assignment, I will do my duty,” he said finally.

The visitor nodded approvingly. “Good.” 

*****

Alden Sumner replayed the end of his conversation with the other night's nocturnal visitor as he watched Myrian Anil emerge from her old dorm. Though officially an Academy graduate with the option for officers’ housing, she was slated to move into the medical school dormitory by the end of summer.

He’d read her file. Sumner actually felt sorry for the girl—having watched her for almost a week, he’d soon discovered that she was a loner. No friends, no boyfriend. No social life whatsoever. The only thing she did was work at the Academy’s student clinic. Her instructors had remarked she was exceptionally bright and attentive. She enjoyed fine arts such as theater and music. And she was going to be a doctor in three years, so at least she had a plan for her life. 

Sumner followed at a distance as she walked her usual route to the clinic. She had a padd in her hand that she read while she walked. He admired her dedication. Over the last few days, he’d observed her going in early and going home late. And while she might not see anyone socially, she did seem to get along well with the doctors in the clinic. 

He’d decided today was the day. He would have to injure himself to make his visit legitimate, and time it right to make sure it was she who treated him. He’d engage her in conversation; try to draw her out, so he could get a better idea for planning his next move—asking her out. He had to admit the Section operative hadn’t been off the mark when he’d described Anil.

She was lovely.

Of course, Alden didn’t really believe he would have to go so far as marrying her. She was a good-looking woman, sure. She was smart and career oriented, obviously. But a relationship? Marriage? Children? That Section guy was out of his mind! It was fine with him that he was going to have to become her friend, but it would never go beyond that. He wouldn't let it. He might have considered dating her had he met her under different circumstances, but the part of him that knew she was a threat to Federation security would not allow him become emotionally attached.

Still, he had to convince her to spend time with him, and he had a feeling it was going to take a while just to get her to go out with him once. He wouldn’t press too hard, but would make sure she knew he was interested in spending time with her. She would know where he was working now so that she would know where to find him when she was ready.

She wouldn’t be able to avoid him forever.

*****

“Ensign Anil, I will be returning from my lunch recess in one hour.”

Myrian Anil nodded. “Of course, Dr. Z’Mar. I’ll see you when you get back.”

The Vulcan inclined his head and walked away, leaving Anil alone in the clinic. Not that anything would happen, she was sure. It was only a student clinic, for the Academy cadets with non-emergency medical needs. They also conducted annual physicals here. Any traumas or other serious injuries were taken to Starfleet Medical Center.

Nope, nothing exciting would happen here. Even if it did, doctors were just a comm call away.

It was just as well, she thought, as she returned to the data entry work she’d been doing. Not too many were willing to be treated by her. While it was true that being a Federation citizen had its advantages—she’d been allowed to take the Academy entrance exams and, after passing, attend Starfleet Academy—being a Romulan had none. Nobody had come right out and accused her of anything, but they didn’t exactly go out of their way to welcome her, either. Being the only Romulan who was a Federation citizen and a Starfleet officer had made her both celebrity and outcast, and neither was what she had wanted.

Anil sometimes wondered what kind of doctor she would make if none of her patients accepted her as a physician. 

She was shaken from her musings by the sound of a throat clearing.

“One second,” she said without looking up, finishing the sentence she’d stopped writing when her mind had wandered.

“Excuse me... I’m sure that’s all very important, but I’m in more than a little pain here.”

Anil looked up. Gazing down at her was the finest looking man she had ever seen. He was tall, with short sandy hair and bright eyes. Then she noticed the three gold pins on his collar, and realized he was an officer.

“I’m so sorry, sir!” she exclaimed as she shot out of her chair and came around her desk. “This way, please.”

Anil led the commander over to a biobed, grabbing a medical tricorder off the instrument tray nearby as he leaned against it. He was cradling his right arm, and now that she was in medic mode, she could see his expression was pinched. 

She ran the scanning wand over his arm. “What happened, sir, if I may ask?”

He winced as she next took hold of his arm and slowly flexed it at the elbow. “I’m too embarrassed to tell you, Ensign. Might diminish your respect for authority figures.”

Anil chanced a smile. He had an English accent, and she’d always loved accents. “Come now, Commander. Can’t be all that bad.” She picked up the tricorder and scanned his arm again. “Looks like you hyper-extended your elbow. Did you fall?”

Her patient smiled ruefully. “What can I say, you found me out. I feel kind of foolish about it, actually, because I like to think I’m light on my feet. But I was walking the quad and…I tripped. Tried to catch myself.”

“How’d that work out for you?”

He chuckled. “Ha ha, very funny. Obviously not great—my elbow hurts like hell.”

