Captain’s Log, Stardate 53849.4…
The last few days have been… intense, to say the least. Never could I have imagined having to make a report on an outbreak of unintended sexual encounters.
3 days ago…
Synnove Natale appreciated the corridors of Sanctuary even more as she traversed the narrower confines of those onboard the U.S.S. Triumph. The Defiant-class starship was smaller in scale than most vessels at only four decks, and the down-scaling appeared to have included the width of the ship’s passageways. A single person could easily walk through, but two abreast would be tight. The few members of Brian Wallace’s tiny crew that she’d passed had turned and given her the right of way rather than just walking past her.
Brian. She had known the Human male for twenty years, ever since he’d helped her fend off two thugs trying to kidnap her. They had bonded over the crash of the adrenaline rush and their shared career paths—Starfleet Security. She’d learned fairly quickly that he was attracted to her, which was not hard to fathom considering there were very few orange-skinned females in the known galaxy. Or it could have been simply because she was a rare Orion hybrid; though they hailed from the same planet and shared more than ninety percent of the same species-specific markers, red and green Orions simply did not interbreed with each other very well.
Whatever the case, she had quickly cooled his building ardor by declaring they would not be more than friends—and that if he desired to retain her friendship, he would accept that and seek his romantic partners elsewhere. For a time it had worked and there had been peace—she’d even stood up for him at his wedding to a girl from his home village in Scotland. But Vera had proven to not have the mettle to be a military wife, unable to tolerate his constant absences, and in secret Natale had suspected her of being jealous of how close the two of them were. The marriage had ended after but three years.
Lately, he had been making subtle and not so subtle advances. Or at least he had until the 11th Fleet had formed and they’d both been assigned to duty in Cardassian space. The Triumph was more often than not out on patrols of the sector, and she was never not busy running the Cardassian-built space station once known as Empok Nor, but was now called Sanctuary.
Whether it was the time apart or the possibility that he was once again respecting the boundary she had demanded all those years ago, Natale had sensed a distance growing between them. It hurt her more than he knew that she had to keep him at arms’ length, but the fear that had forced her to do so had never gone away.
She reached his ready room door in just a few minutes, and rang the chime. Grafydd, a longtime mutual friend who worked with her on the station, had mentioned as casually as the Terellian could that he’d taken notice she and Brian rarely saw each other, which he considered odd since they were members of the same fleet. He suggested that she use her free evening to rectify that by having dinner with Brian and mending whatever fence between them had been run over. She’d taken his advice, and hoped to convince the Scot to join her at Nigella’s.
Drawing a breath, Natale squared her shoulders and stepped inside as the door slid open. The sight before her was one she knew her own crew saw every day: the captain at work, poring over one padd while several others were strewn across the desk.
Brian looked up briefly, his eyes returning to the padd in his left hand as he said, “Synnove. What can I do for you?”
“You can put that down and come to dinner with me,” she replied.
“Thanks for the offer, but I’m really rather busy.”
Natale scoffed. “Please. You and I both know that Triumph’s not going anywhere for at least a week while your plasma manifolds undergo yearly maintenance. Whatever that report’s about, I’ve no doubt it can wait.”
“No report, regardless of its significance, can wait a whole week,” Brian retorted.
“But it can wait one evening,” she countered, stepping up to the desk as she spoke. “Come on, Brian! It’s dinner. You and me, at Nigella’s. I hear she’s got this new drink that’s really popular—come try it with me. Please? I miss you.”
She hadn’t meant to let that slip, but it was the truth. She missed his smile, his laughter, the way his accent thickened to the point she couldn’t understand a word he said whenever he got excited, because he spoke so fast. She missed the way he would throw his arm around her shoulders and draw her against him whenever they walked side-by-side, like the old friends that they were.
If only she were free to give him what he had wanted for the last two decades…
Perhaps some of her sadness that she could hide not showed on her face, for when he looked up at her again, he sighed and nodded. Switching the padd he held off, he set it atop the pile on his desk and stood. “All right. Give me a few moments to go put on some civvies, and I’ll meet you at the airlock.”
Natale grinned, relieved to have convinced him to spend the evening with her.
Nigella’s was a place where families could go to get a gourmet meal, where the replicator was more often than not dark, and the owner herself could be found in the kitchen working alongside the line cooks to make sure each order was cooked to perfection.
Maiandra Tyrel thought as she entered that tonight’s crowd was more likely to hook up than have a family dinner. Couples not shy about their PDAs filled out all three levels and were lined up at the bar, where she headed after drawing a breath and preparing herself to fend off the advances of amorous patrons who thought she’d want a good time just because her skin was green.
Didn’t matter that she was there to have a good time—she just didn’t want to have that good time with a total stranger.
Raya Ni’Taris, an Andorian female who could give the Orion a run for her money in the looks department, smiled at her as she finished filling an order, then stepped over as Maiandra quickly claimed an empty barstool.
“What is going on tonight?” she asked.
“I think it’s the d’quir,” Raya replied in a voice raised to be heard over the noise of the crowd and the music playing through the cleverly hidden speakers. “It’s a new drink we first introduced last night—big hit already.”
“D’quir? Is that some funny way of saying daiquiri?”
The Andorian laughed. “I guess so. Nadia got it from a Ferengi merchant who was more than eager to extol the profitability of taking on a drink she’s never even heard of before. Looks like he was right.”
