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[Round 18] Explorations of Partner-ish- ship


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:: There was a bright buzz around the Holodeck that evening. In remembrance of their first stroll together, Ethan had tried to recreate (rather poorly, in his estimate) the greenery of the arboretum on Deep Space 17. So far, it had gone alright. The grass had sprung in the right way, and was growing straight up, which was unlike the previous four versions. He had to have something to keep his mind occupied while in Sickbay.::

:: Other worldly plants sprouted up in a not unusual manner and it leant its hand to helping the Engineer discover new ways of programming and developing more natural environments. Slowly, he'd developed a small knack for grass. He was proud of the grass. He had to be. It'd taken a lot of hours.::

Ehlanii: Interesting choice...

:: Ethan jumped.:: Brice: You realize I'm still fragile.

::Karynn's amusement was evident in her musical laughter.::

Ehlanii: Yes, I do... I just didn't realize that you were that fragile.

Brice: Helps if you keep in good company with my Counsellor, huh? ::he smiled and stood up, slipping his hands in his pockets:: Come on then, what do you think?

::The Haliian glanced around, the memories flooding back. They had spent a good several hours getting to know each other in a place nearly identical to this one.::

Ehlanii: It looks wonderful. Just like I remember. ::Glancing at the bench:: Do you have the sprinklers programmed to go off?

:: He laughed, remembering his previous drenching.:: Brice: I'd be lying if I said yes. Unfortunately, I have to remain dry this time round.

:: An absent wind blew through the trees, rustling leaves and nearby bushes, blowing over his well programmed grass. One could say that it was romantic, whereas if the one knew either of them, it was nigh on impossible for romantic to happen often for the Engineer and the Counsellor. Sans Paris.::

Brice: You remember this, then?

::With a mischevious glint in her eye.::

Ehlanii: I remember a lot. Mitz!

::She patted his back with her hand and then skipped a few steps away before stopping to turn back and smile.::

Ehlanii: See, I remember...

Brice: ::laughs:: Clearly. The first Haliian word I ever learnt... ::he scratched the nape of his neck:: Possibly the only Haliian word I ever learnt.

::She thought about it a bit.::

Ehlanii: Perhaps I'll have to teach you more, then.

:: Ethan nodded. They'd spoke before about the language and the obvious complexity of it. He noticed that Karynn seemed to have a small bounce to her step.::

Brice: How's life treating you?

Ehlanii: Life has been.... interesting, I suppose. Quite busy. The whole juggling my job and school thing, for one. But I think its getting easier.

:: The Engineer sat down on the wooden bench and slid his hand along the back.::

Brice: I'm glad. ::he smiled then caught a whiff of the lavender plant. It's potent, that thing. ::he looked up to Karynn:: So… You wanted to talk?

Ehlanii: I'm guessing I'm not the only one. ::She glanced around before sitting next to him.:: Was the choice of venue deliberate?

Brice: Well, I missed spending a lot of time with you shackled down in Sickbay so this was a good outlet for me. And Grax recommended doing something to put the tint back in your cheeks.

::Karynn smiled, a touch of pink entering her cheeks. She was a tad bit embarrassed that the other counselor was getting into her personal life..::

Ehlanii: I guess you did that.

Brice: And we didn't find it hard to talk last time we were here.

Ehlanii: No, it was easy. Two kids, getting to know each other. No history, no wounds to worry about. ::She paused and stared into the foliage across the path before turning to look at him.:: Yes, I've been wanting to talk to you for a while. ::She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to find the words... and the courage to say them.:: Ethan... we've danced around the issue for some time. Every time it comes up, we acknowledge that its there but we never deal with it...

:: He went to open his mouth but didn't find anything that he wanted to say. He wanted to listen, for a change. Perhaps they'd left this just long enough that they could understand exactly what one another felt, and could deal with it properly.::

::She glanced away before looking back at him, this time directly into his eyes.::

Ehlanii: Ethan, when you were injured and I thought you were dying, the only thing I could think of is that I'd never really told you what you mean to me, and that we'd never really established what we are to each other.

:: He nodded lightly. Ethan Brice, a perilous Engineer, a man who had on more than one occasion risked his life to preserve that of hundreds of others was now scared to death.::

Ehlanii: Well, now I want to do just that... ::She looked away, back into the foliage across the path and sat in silence for a moment before laughing.:: Why is this so hard?