Anil smiled. “I’ll bet,” she said, as she reached for a hypospray and loaded it. “This will help reduce swelling. It’s called Flexural.” She pressed it to his elbow, then gave him the hypo.

She reached for another, loaded it with a different medication, injected him, and then held it out as well. “This is a painkiller. A Human classic, actually—ibuprofen. Take both every two to three hours as needed. You might want to replicate yourself an ice pack, too. Put it on your elbow for fifteen or twenty minutes whenever you take your meds. It will also help with the swelling.”

He grinned. “An ice pack, eh?” 

He was being so genial, she couldn’t help but relax. How she could be so relaxed around a man who gave her gooseflesh she was at a loss to understand.

Stop it, Myrian! He’s a commander, for goodness’ sake! 

“Well, why mess with tradition, sir?” she told him.

He smiled. “Indeed, Ensign.”

Clasping the hyposprays in hand, he moved away from the biobed. “Thank you. I’ll be sure to take your advice—my arm feels much better already.”

“You’re welcome, Commander.” Anil walked with him, stopping at her desk. “Oh, sir, can I get your name? For our records.”

He turned as he was about to walk out the door. “Commander Alden Sumner, Ensign…?”

“Myrian Anil, sir.”

Sumner smiled, turning back as if in thought. “You’re her?” he asked.

Anil’s brow furrowed. “I’m sorry, I don’t…”

Sumner smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry, that must sound odd. I just mean that…well, I’ve heard about you.” 

“Who hasn’t?” Anil replied with a shrug. “As much as I wanted this life, sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it.”

He was curious. “What do you mean?”

Anil fell into her chair softly. “Well, think about it, sir... I’m the only full-blood Romulan  who's a Federation citizen. The only one in Starfleet. Whether I like it or not, that’s news. In fact, I think I saw a blurb on FNN this morning about my attending med school in the fall.”

“Do people make life difficult for you?” Sumner asked. 

She shrugged again. “Not really. There are those that are curious, sure, but most people tend to shy away. The stigma of simply being what I am, a Romulan—no one trusts them, and in turn, me. No one bothers to take the time to find out who I am. Someone they can trust.”

Sumner smiled down at her. “Well, Ensign Anil, I’d say it’s their loss.”

*****

“You have to come with me.”

Myrian looked around. She was confused. How did she even get here?

Alden Sumner held out his hand. “Ensign, we’re not safe here. You must come with me now!”

Hesitantly, she placed her hand in his. Sumner pulled her to her feet and began to run. Where they were running to, she didn’t know. What they were running from…

…she was afraid to ask.

It seemed as if miles had passed under their feet before they happened upon an old barn. Sumner held her back as he peeked around the open door, then led her inside.

“We’ll have to be quiet,” he whispered.

“What do you mean? Commander, what’s—”

Sumner whirled her around and pushed her up against the wall, taking her head in his hands and claiming her mouth in a deep kiss.

*****

She sat up abruptly, her chest heaving. What the hell was that? Anil thought. 

Just a dream, she told herself.

A dream is a wish your heart makes…when you’re fast asleep

Shaking her head, she got up, walking into the bathroom to splash water on her face. This wasn’t good. She’d just met the man, and already she was having dreams about him? What was wrong with her?

Loneliness, her heart answered softly.

Okay, so she was lonely. What was she supposed to do about it? She certainly couldn’t go chasing after a commander she knew nothing about. Didn’t matter if he was easy on the eyes, or that he was the first person she’d had a non-work related conversation with in more time than she cared to admit. Hell, she wouldn’t even know where to find him…if she wanted to look, that is. Besides, he had to be at least ten years her senior. No man that age was going to want a 21-year-old Romulan—even if he was inclined toward younger women. No, as much as she might want to find someone, Sumner certainly wasn’t the one she’d been looking for.

Sighing, she trudged slowly back to bed, and crawled in hoping for no more dreams about the tall commander with the sandy hair and bright eyes.

*****

Anil was getting ready to go home for the day when Dr. Z’Mar approached her.

“Ensign, I regret to inform you that Lt. Lomar will not be able to cover his shift this evening. Would it be possible for you to stay until I can locate a suitable replacement?”

She looked up. “Sure. I can even pull a double if you need me to.”

Z’Mar raised an eyebrow. “I am certain that will not be necessary. You must have social obligations to fulfill.”

She shook her head. “Unfortunately, no, Doctor. Don’t have a social life.”

“I am...sorry to hear that,” Z’Mar said, though Anil doubted he really felt that way. 

She returned to her work and sometime later was once again distracted by a clearing throat. She looked up to find Commander Sumner standing over her.

“Um, hello,” she greeted him. 

Brilliant, Myrian.

He grinned. “Hello yourself, Ensign.”