Maiandra looked around her at the canoodling couples. “Well, if Ferengi know anything, they know about profits. I’m surprised he was willing to part with any of his stock if it’s so popular.”
Raya nodded. “That’s what I said! But Nadia said he seemed pretty eager to make a deal, and given how much of it we sold just last night, she said she may have to put in another order before the end of the week.”
Maiandra’s eyes widened. “Really? That’s one hell of a drink then. Let me try it, I might want to get that Ferengi’s name from her so I can stock the stuff on Columbia.”
The barmaid grinned. “Coming right up.”
While she waited, Maiandra found herself looking around and swaying to the music. She wondered briefly if Nadia had taken a page from her book to have “club nights”, because the beat was fast, the decibel level high, and the bodies on the dance floor were grinding.
“Feel like going for a spin?”
Maiandra tried not to let it show she’d been startled as she turned with a grin to face the speaker. Darien Serri, Columbia’s Chief Engineer, returned her grin as he slipped onto the stool next to hers.
“I would,” she replied, “but I hate to dance alone.”
“I was offering to go with you, of course. So what are you having?” the Betazoid said then, gesturing to the drink Raya had just placed before her.
Maiandra took a sip of the frosty pink beverage, delightfully surprised by the fruity flavor.
“I take it you like?” Raya asked with a grin.
“Yes,” Maiandra replied, and took another sip. “This is really good.”
“That sells it for me,” said Darien. “Bring me one of…whatever that is.”
“It’s called a d’quir,” Raya said as she went off to fill his order.
“Sorry I’m late, by the way,” Darien said to Maiandra, leaning closer to be heard over the music. She could feel the warmth of his breath on her ear and neck, and it sent a shiver down her spine.
A pleasant shiver.
“Got caught up in recalibrating the main deflector,” Serri was saying.
“No problem,” Maiandra replied as Raya brought her companion his drink. “I haven’t been here long.”
“Great! So a dance after this first drink, then?”
Maiandra returned the smile he favored her with. “Absolutely!”
Leaning over the railing, Jordan Kelley watched as couple after couple moved out onto the dance floor below him. He recognized several faces, among them his own captain, Captain Wallace of the Triumph, and Chief Engineer Serri from the Columbia. They appeared to be just this side of inebriated, if Natale’s sultry moves and intermittent bouts of giggling were any indication, not to mention Wallace’s roaming hands. He had long suspected they were in love with each other, but for some reason his captain kept her long-time confidant firmly in the friendzone.
Truth be told, he’d like to be down there letting loose with them. What kept him standing with feet planted on the second level was the fact that his preferred dance partner wasn’t on the station. Rogan Enek and the Trident weren’t due in until tomorrow. Maybe at dinner he could talk Enek into trying this d’quir drink—it really was spectacular.
“Slip of latinum for your thoughts?”
Jordan turned to the speaker of the words, a slim but curvy female with wavy brown hair and black eyes, and a set of pouty, plump lips. If he weren’t firmly gay, she definitely had the looks he would go for.
He flashed a grin. “They’re probably not worth but a few credits,” he replied.
She laughed. “I’ve got some of those too,” she said, before lifting a drink identical to his own to her lips. When she lowered it she introduced herself. “I’m Tiessi.”
“So, Jordan… If you don’t want to get some extra money for revealing your thoughts, maybe you’d like to dance instead?”
Acting on a hunch, he retorted, “You could probably read them faster than I could speak them.”
Tiessi shook her head. “Nope. This Betazoid don’t read minds unless invited—or on the job. Not everyone is so keen to talk to a reporter, so yeah, I sometimes do a little recon read, just so I can ask the type of questions needed to get answers in an interview.”
His eyebrows rose. “A reporter, huh? Which news service do you work for?”
“The Galactic Broadcasting Company.” She took another swig of her drink, then set the now-empty glass on a nearby table.
“Come on,” she said, grabbing his hand and pulling him along. Maybe the alcohol was getting to him, but Kelley realized he was feeling a little giddy himself and was glad to let her.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
Tiessi flashed a grin over her shoulder. “Dancing.”
Natale rolled over, the movement reminding her that she had consumed far too many d’quirs the night before. The way her head was pounding, she considered for half a second calling Ops and telling them she wasn’t reporting for her shift today, but—
What the hell? she thought, the moment she realized she wasn’t alone. Oh no. Tell me I didn’t…
Opening her eyes slowly, she saw the back of a head of reddish-blond hair, and knew immediately to whom it belonged.
As carefully as she could so as not to disturb him, Natale slipped out of bed, hastily donned a robe, and darted into the bathroom. Her chest was heaving as a wave of anxiety hit her. How in the world was she to keep him convinced that just friends was all they could be now?
The hope that maybe they’d just fallen into bed drunk and done nothing was almost immediately dashed by the quick reminder that she wore nothing underneath her robe. There were, she now noticed with a glance in the mirror, love bites on her neck and throat, and when she opened the robe with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach she found a few more on her breasts.
She wanted to both cry and scream with frustration. How had she gotten herself into this mess? For that matter, why didn’t she actually remember what had happened between her and Brian? The last thing she could recall from last night was dragging him out onto the dance floor at Nigella’s. She’d been feeling giddy, almost as though she were high. It had been so easy to just mold herself against Brian’s body, had felt so natural when he slid his hands down her back to grab her ass. Leaning in to draw the scent of his warm skin through her nose had been almost more intoxicating than the drinks she’d already had.