:: Her laugh made the Engineer follow suit. He looked down to the floor underneath their feet and smiled.::

Brice: Because we know that everything's going to change?

:: Karynn chuckled lightly. She hated change. Maybe he was right... everything was going to change and she knew it. But for once, she knew it needed to happen. She nodded gently, acknowledging that change was inevitable and necessary, and hoped that he would go first.::

:: Looking at Karynn, Ethan smiled and dropped his hand on top of hers. Skin on skin contact was a different way of expressing themselves altogether but it was her feelings he wanted to feel, especially in that moment.::

Brice: I've been getting closer to something I've never really understood. Now, it feels like I'm standing at the edge of a chasm ready to jump headlong down. And that's a long way down.

::Karynn nodded gently, grateful for his way of phrasing the situation. It was a sentiment she was feeling too. She opened her mouth to respond but nothing came out. For once she had no idea what to say.::

Brice: I mean, I'm not living in some dream any more. I've got no false expectations, no delusions… for once I know exactly what I want and it's that decision between jumping down that pit or stepping back. ::he lifted his eyebrow gingerly:: To be honest, it'd be stupid of me not to take a running leap.

::The Haliian counselor gently caressed his hand with her own. She was struck by how far they had come, from barely being comfortable touching each other to sitting here sharing their emotions both verbally and physically. Her other hand reached up to tuck her errant strand of hair back behind her ear.::

Ehlanii: I know exactly what you mean. I'd be crazy to not jump off the cliff, and yet the thought of what could happen next scares the heck out of me - and I don't know why. Other than its change... and change has always scared me. ::She looked at him and smiled:: And yet, here with you, I feel safe, knowing that if I... if we do jump off that cliff, its together.

:: That made more sense and, as Ethan thought, was initially what he was trying to get at in the roundabout way that he did things. He moved on the bench to look at her properly as they spoke. It wasn't an epiphany, it wasn't a revelation. A beat of comfortable silence passed by until Karynn spoke again.::

Ehlanii: Ethan, I care for you deeply. Too deeply to be ok with not knowing what we are to each other. And too deeply to not tell you what you mean to me. You're far more than a friend or brother to me.

:: Brown eyes met green and the one word both wanted to say couldn't be said.::

Brice: And you're much more than a friend to me. ::he smiled gently:: I think we ran past that post a long time ago.

Ehlanii: ::with a nod:: Yeah, sometime between Paris and the night you found out Rebecca was taking Matthew.

:: He reached over and brushed that small strand of hair from her cheek as it fell down again. The colours of her cheeks, her eyes, her lips stood out in the soft light of the holodeck. Nothing was rushed, everything flowed. The chasm was opening itself in front of them.::

::The feel of his hand against her skin brought back so many memories... like the first time he'd ever brushed that errant strand of hair from her face in Double Shot. The peace of his own calm flowing through the touch mingled with her own soft emotions. Her own gaze traveled from his eyes to take in his entire face, a face that still brought a secret smile to her own every time she saw it.::

Brice: And now we know. It feels... ::he smiled:: ...comforting.

::The Haliian giggled softly in response. It was so true and yet sounded so strange... so... dull.::

Ehlanii: Comforting?

Brice: Well – what would you have called it? I feel comforted knowing that both of us know that we mean the same to each other. I mean, that you are to me what I am to you.

Ehlanii: No, I know what you mean. It is comforting. It just sounds strange and passionless. Almost... Vulcan?

:: Ethan laughed, sliding his hand long the back of the bench again.::

Brice: Alright… how about madly and passionately comforting? Sound any better? I love the mad and passionate knowledge that I am subsequently your official partner in all things partner-ish.

::A smile spread across the Haliian's face as she snuggled in closer to lean her head on the human's shoulder. She almost giggled at the complexity of the last sentence.::

Ehlanii: Much better. ::Practicing: : "Your official partner in all things partner-ish."

Brice: Incidentally, do Haliians have a word for "partner" or "boyfriend"? Are we too old to use that now?

::Karynn sat up, smiled, and shook her head "no".::

Ehlanii: No, we're not too old at all. I would call you my "Kiimosa" if I were talking to my family. I suppose that's our equivalent.

Brice: Kiimosa? :: he chuckled:: My family would probably call you crazy. What does it mean?