She stood slowly. “Do you need to be seen? Dr. Z’Mar is still here.”

Sumner shook his head. “No, I don’t need to see the doctor. You’ll do.”

She flushed, the scene from her dream immediately flashing in her mind. Anil shook her head to dismiss it.

“I’m afraid you lost me, sir.”

“I don’t want you to think everyone you meet is going to turn away from you just because you’re Romulan,” Sumner replied. “I might not know you, Ensign, but you seem just fine to me.”

Grinning in spite of herself, she replied, “Thanks, Commander. I think.”

He laughed. “It was a compliment, I assure you. I was here what—ten minutes yesterday? You seem like a normal person to me. A bit of an isolationist, perhaps, but that’s not entirely your fault. You just need to get out more. I'd like to help you with that.”

Her face froze, and she stepped a few paces away. “Okay... I’m really not sure what’s going on, but if this is some kind of joke, I don’t find it very funny.”

Anil faced him. “And frankly, sir, I find it unbecoming for a man of your rank to be involved in such a thing. It’s beneath you.”

Sumner grew serious. “You’re absolutely right. It would be—were I participating in such a juvenile stunt. I’m sorry if you misunderstood me, Ensign. I didn’t come here for anything of the kind. Like I said, I want to show you not everyone you meet is going to be foolish enough not to want to get to know you.

“I know I certainly do.”

Her irritation cooled instantly. “I…I’m afraid you’ve lost me again,” she stammered.

Sumner smiled, coming closer, so close that she backed into the short dividing wall between her desk and the treatment area. “Maybe it would be best if I just come out and say it. You intrigue me, Myrian Anil. The way you talked to me yesterday tells me there’s a lot more under the surface than a young medic who wants to be a doctor. I’m sure that if other people could see that side of you, you wouldn’t be so lonely.”

“What—what makes you think I’m lonely? And why would you care?” she asked breathily. 

Oh, he was very close.

“I can see it in your eyes,” he replied softly.

“May I help you, Commander?”

Dr. Z’Mar’s voice startled Myrian, causing her pulse to start running double time. Or perhaps it already had been, and she'd just now noticed. 

Sumner stepped back, smiling apologetically. “Not at all, Doctor. I’d actually come to see if Ensign Anil would join me for dinner tonight, but I’m afraid I may have come on too strong.”

Z’Mar raised an eyebrow. “Invasion of one’s personal space might be construed as such, yes.”

Anil jerked her head to look at the Vulcan, wondering just how long he’d been standing there. 

Anil didn’t know it, but Z’Mar had grown fond of her, inasmuch as a Vulcan grew fond of anyone. He admired her determination to make something of herself, despite the odds. To have seen this man whom he’d never laid eyes on before so close, and Anil not looking entirely comfortable with it, he had felt the need to speak up on her behalf.

Sumner had the grace to look chagrined. “I’m sorry, Ensign, if I pushed too hard.”

Anil straightened the old-style white lab coat she wore over her uniform. “It’s okay.”

Z’Mar turned to her. “Ensign, you may retire for the evening. Dr. Poling has agreed to cover for Lt. Lomar.”

Anil nodded, shrugging out of the lab coat. “Thank you, Dr. Z’Mar,” she said as she laid it over her arm. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Sumner retreated a few more steps away as she shut down her workstation with one hand. He was not remiss to Z’Mar standing watch as she did so, or how he remained looking after them as they walked in silence out the door. 

They had walked for more than a minute before either of them spoke.

“I really do apologize if I made you uncomfortable. I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing here,” he said slowly.

She didn’t look up. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.”

“There’s more to why I came to see you than just wanting to change your view of the people around you. I’m…well, interested would probably be more to the point.”

Okay, this was not happening. Was she still asleep, and dreaming? 

“Commander, you don’t even know me,” she told him warily. “And no offense, but you’ve got to be ten or more years older than I am.”

Well, she wasn’t that far off the mark.

“I will have you know, Miss Anil, that I am thirty-three years young,” he said with a laugh. He had to get her warmed to him again—he knew that he had frightened her back in the clinic, and he hadn’t meant to.

“That's only what, eleven, twelve years? Not too large a gap.”

To some, she thought. 

She wanted to ask what kind of work he did, but refrained. There was something about him that drew her in, pulled at her, but part of her began to wonder if it was a good idea to even know who he was.

Her curiosity got the best of her. “If I may be so bold, sir—where do you work?” she asked after a moment.

“At Headquarters,” Sumner replied. “But I’m nothing more than a glorified pencil pusher.”

Anil looked up then, a quizzical expression on her face. “A what?”