That had to be it, Natale mused. It was why genuine alcohol was rarely consumed—because imbibing large quantities could do so much damage to a person’s health, not to mention what it could do to their decision making or memory. For her, the latter two had clearly been compromised.
Natale hurried to tie the robe when she heard movement in the bedroom. “Where the hell…? Wait, this is… Synnove?”
With a reluctant sigh, she moved out of the bathroom. Time to pay the piper, the Orion thought, knowing that the coming conversation could only end badly.
It was absolutely not a good thing to have woken up in bed with a stranger. It was even worse to find that stranger was a woman.
Jordan Kelley didn’t do women. Were they attractive? Sure. In fact, he thought his captain was a beautiful woman. That didn’t mean he wanted to go to bed with her. He’d never felt sexually attracted to females, only males. And lately, that attraction had been focused on just one man.
Kelley hopped out of his bed as though it were on fire. Oh shit, what would Enek think if he saw this?!
The woman, whose name he found he could not remember—making him feel like even more of an ass—rolled over and looked up at him with bleary eyes. “We had a good time, right?” she asked.
“I…uh… I hope… I don’t know!” Kelley fumbled, hastily reaching for his pillow to block her vision when her gaze traveled lower and it dawned on him that he was naked. “I’m sorry. I’m about to sound like a total jerk, but you have to leave. I can’t be seen with a woman. You shouldn’t even be here!”
She laughed softly. “Relax, already. So we had a night of drunken sex. We’re both consenting adults, it’s no big deal.”
“You don’t understand—I don’t do women!”
She cocked an eyebrow as she sat up. “Well, you did last night,” she said, then was quiet as she stared for a moment. “He’s cute—the one you’re thinking about. Enek is it?”
Kelley narrowed his eyes. “You’re a telepath?”
“Betazoid. And since it’s fairly obvious you’ve forgotten my name, I’m Tiessi.”
“Commander Jordan Kelley,” he replied automatically.
“Commander? As in Starfleet? So you work here?”
“I do. Listen, I really need you to get dressed and leave. A friend is supposed to come by today—we’re supposed to get breakfast together—”
And at that moment the door chime rang, sending a cold knot of dread down into his stomach.
Thanks to his telepathic senses, Darien Serri knew he was not alone moments before he reached full consciousness. The question was: why was he not alone—and who the hell was in his bed?!
His eyes snapped open, and on looking into Maiandra’s bright green orbs, felt a thin tread of fear begin to snake its way down his spine.
“Oh, deities. He’s gonna kill me,” he said.
Maiandra frowned. “What?”
“Your brother. He’s going to tear me apart if he finds out about this—you know how protective he is of you,” Serri explained.
She scoffed and then rolled onto her back, raising her arms over her head as she did so. Her movement shifted the sheet covering them both and Serri’s eyes widened at the exposure of part of her breast. His groin reacted as well, tightening in a pleasurably painful manner, though he fervently willed it to go down as he closed his eyes.
“Yeah, I know better than anyone how over-protective Rokha is,” his companion muttered. “Darien, look at me.”
The Betazoid opened his eyes slowly. Mai was looking at him with a surprisingly calm expression, as though she didn’t have a mountain of a brother who would threaten bodily harm if a man just looked at his little sister the wrong way. The serenity of her countenance also confused him. Wasn’t she scared of her brother’s reaction?
“Look,” she began. “I have to be honest—I don’t remember much about last night. Must have been some serious stuff in those new drinks.”
A little relief surged through his veins—Darien didn’t recall much after they had each ordered a second drink either, and told her so.
Maiandra then said, “You and I are both consenting adults. We’re friends. So we got a little drunk and had sex. It’s not a big deal unless you want it to be. I’m willing to act like it never happened if that’s what you want, but…”
“But what?” he asked.
She smiled then, rolled back onto her side, and reached over to lay her hand to his cheek. “But I don’t want to. I really like you, Darien. For a long time I’ve wanted to be more than friends, but I didn’t think I’d ever be able to approach you to see if we could have something together because I know how Rokha intimidates every male to step foot on Columbia into keeping their distance. I could never figure out if you might even be interested, let alone brave enough to face his temper.”
Was she serious?! he thought. Of course he was interested! And not because she was an OAW—he wanted her because she was beautiful and vibrant and intelligent and fun to be with and so many other things. Serri had been attracted to Maiandra from the moment he first met her, but it was her warm and inviting personality that made him really want her all to himself.
Because they were having a pretty intense conversation, he opened up his telepathic senses in order to check her emotions. It would be more devastating if she was placating him than if her brother threw a punch or two at his face for getting her drunk. He was relieved and surprised to sense only honesty, and a little bit of her own fear. Intuition told him, however, that it wasn’t her brother she was afraid of.
It was him, and whether or not he wanted the same thing she did.
On impulse, he took her hand and drew her closer, so close their noses almost touched. “You have no idea how many nights I have dreamed of you,” he said, then touched his lips to hers.
“Do I even need to ask what happened last night?”