Ehlanii: It means... ::she paused, chewing on the inside of her lip while trying to think of an accurate translation into Federation Standard.:: It means "dear one" or "beloved".

Brice: Ahhh… ::he smiled:: You realise I'm not going to use "beloved" or "dear one" in a sentence, right? It's that manly image I've got to maintain here. "Darling" maybe.

Ehlanii: ::laughing:: That's ok. It's only a loose translation anyway. Besides, the foreign language allows you to keep your image. Few around here would know what it means.

:: He nodded.:: Brice: You know, this relationship thing just gives us more of an excuse to be seen in public together?

Ehlanii: I think I can handle that.

Brice: And we might even find out that we like it… long term and all.

::She leaned her head on his shoulder again.::

Ehlanii: I think I can handle that too. One day at a time.

::She looked out over the shrubs and through the trees, remembering their experiences in the real one. She half expected that the sprinkler system would turn on soon, drenching them both. It was comforting.: :

Ehlanii: ::softly:: We've come a long way, you know, since the first time we were here. ::She gently squeezed his hand:: For example, we're both comfortable with this.

:: Ethan nodded very slowly and let his cheek rest on the crown of her head.::

Brice: Aye. If anything I thought this this… ::he squeezed her hand gently:: … would be a problem, but it's really not. I wouldn't mind the opportunity to feel it from your point of view, you know… feel what you're feeling.

Ehlanii: We can change that, you know. You could experience my emotions, at least temporarily.

:: The young Engineer lifted an eyebrow.:: Brice: How? I can't do all that…

Ehlanii: My people have a stone that might help.

:: He blinked.:: Brice: A stone?

::The Haliian smiled gently.:: Ehlanii: It's called a canar. It ... deepens the connection between two individuals. I've been told that it works, even with non-empathic species. I think you've seen it in the carved wooden box that I keep in my quarters...

Brice: Oh! ::his cheeks tinged:: That stone.

::The Haliian female laughed gently at his response.::

Ehlanii: Yes... that stone. I had my sister send it to me a while ago.

Brice: Are you sure that's something you want to do? Have you ever – used it – before?

::Karynn took a deep breath in and looked away. It was bound to come up eventually, but there were still deep wounds that had never fully healed.::

Ehlanii: ::quietly:: Only once. With another person that is. I can use it by myself to enhance my own empathic/telepathic abilities, although I don't use it that way often.

:: She seemed hesitant to answer the question so he didn't push it. If she wanted to tell him anything about her life then it was her decision and he was wise enough, and old enough to respect that.::

Brice: When did you use it? If it was a long time ago then...

::She shrugged:: Ehlanii: On Halii, using it to amplify one's abilities seems more acceptable. There's less of an expectation of privacy. I've never much been comfortable enhancing my empathy in Starfleet though. It feels too.... wrong.

:: He nodded.:: Brice: I can understand that only too well. Is that why you... you don't want to talk about your past - experience - with the rock?

::The Haliian shook her head slowly. The memories were deep, the wounds were still a bit painful to talk about. She had healed, she had forgiven - but she wasn't ready to talk about it, not even to him.::

Ehlanii: ::quietly:: Sometime, Ethan. I'll tell you all about it. But not today... not right now. ::She smiled a sad smile and looked away, back to the greenery around them.:: Today has been so wonderful... I'd rather not ruin it.

:: Again, he felt the urge to nod but didn't. It was enough to have everything that they wanted out in the open. Ethan looked over his shoulder at the shrubbery behind. The light blue sky above lit up the ground. Soon, it would be time for them to go their separate ways and get ready for their morning routine to take precedence.: :

Brice: There's time for another walk around, if you like. It's not booked for another twenty minutes.

::Karynn's smile softened into real happiness and contentment. She nodded gently.::

Ehlanii: I would like that a lot.

:: The Engineer stood up slowly and turned back to her, holding his hand out with a half grin on his lips.::

Brice: You can tell me more about this Canar device and I promise I'll listen.

::She took his hand with her own.::

Ehlanii: Sure. ::She smiled warmly.:: What do you want to know?

::And with that the pair wandered hand in hand through the flora, talking softly and simply enjoying each other's company in the brief respite before their hectic day would begin.::

The End

Lieutenant Karynn Ehlanii

Ship's Counselor

USS Ronin


Lt. Commander Ethan Brice

Chief Engineer

USS Ronin

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