Operation: Lobes & Liberties
Location: Science Wing | USS Standing Bear-A
Timeline: Prior to the Shuttle mission
Inspecting the contents of the equipment case for the third time, Lieutenant Kingsley closed it over before crossing the room and crouching down before the containment unit. As she touched a hand to the glass, a few heartbeats passed before Theo appeared and touched the opposite side. It hand become a game of sorts, as the creature kept pace with the random pattern she tapped out. “Good morning to you too,” she offered with a warm smile as she checked over the vital signs. Stronger every day.
“Everyone will take good care of you while I’m away and we will play lots of games when I’m back,” she promised. “Until then… Be good.”
Reluctantly she stood, retrieving a PaDD and quickly checking it had downloaded the information she needed while slinging the equipment case over her shoulder. Already reading the data, she turned and has taken just two steps when the doors to the lab opened to admit the ship’s XO.
“Soral… is everything alright?”
Of course the answer couldn’t be anything but no, given all that had happened to them both. And yet as she studied him he seemed different. In a way she couldn’t immediately place.
"If I can have a moment of your time." He paused, his hands clasped behind his back. "I wish to speak with you."
With a nod she set aside the belongings she was carrying, placing them on the nearby workstation. “Must be serious,” she observed, raising an eyebrow slightly at his stance. As if he were facing a room full of admirals. If ever there was a sign we were broken… that sobering thought stopped her from teasing him about lightening up. And then she realised he was somehow lighter. Her eyes narrowed as she scrutinized him. And yes she had perhaps Lexi’s memories to thank for being able to scrutinize how he carried himself.
“Please,” she encouraged.
He followed her into a small office and sat down once the door was closed. "I have been meditating and thinking on things and I have come to a decision. You will be the first to know...well second but I shall explain why." He held up a PADD. “These are two crew resignation requests. One is Oriana Sety and the other is mine."
“Oh…” having initially been standing, Alex sat down, processing what that meant. For him, for them, for the ship. One thing she realised she wasn’t feeling was surprised. “If it were anyone else I’d ask if you had truly considered this… but I know that even before all that’s happened lately you’ve not exactly been happy in Starfleet. And it isn’t in you to not consider something before making a decision.”
And he wouldn’t have sent Max and Haru on ahead of time.
“When do you leave?” she asked, trying to keep her voice from breaking an betraying how she was feeling.
He took a moment to compose himself fighting his own emotions. "After this situation with the Ferengi is complete." He paused. "Romulus has a lot to account for before the sun's nova and after. They must take accountability for their actions on Mars but also the Federation stood by and watched as Romulus' sun blinked out and did nothing to help. I was never able to stomach that. I hope that taking a leadership role on New Romulus I can write some wrongs."
“I… I’m sure you will achieve whatever you put your mind to,” she managed after a long moment. Of that she was certain. “After this mission… that isn’t a long time. What about the children? Are they leaving Vulcan?”
"N'vek is. My daughter, as you know, is quiet headstrong. She has decided to study on Vulcan as has Soval. Lexi's children will join us there as well. I have invited your mother to New Romulus and ..." It was now or never. "My love for you is stronger then anything I have known. Everything within me wants you by my side but I know that your place is here. You have a greatness inside you that will make you the finest Captain in the fleet one day. The invitation is always there for you to join me but the choice will have to be yours."
“Do you ever wonder why fate always seems to be pushing us apart?” she whispered as she stood. The room felt too small, claustrophobic. His daughter, Lexi’s children… that stung more than she would ever tell him. She wondered if he realised - a man who often feared being along - that he had all these people orbiting him.
“And to think, we once only worried if our age difference would be too much,” she reminded him with a sad smile. “And deep down I do still love you too. I can’t imagine never wanting or needing you in my life. But I don’t know if I can follow you down this path.”
There was silence. "Minds change. However, there is something you should know."
She brought her gaze up to meet his, “what’s that?”
"They are our children and will be forever."
She felt tears sting at her eyes and angrily swiped them away. “I guess I need to work on that poker face, huh?” She said quietly.
He walked over to her and pulled her into his arms. "No you do not. You are perfect as you are."
After the briefest of hesitations she wrapped her arms around him and just let the silence fall between them, for once it wasn’t uncomfortable or tense. Perhaps, she realised because they both knew he was making the right decision. “I’m going to miss you,” she whispered, knowing his Vulcan hearing would pick up her words just fine. She peered up at him, “and agreeing to meet you on the holodeck that day at the forge? It is probably the best and most impulsive decisions I ever made.”
He smiled at her. "I shall miss you too. Our Marriage is something I will always hold dear." He paused. "That begs the question. What will become of us?" A difficult question.
"I don't know," she admitted honestly as she rested her head against his chest. "It feels so... far away. So final. I know I've been the one needing time... And I do. Perhaps when I get back we can sit down and talk?"
"I would like that very much." He still held her unaware that a tear escaped his eye landing on the top of her head.
It was just a single tear, but it was enough to make her look up, her brow furrowing with concern to see another running down his cheek. She reached up, wiping it away with her fingertip. "Soral...?" she had seen his emotional side more than most, and knew how deeply his emotions ran. Still, he usually prided himself in keeping such feelings under control, especially when on duty. It was perhaps more instinct than decision that made her stand on her tip toes and kiss him softly, wanting to comfort him and ease his pain. And besides the night when she had been too drunk to even sit down properly, it had been a long time since they had been in such close quarters with Soral seeming so vulnerable.
He kissed her back with all the emotions of his soul. He tried to pour all his love into that kiss to let her know that he would never give up on them.
It felt so familiar, that flame that seemed to flare up between them in an instant, filtering through the unique bond that now forged two sides of Soral with one person. Emotions and memories from across two versions of their relationship merged into one almost overwhelming experience which left her breathless by the time the kiss broke. And by then Alex realised her very human self control had all but leapt out the nearest airlock.
He cupped her face in his hands. "Promise me that you will be safe."
"We have Stillwater watching our back, of course we will be safe," she assured him. "Just try to stay out of trouble while we are gone."
"It is a difficult thing you ask," he said raising an eyebrow in amusement.
"There it is," she smiled.
"Your smile," she clarified.
He grinned. "I do not smile. Vulcans are very serious. You, as Chief Science Officer should know this."
"I clearly missed that lecture," she teased.
He actually laughed and then hugged her. "Alexandra please never doubt that i love you."
“I’ve suspected you might,” she admitted, unable to resist teasing him a little more, “but you know how it is with Vulcans… I hope you know that me needing time is about me and not doesn’t mean I don’t care or love you. I have always wanted what was best for you. Which is why I’m not going to stand in your way if leaving … leaving Starfleet that is, is what you need.”
He kissed her gently. "Good luck today. I will see you when you get back."
She nodded, as she headed for the door, “we will figure this out, Soral. I promise.”
And with that she was gone, leaving him alone with his thoughts.