Natale stood in the doorway of her bedroom, her arms crossed over her chest, staring at Brian who sat on the edge of her bed with the sheet drawn across his lap. He presently held both hands to his head as though he was in pain.
“Probably not,” she replied.
At her tone he looked up and frowned. “Are you angry about it?”
“No,” Natale replied honestly. She didn’t care that she had slept with him—she’d been wanting to do that for twenty years. But she still wished she hadn’t. It would change things. She doubted she would be able to keep him from actively pursuing her without doing serious damage to their relationship.
She died a little inside on realizing she had no choice.
Brian smiled. “Thank God. Though I have to say, I wish I remembered it. I’ve always thought that the first time we made love I would remember every detail.”
“We didn’t make love, Brian,” Natale said flatly, delivering the first blow. “We got so drunk that we could not make conscious decisions and fell into bed together. Drunken sex is not making love.”
He frowned. “Don’t. Don’t do that.”
“Bloody start pushing me away again!” he cried as he stood. Brian didn’t bother to pull the bedsheet with him; she knew he didn’t care if she saw him naked. “For Christ’s sake, Synnove, I ‘ave been in love wit’ ye fer twenty fookin’ years! There—I said it oot loud. I’ve said it oot loud and I ‘ave nae intentions o’ takin’ it back again.”
Shit. The thickened accent meant she’d struck a nerve. She knew she’d make him angry, but his openly declaring himself was unexpected. Words she had wanted to hear but had denied him so many opportunities to say. She’d had to, for his own good. For his own safety.
God, how she wanted to cry.
“It shouldn’t have happened, Brian,” she said, forcing her voice to remain steady. Second blow. “We weren’t thinking clearly. Just because you want something to happen doesn’t mean it should.”
He stepped up to her and took her by the shoulders. Shook her a little. “How kin ye say tha’? Two people tha’ love each other have e’ry right in tha world ta be t’gether! I know ye love me, damn it, I’ve seen it in yer eyes! Why do ye nae accep’ tha truth and admit tha’ yer in love wit’ me too?”
Natale sighed, fighting tears that threatened to ruin the indifferent façade she was wearing. She didn’t want to do it, but knew there was only one thing that would surely send him away…and break both of their hearts in the process.
“Because you’re wrong. I love you as a friend, Brian, but that’s it. That’s all you’ve ever been to me.”
The third blow nearly drove her to her knees. Brian’s desperate expression, full of hope that she would see reason, fell into a dark, angry scowl. She could tell he wanted to speak, perhaps to change her mind, but instead he released her and marched silently over to where his discarded clothes lay on the floor. He jerked each item on and when dressed at last he left without looking at her or saying another word.
Only when the door shut, severing their connection perhaps forever, did Natale allow herself to fall apart. Great heaving sobs wracked her body as she slid down to the floor, tears flowing so fast and heavy that the collar of her robe was soaked in seconds. Never had she felt so devastated.
Never had she hated her father more.
A glance at the digital chronometer on the bedside table told Kelley that if his visitor was Rogan, the Bajoran was early. For the first time since meeting him, he hoped it was not the right person.
“You shouldn’t be here!” he hissed at Tiessi.
“Please don’t tell me you’re upset because you happened to have sex with a woman,” she replied with a roll of her eyes. “It happens, Jordan, even among gay men. Nothing to get your boxers in a bunch over.”
The door chime rang again, sending panic burning through him. Frantically he searched for his discarded trousers and fought to put them on without giving the woman a chance to see him again. Kelley heard her laugh and looked over to find that she was gathering her own clothes—and not bothering to conceal her own nudity.
Tiessi paused in the midst of pulling her shirt over her head and flashed a grin. “No, I do not wear a bra. My breasts aren’t big enough to warrant one.”
Kelley felt his face flush—he’d momentarily forgotten that she was Betazoid and could read his mind, and was embarrassed that she had caught him staring, let alone wondering whether or not she wore a bra.
She laughed. “Don’t be embarrassed. I’m not embarrassed at having had drunk sex with a gay man, you shouldn’t be embarrassed for being curious.”
“Well, Betazoids are more sexually…aware…than Humans,” Kelley said. “And I have known since I was young that girls weren’t my thing.”
Tiessi was pulling on her skirt now. “Even gay men are curious about the female body, the way women dress—even how we enjoy sex,” she told him, then paused as the door chime rang a third time. “Enek is waiting—and getting impatient.”
Kelley ran a hand over his close-cropped hair. “Shit!” he muttered. Looking at Tiessi, he said, “You can’t leave with him at the door. Just… stay here. I’ll send him away, tell him I’ll meet him on the Promenade.”
She shrugged and sat to pull on her shoes. Kelley cursed again under his breath and headed for the sitting room. He drew a breath to steady himself as he neared the door, which opened automatically at his approach.
Rogan Enek’s eyes brightened and he smiled. “Jordan, there you…”
His face fell, and Kelley grew worried. “Hey, I know I’m a little late to get the bell. You woke me up.”
“What. The frak. Are those?” said Rogan, pointing at him.
“What are you talking about?” Kelley asked, then looked down at himself…and was horrified. There were marks across his chest that looked like bruises, and could only have gotten there one way.
His heart plummeted when Tiessi appeared at his elbow. “I’m really sorry, Jordan, but I can’t wait while the two of you sort yourselves out; I have a transport to catch. Though I don’t believe we did anything wrong, you have my apologies if it causes a problem for you.”