He laughed again, this time genuinely. “It’s an old Earth expression. It means I work at a desk all day. I perform the exciting job of report filing. That’s pretty much all I do. But it’s administration work, and maybe someday some admiral will take notice of my dedication and bring me into the fold, as they say,” Sumner said.

“So…” he ventured. “How about that dinner?”

She shook her head. “I…I’m flattered, Commander, really—”

“Alden, please.”

“I’m flattered, Commander,” she repeated firmly, “but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.”

“And why not?”

They had come to a stop. She moved away, down the path toward her dorm. 

“Commander... Sumner is it? Think about this. A ‘pencil pusher’ you may be, but you are an officer.”

“So are you now.”

“I’m also Romulan,” she went on. “As accepting of that as I have to be—because it's part of who I am—not everyone is. If you show people you’re interested in someone who is not only more than ten years younger, but a Romulan… What are they going to think? What are they going to say?”

Suddenly, the fact that he had been told he should do this was no longer a factor. Alden Sumner was now determined to win her over, for she was presenting a challenge he had not expected. 

He welcomed it whole-heartedly.

“Ensign Anil, you’re right. I don’t know you. But I want to. If all we get from it is friendship, that’s one more friend than you have now. If something else happens…so much the better.

“But it has to be mutual. I guess maybe I didn’t see interest in your eyes after all.”

The tone of his voice final, Sumner turned and walked away.

*****

For three days Myrian Anil was haunted by the look on Sumner’s face before he’d left her. He’d looked disappointed. He’d looked…hurt.

But how was that even possible? He didn’t even know her! 

So maybe he was telling the truth, her inner voice argued, and he wants to. Maybe the man does find you attractive, and, for once, someone wants to know you for you. 

No one ever has before. So how am I supposed to know when it’s real? 

What does your heart tell you?

Her heart, so vulnerable, wanted so much to believe that Sumner was genuine. But the skeptical part of her warned caution. She was so frustrated and unsure of what to do her work suffered, and she fought insomnia when she tried to sleep. 

On Friday, the war within had come to a standstill. She knew she could not go forward until she knew for certain.

It had been less than a week since the day she had met him. 

Promising to stay late one day next week, Anil left the clinic early and made her way to Starfleet Headquarters. She didn’t know what department he worked in and was too embarrassed to ask, so she decided to wait for him to appear as day shift was leaving the building. Presuming, of course, that he even worked days.

She was a nervous wreck by the time she saw him fifteen minutes later. He had walked past without noticing her before she got the courage to speak, saying the first thing that came to mind.

“I thought it was loneliness.”

Sumner stopped when he heard Myrian’s voice. He’d noticed her, alright, but feigned ignorance even though excited that she’d come. Got to let her take the lead.

He turned back to her slowly. “I beg your pardon?” he said. 

Anil stepped closer, falling just short of where he stood. “The other night, you said something about maybe not seeing interest in my eyes, but in the clinic you said you’d seen loneliness.” 

“Actually, I believe I saw both,” Sumner said quietly. “Why are you here, Ensign?”

She looked down at her wringing hands. “I…I need to know something. I’ve been so segregated from everyone all my life that I really don’t know how to handle this. No one ever showed me how.”

“You don’t know how to handle what?”

Anil went on as if he hadn’t spoken. “I’ve had crushes before, mind you, but no one’s ever reciprocated. Certainly no one so much more…I don’t know, worldly, I guess. Part of me says that you’re just messing with my mind, and part of me wants to believe that there’s the possibility of something real.”

Good, he thought. And it had only taken four days. Four days during which he had continued to observe her, re-reading her file over and over again, and reluctantly admitting that he was becoming emotionally involved—much more so than he’d thought himself capable of. Despite having determined there was no way such a connection could happen, there it was right in front of his face. 

He liked her. A lot. Hearing from her that the feeling was mutual made him smile. Having a relationship with Myrian—a real one—would make keeping tabs on her for SI so much easier.

Sumner stepped closer until there was hardly any room between them. He raised a hand to her chin and tilted it so their eyes met.

“And what does your heart tell you?”

Without hesitation, without regard to the people around them, Myrian stood up on her toes and brushed her lips against his. The contact was brief, but enough that each felt the warmth of the other's breath.

She could still smell the lingering scent of his aftershave when she rested on her feet again, and looked up hesitantly to gauge his reaction.

He was smiling.

With a laugh, Anil shook her head. “I must be crazy. We don’t know the first thing about each other.”

Sumner nodded. “True, but at least we’re in agreement now that we should find out,” he replied. 

“And you’re sure this is what you want? No matter what people will say to you?” she queried nervously.

Taking her hands in his, he looked into her eyes once again.

“This is what I want. No matter what.”



Oh, this is the start of something good...
don’t you agree?


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