With that, she moved past him and into the corridor, gave Rogan a polite nod, and walked away. Kelley forced his gaze back toward the man he had only recently told himself it was okay to care for just in time to get knocked backward by a right hook to the jaw.
“Enek, I’m sorry!” he managed, a hand raised to his now screaming face. Damn, that hurt! he thought.
“I trusted you!” Rogan ground out angrily. “I let myself care about you! Prophets, I should have fucking known better.”
“I am sorry!” Kelley said again. “I don’t even know how it happened, I swear!”
Rogan snorted derisively. “Save it! I don’t want your piss-poor excuses. I think we both know exactly how it happened. And that you lied to me.”
“I have never lied to you!” said Kelley as he stepped back toward the door. Rogan backed away from it. From him.
“Considering you had a woman in your bed last night, I’d say you did. Goodbye, Commander.”
His parting words before he turned away and walked in the opposite direction that Tiessi had gone hurt Kelley worse than the punch. He knew then, with unwavering certainty, that there would be no coming back from this.
Even though she had engaged the privacy mode function on her office doors, Natale sat with her back to Ops and stared sullenly out the oval-shaped viewport behind her desk. She didn’t want to have to deal with people today, not after what she’d done to Brian. She’d felt hollow ever since he had walked out of her quarters and out of her life.
The Orion knew the latter was as true as the fact that she loved him more than her own life. She knew, deep down, that she should have talked to him, should have told him the truth years ago. But fear for Brian’s safety had kept her silent, because when Zaddo Natale gave an ultimatum he never failed to carry out the punishment earned when going against him.
“Fucking bastard,” she muttered, quickly wiping away the tear that escaped unbidden down her cheek.
At that moment her door chime rang. Natale prayed as she reluctantly turned toward it that her visitor was anyone but Grafydd or Kirek. Sanctuary’s chief engineer was a mutual friend of hers and Brian’s, and he would know with only a look that something had happened—if he had not already heard it from Brian. Then again, if Brian had spoken to the Terellian—which was unlikely given his usual reticence when upset—Grafydd would have already barged into her office to demand she explain how she could be so stupid.
She couldn’t tell him, either. She loved the big, four-armed brute like a brother, but she couldn’t tell even him the truth.
The other unwanted person was her first officer, Eton Kirek. While they had been getting along much better in recent weeks, the Cardassian dal still had a tendency to get on her last nerve, which he was sure to do without even trying given her current mood. She really did not want to get into a second fight.
The chime rang again. Natale drew a breath in preparation, then bade her visitor enter. Relief flooded through her to see the station’s chief medical officer pass through the doors.
“What can I do for you, Dr. Garcia?”
For a moment the doctor only looked at her, then gave a slight shake of her head and lifted the PADD in her hand. “I’ve got a report of an…unusual nature, Captain.”
Curious in spite of her melancholy, Natale raised an eyebrow. “Unusual how?”
Garcia handed the PADD across the desk. “Since yesterday, the number of requests for emergency contraceptives has increased nearly three hundred percent.”
The Orion’s eyes widened, and not at just the incredible number. She couldn’t believe it was just that moment that she realized she’d never given a thought to taking a contraceptive. She’d been so upset over hurting Brian that it simply hadn’t entered her mind.
Briefly she wondered if she should ask for a shot, then decided that the chances of her having conceived a child from the first sexual intercourse she’d had in years was highly unlikely. Thumbing the PADD on, she glanced over the report, which showed that every member of the day shift’s medical staff had administered a contraceptive shot to numerous individuals.
Natale lifted her eyes to the doctor. “Requests have seriously nearly tripled? In one day?”
Garcia nodded. “Really in the last two days, all told. I mean, we get a smattering of requests for contraceptives every day, but an increase like this… Yesterday it was nearly double, today it’s nearly triple the number of requests.”
“There has to be something behind this,” Natale concluded. “Did you talk to any of these people, or did your staff just give them the hypo and send them on their way?”
“Myself, Dr. Messar, and a couple of the MTs have made discreet inquiries. Everyone we questioned today said they’d been to Nigella’s last night.”
Natale’s eyes widened again. She’d been to Nigella’s too—with Brian. And though everything between her second drink and waking this morning was a thick fog she just couldn’t break through, it could not be a coincidence that she had broken a 20-year vow the same night so many other people had done something they thought they shouldn’t have.
“Did any of the people you talked to have that new drink?” she heard herself ask.
“Actually, yes—all of them. How did you know?” Garcia asked.
“Call it a hunch,” Natale replied. “Get down there and get a sample. Inform Nadia she’s not to sell anymore until we find out if there’s some sort of nympho-inducing drug or something in it. Find out where she got it from, too, we might need to look into that.”
Dr. Garcia nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” she replied, then turned toward the door. Just before it would automatically open she stopped and turned back. “By the way, did you happen to notice the bruise Commander Kelley is sporting on his face? Kinda looks like he got into a fight or something.”
Natale frowned. She hadn’t noticed, but then she hadn’t really been paying much attention when she’d crossed through Ops, except to note that the people who were supposed to be there were. “Send him in here,” she said, at which the doctor again nodded before departing.
The captain waited only a moment before her defensive coordinator appeared, looking as though he felt as miserable as she did. He did indeed have a hefty bruise along his lower left cheek and jaw.
Sitting back in her chair, she asked, “What happened to your face?”
Kelley stood at ease, his hands clasped behind his back, his eyes locked at a spot over her head. “It met a fist.”
Natale’s eyebrows rose. “You got into an altercation with somebody? Dare I ask who?”
“No ma’am, not a fight. I did something wrong, he paid me back. I deserve a lot worse.”
The Orion frowned, then rose slowly from her chair. “What happened, Commander?”
His eyes met hers, and in them she saw pain. She saw heartbreak that mirrored her own, and knew that he had somehow sabotaged the budding relationship between himself and the Trident’s first officer as surely as she had destroyed the one she had with Brian.
And then the fog in her brain shifted a fraction to show her a wisp of memory.
“You were at Nigella’s last night, weren’t you?” Natale asked.
Kelley frowned slightly. “I’m afraid I don’t see the relevance.”
She came around the desk. “You had that new drink, the d’quir, didn’t you?” she pressed. “More than one, if I’m not mistaken.”
The Human’s frown deepened. “How… how did you know?”
“Because it’s what I had.”
Understanding dawned immediately, and Kelley began to shake his head. “I don’t even fucking remember it. Pardon me, Captain, but I don’t even remember being with her!”
Her? Oh shit—no wonder Enek was pissed enough to throw a punch, Natale thought.
“I don’t remember much after my first drink either,” she shared. “Kinda remember ordering a second, I think I remember going out to dance with Bri—Captain Wallace—and then… nothing, until I woke up this morning with someone in my bed who shouldn’t have been.”
“I take it things went about as well between you and Captain Wallace as they did with me and Rogan,” Kelley observed. “But I’m not entirely sure I understand why—to be honest, I’ve kind of always thought the two of you had a thing for each other.”
Natale scoffed. “We do—or did. But there are reasons which I cannot explain to you right now that have prevented our relationship from going beyond friendship, no matter how much he wanted it to…no matter how much I would have loved to let it.”
“Your father, no doubt, is behind all of them,” said Kelley. Her expression must have shown her shock, for he added, “I know who your father is, Captain. There are few with our background, I’m sure, who don’t know. Hell, there are civilians who have heard of Zaddo Natale, and fear him as they rightly should.”
He then peered more closely at her. “That’s it, isn’t it? It makes sense to me now, when I consider where you came from. He threatened you, or threatened Wallace. That’s why you’ve kept the man at arms’ length even though you’re in love with him.”
A breath she hadn’t realized she was holding escaped Natale in a whoosh, and she stepped back to brace against the edge of her desk. She wrapped one arm around herself and raised the other to her lips as she stared at Kelley in wonder.
“You get it,” she said in a near whisper, a kind of relief flooding through her that someone understood. “You know what he’s like, Jordan. You know what he’s capable of. I couldn’t… I couldn’t take the risk. Brian’s life has been in my hands for twenty years—the price of my freedom was not binding myself to another, and if I allowed myself to love him I would lose him. I couldn’t take the risk.”
“So you pushed him away again, even while knowing that though you were inebriated, you finally got to let your guard down.”
Natale nodded. She then drew a breath and said with a half-hearted smile, “Aren’t we a sorry fucking pair?”
Kelley’s responding laugh was without mirth. “Two peas in a sorry-ass pod, Captain.”
At that moment her commbadge chirped. “Medbay to Natale.”
“Go ahead,” Natale replied.
“Captain, I think I’ve found the source of the problem we discussed,” said Dr. Garcia.
Problem? Kelley mouthed.
Natale held up a finger. “Was it the d’quir?”
“Yes—more specifically, or most likely, one of the ingredients: it contains Axanar triglobulin.”
“Axanar triglobulin is an aphrodisiac,” Kelley spoke up.
“That’s correct, Commander Kelley. And it’s one that has been very strictly regulated within the Federation because of the countless Axanar that have been killed just to get it,” Garcia replied. “It cannot be added to anything consumable, such as food or drinks.”
“And regulations state that its use must be clearly acknowledged and understood by all parties,” added Natale. “Well, I’m pretty damn sure not a single person who had that drink in the last two days knew about it. Mr. Kelley, contact Chief Zram and have him confiscate whatever Nadia has left of that stuff. Turn it over to the medical staff—if the triglobulin can be extracted, Nadia can have it back. And find out where she got it from and why she didn’t disclose its ingredients to her customers. Doctor, contact every patient who came to you for their contraceptive shot in the last two days and confirm whether or not they had any d’quir. If they did, inform them of the presence of the triglobulin—might make some of them feel better about their indiscretions.”
“Will do, Captain. Garcia out.”
Kelley favored Natale with a quizzical expression. “Contraceptive shots?” he queried.
She explained to him the reason for Dr. Garcia’s earlier visit to her office, and got the feeling he was fervently hoping that the mystery woman he had spent the night with had gotten the shot. Thankfully, though they had shared far more personal discourse that day then any previous, he had the courtesy not to ask if she had requested one herself.
“I’ll, uh, see to getting that stuff from Nadia, Captain,” he said after she had finished.
“Thank you, Commander. And Jordan? Get your face taken care of.”
Kelley shook his head. “Respectfully, Captain, I’d just as soon keep it.”
“Why?” she asked.
“As a reminder.”
Natale lifted one eyebrow. “It’ll be gone in a few days.”
He nodded. “I know. But until then, I’ll see it every time I look in the mirror and I will remember my mistake.”
“It wasn’t entirely your fault, Jordan. You unknowingly consumed a potent aphrodisiac, which led to your doing something you wouldn’t normally have done,” the Orion pointed out.
“Sleeping with a woman? No, I wouldn’t normally do that. But doing something stupid to push the man I’m attracted to away before he can hurt me? That I’ve done plenty.”
Natale could think of no way to respond to that statement, and so dismissed him with a nod of her head. When Kelley had gone, she sat once more in her chair and turned it away from Ops to stare out at the stars as she had been doing for most of the morning.
She wondered if Brian would ever forgive her.
Serri grew curious on entering Club Ten at the same moment Kratul and Wilson from Security were carrying out a couple of crates. He noted Maiandra looking after them forlornly from behind the bar.
For a moment he allowed himself to just look at her—deities, she was beautiful. Three years he had known the green Orion, and all that time he had longed to get to know her better. To be more than friends. But despite being on friendly terms with her elder brother, he had fallen victim to the tactical officer’s intimidation techniques and kept his distance.
But he didn’t have to do that anymore. Mai had left his quarters after they’d made love a second time—fully conscious of their actions—and had promised to come by again that evening for dinner so that they could talk more in-depth about the next step in their relationship:
Telling her brother.
Serri had decided even before reporting for duty that he couldn’t wait until dinner to see her, and chose to take his lunch break in the ship’s bar. He had done so many times over the years just to catch a glimpse of her.
“You look disappointed—hope it’s not because I popped in,” he joked as he took a stool at the bar.
Maiandra flashed a smile. “Of course not, I’m happy to see you!” She sighed. “I’m just not happy to see potential profits walk out the door.”
“You sound like a Ferengi.”
“Be serious, Darien!” she said with a playful swat on his hand. “I’m not slugging drinks for you Fleeters for my health, you know.”
He grabbed her hand before she could draw it away and lifted it to press a quick kiss to the back of it. “I know. So what was in the crates?”
“D’quir—that new drink from Nigella’s that we got sloshed on last night,” she replied. “I contacted her when I got back to my quarters this morning to see if I could get some for the club, and she was nice enough to sell me those two cases at cost. But just before you came in, Kratul said he had to confiscate it because apparently there’s Axanar triglobulin in it—something the Ferengi who sold it to Nadia conveniently forgot to mention.”
Darien froze, the smile he wore dropping from his face. “Wait a minute… That stuff’s an aphrodisiac, a highly regulated one because it’s potent stuff and hundreds of thousands of Axanar have been murdered to get it.”
Maiandra reached across the bar and took both his hands in hers. “I know that, at least I do now, and before you get it into your head that last night was only because of the drinking and the triglobulin, don’t. Just don’t. Don’t ruin the start of what we have by suggesting it only happened because of that. Not after what we shared this morning—and I’m not talking about just the sex. I told you I’ve wanted to be more than friends for some time, and you told me you’ve dreamed about being with me for years. That means there’s been something between us for a while, Darien. The d’quir just… knocked the barrier down.”
Serri opened his senses to her and allowed himself to feel what she was feeling. She really did care about him, and was afraid that he would back out of their romance before it really began. She didn’t want that to happen, and frankly neither did he.
Standing, he smiled at her and said, “Well then, now that we’ve crossed the line…” before leaning over the bar and—regardless of the smattering of other crew and her fellow bartenders—softly kissing her plump lips.
Neither of them heard the door swish open, but they certainly heard her brother’s booming voice when he shouted, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”
Serri jumped back, but Maiandra grabbed his hand before he could get too far. “I should think it was fairly obvious, Rokha.”
Tyrel stormed over to him and got in his face. “Touch my sister again, and I will break every bone in your body.”
“No, you won’t,” said Maiandra. “Rokha, I am a grown woman—have been for years. I think it is long past time you accepted that and let me live my life.”
Serri knew that if he was ever going to truly deserve Maiandra—and earn the respect of Tyrel—he was going to have to speak up for himself, and for the feelings they shared.
“Mai’s right. You may be her brother, but that doesn’t mean you get to dictate who she spends her time with, or how that time is spent,” he began. “I’d rather you hadn’t found out this way, but regardless, you know now and it would be best for all concerned if you just accepted that Mai and I are going to be together.”
He felt a surge of emotion from both of them, and was stunned to realize it was the same—pride.
Tyrel stepped back and actually smiled; for a moment Serri wondered if he should be scared. “You’ve got some balls, kid. I gotta give you that. All right, I’ll be nice and not shatter you into a million pieces—I know Mai’s grown, much as I hate to admit it. But I would like to make the rules for dating my sister clear.”
“Rokha, you don’t get to make any rules!” Maiandra declared, but Serri gave her hand a light squeeze.
“It’s okay, Mai. I’ll be glad to follow his rules, so long as they’re reasonable,” he said.
Smart move, kid, was Tyrel’s immediate thought, and that he’d heard it told Serri he had opened himself a little too far. Drawing his mental shields firmly back into place, he waited for the other man to speak.
“There’s really only two rules, and they’re quite simple,” Tyrel began. “One: keep the PDAs to a minimum—just because I know she’s kissing somebody doesn’t mean I want to see it. And two: if you break her heart, I’ll break your neck.”
Serri stole a glance at Maiandra, and felt as well as saw her relief. He was as glad as she that her brother, notorious for his protective streak and the temper that went with it, would not cause trouble for them.
“That’s really only one rule and a death threat, but I agree,” he said at last.
Kelley drew a deep breath and gave himself a shake to try and throw off his nerves. He hated having to do things this way, but knew that if he didn’t, there would never be peace. Not in his mind or his heart, nor possibly between him and Rogan.
He quickly set up his desktop computer to record a message, then ordered it to begin. “Enek, I can only hope that you will actually watch this, and not delete it on sight of my name, but I had to send it. There are things you need to know.
“First, I am sorry, more so than I can properly express, for hurting you—I never would have done so on purpose, I hope you know that. I was really beginning to care about you and had high hopes, for the first time in what seems like forever, of having a real relationship with someone. I accept that it’s probably no longer a possibility for us, but there’s a reason for what I did, if not an excuse.”
He went on to tell his would-be lover about the discovery of the Axanar triglobulin and how Dr. Garcia had said that the potency found in the d’quir was such that the chances of resisting it’s pull were slim to none—any sexual advance would be acted upon no matter who made the offer, and regardless of the sexual preference of either party. He informed him that the Columbia had been sent after the Ferengi merchant who’d sold the alcohol to Nadia, and wrapped up by saying that Captain Natale had said there was a strong possibility that charges could be filed once the Ferengi was found.
“I swear to you, Enek, I never would have done it if it weren’t for the aphrodisiac in those drinks. When I told you I’ve never been sexually attracted to females, I meant it. I have never lied to you, and I never will.”
Three hours after he ordered the computer to send his message, he got a response. It was brief, and Enek’s words stung, but he understood.
“Jordan, I believe you. You didn’t lie about who you are, and you didn’t intentionally hurt me. But having seen what I saw, and knowing what I know about it, I just can’t with you. Not right now. You’ll have to give me time to let the pain process, and maybe then we can at least salvage our friendship. I’ll see you around. Stay safe.”
Three days passed, and the Aphrodaiquiri Crisis, as Grafydd had come to call it, was still a topic of conversation. It was due in part, no doubt, to the unfortunate fact that Nadia had faced the very real possibility of an illegal distribution charge, which would have voided her liquor license for six months—in every restaurant she owned. However, once captured by the Columbia crew, the Ferengi merchant—a fellow named Rek—had been made to see the benefits of confessing all, and admitted that he had sold her the d’quir with full knowledge of its contents and had failed to duly inform her. An investigation into his activities led to several other charges being filed on top of his own illegal distribution, and he was now on his way to Deep Space Nine, where they had the facilities to conduct legal proceedings.
Those same facilities existed on Sanctuary, but they hadn’t the personnel to oversee the hearings. Rek’s status as a civilian meant he would be charged in a civilian court, and on DS9 they had civilian magistrates to handle the matter. Sanctuary didn’t.
All the talk had kept the crisis firmly on Natale’s mind, when she’d rather have put it behind her. But she couldn’t. Not really. Not when Grafydd—who knew that something had happened between her and Brian, though thankfully he knew not what nor that it was related to the Crisis—was mad at her, because not only was Captain Wallace not speaking to her, he wasn’t speaking to the Terellian either. Grafydd was blaming her for the unexplained rift.
“I don’t know what went down between you two, and I don’t really care, but you better damn well fix it!” he’d said.
Then there was Jordan Kelley. He’d confided in her about his message to Rogan Enek, told her about the Bajoran’s response. He said he understood where the other man was coming from and had accepted his terms, as well as the likely end of their friendship. But of late he had often looked at her with a discerning gaze, as though he was waiting for her to share something as well. She’d been asking herself if there was anything left to share, when he had already guessed her greatest secret. Deep down she knew what he was so curious about—she’d mentioned the rise in contraceptive requests from Medbay, and had basically confessed to a sexual encounter with a captain he knew and liked. Respected, even. But she hadn’t revealed whether or not she had made one of those requests herself.
She had not. Thus far she had sought no medical exam or treatment because she did not see the need—or so she had been trying to convince herself for three days. After all, what were the chances? she told herself. Yes, she had had unprotected sex with Brian, but that didn’t mean a pregnancy would result. Some couples who tried on purpose to conceive took years to do so, if ever. She knew Humans to be compatible with Orions, but her own genetic structure was rare—were she and Brian even genetically compatible?
Natale knew she had to stop being ridiculous. She was no fool—she knew that although highly unlikely, the chance that she had conceived a child with Brian still existed. She needed to know for sure before she could even begin to think of a way to make things okay again between them, and though she could certainly just wait and see if symptoms developed, her mind was far too agitated to wait the three to four weeks before the first signs would be made known to her through natural means.
Thus, she rose in the middle of the night, went out to the sitting room and over to her desk, and picked up the tricorder she kept beside the computer. For the briefest moment she believed, hoped even, that the device wouldn’t even be able to tell after but three days, then immediately chastised herself for being a coward and opened it up. Setting it to conduct a biological scan, Natale turned the tricorder around and drew it slowly down her torso, then up again before turning it around to read the results on the display.