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Day 02 [1930 hrs.] In Memory of When We Used to call "In Love"

[ Nicole Howard | Main Sickbay | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: Auctor Lucan
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There were voices in the distance she could not make out and she was so very tired. The day had waned on Nicole Howard and she had found her energy drained very quickly. Her throat ached and she was only able to take small sips of water at a time to alleviate the suffering.  Her head, empty as it was, had begun to ache, and she could not escape the feeling of pins and needles sticking her in her feet. The virus, whatever it was, was playing havoc with her body and she did not know what to expect. She knew the whisper, that she would be moved back into... No she didn't want to think about it just yet. She couldn't just yet. Not until she was told there was a plan or that was the plan. She would wait.

Sometimes a nurse would check on her, and always came the loom of concern and then a look of sadness. They did very little talking, but always the outlook was grim. There was something wrong, and the imager was in use. They would mop the cold sweat from her forehead and they would leave once more, to attend the other patients who were also sick.

Somehow the quarantine procedures had not been enough and the virus had reached her. It had moved rapidly through her already weakened body and played with her mind. Though the mind bit may have been the fever. Her temperature was much higher than it should have been and she was losing a lot of water through perspiration. With little choice she had been given an IV drip to try and keep her fluid levels up, but even still it was a losing battle.

And there were voices in the distance she could not make out.

Sometime during the day it was decided to move her to the isolation ward, she didn't know which one though. In fact at the time she had been drifting in and out of awareness of the world around her. The doctor had pressed a hypospray to her neck and she had heard the hiss. That had helped her hold on to reality a little bit.

She had wanted to go to personal quarters today, or maybe in the morning, but now. Now she was in no condition to be moved at all. Her body ached and she felt cold one minute and hot the next. She burned and she froze. She ached all over and she felt like her limbs had gone numb and frozen. And she was so very tired. Yet she did her best to stay awake. She was afraid of death, so she had decided that if she was going to go back... If she had to face death again... She would face it awake. She had to face it while she was awake.

And there were voices in the distance she could not make out.

In the dim light of the room, it was night cycle, or at least she was pretty sure that it was it was hard to tell when you couldn't keep track of time anymore, she heard the door hiss open and someone stepped in. She could only see the dark outline of a person and she was aware of them. She could not quite tell if she knew them. Her head swam with details and information she did not know, yet were there. There breaks in her memory had grown and they had consumed everything. Yet now there seemed to be all the pieces, and none of them.

She could not help but smile when she felt a cool hand on her skin. "Hey," she breathed weakly.

Re: Day 02 [1930 hrs.] In Memory of When We Used to call "In Love"

Reply #1
[ Captain Ives | Outside Isolation Ward 02 | Main Sickbay | Deck 07 | Vector 02 | USS Theurgy@Absinthe
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Having come as fast as he could, Captain Ives met Doctor Nicander outside one of the isolation wards. The Câroon doctor had turned his way in his white medical coat with a PADD in his tattooed hands, doubtlessly Nicole Howard's medical journal. He spoke without preamble.

"Unfortunately, Lieutenant Commander Howard's condition has worsened because of the virus. Somehow, despite the purification fields raised around her, she was still infected, and now, she can no longer retain any fluids," said the man in his exotic accent and raised his eyebrows in defeat as he looked at the PADD. "She had been deteriorating before we found the infection, and by the time Vivian Martin presented something akin to a treatment, her immune system had grown too weak to handle it. I am sorry, Captain, but her resuscitation was not advised to begin with, and now, her only hope if to be returned to stasis."

Clenching his jaw and and making fists at his sides, Jien did not feel he needed the reminder that he had been the one to order Howard to be brought out of stasis. He already knew he had gone against medical ethics with his orders, both in regard to the Phoenix Project and Nicole Howard, whom he had felt was needed given the state of the ship after the battle at Starbase 84. He had known the medical supplies gathered at the Black Opal ought to have been sufficient to repair her torso, but earlier that day, Nicander had explained that there had not been enough vertebrae, and she suffered brain injuries because she had been brought into stasis too late.

With this in mind, Jien checked his anger. "Is there any chance that she can make a full recovery?"

"Doubtful, Captain. She showed no signs of further improvement before the infection, and when the virus hit her, she may have lost whatever coherence and memory she had built. She is in great pain, Captain. It would be more merciful to put her back in stasis without you visiting her. If you try to reach through to her, it will merely cause her distress."

"I need to see her," said Jien, a hint of iron in his tone as he met Nicander's pale grey gaze.

"With all due respect, Captain," said Nicander without pause, likely expecting the protest, "but I am done being ordered around by someone who clearly doesn't have anyone but hirself or the mission in mind. I am a doctor, not a lackey at your beck and call. By the winds, don't you think I know you were in a relationship with this patient? I am telling you, she doesn't remember you."

Knowing he was on thin ice, Jien did not relent. Nicole was just beyond the door. "You cannot know this."

"Captain!" barked Nicander now, lowering his PADD. For a moment, his eyes turned into twin lights - his Câroon powers manifest in his ire before his zi'naaq winked out. "I may understand that your judgement is clouded by your feelings for this patient. I can respect this, but my word is final. I may not know how much the two of you meant for eac-"

"I will not tell her who I am," grated Jien vehemently. He took a deep, shuddering breath. "I will not try to have Amelya Duv replaced as a host for the Rez symbiont, deferring to your judgement in that matter. Nor will I give the order to bring specific individuals out of stasis without your final approval. I can do naught about the Phoenix Project, since it is too late, but Doctor, I must to see Nicole Howard again. It was my order that made her suffer like this, and I cannot just..."

After Jien trailed off, the silence lingered between him and the Doctor, until the latter finally spoke.

"You don't tell her who you are," said Nicander quietly, and then, in askance, "but then you will not be doing this for her sake any more, would you? Why resort to this self-flagellation? You can spare yourself the hurt of seeing her. It will not be kind on you."

"Call it repentance," grated Jien with lines around his eyes, "or a lesson hard learned about this mission."

Nicander said naught for a few seconds, before he stepped aside, letting Jien enter the isolation ward.

Once inside, Jien had known that it was difficult for him to see her again, but when he saw what he had done to her - the kind of state she had ended up in - it made his steps towards the biobed hesitant. He swallowed and ground his teeth together, trying to keep himself collected. He reached out to her, and she said a single word to him.

"Hey." It was but a shadow of her voice. Broken. When his calloused hand began to tremble, he pulled it back, but he tried to smile for her sake.

"Hey," he said, and did not recognise his own voice either, his throat feeling thick. "Does... Does it hurt?"

Re: Day 02 [1930 hrs.] In Memory of When We Used to call "In Love"

Reply #2
[ Nicole Howard | Main Sickbay | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: Auctor Lucan
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She knew that voice. Somewhere deep inside her soul she knew it and it gave her comfort. Her smile became one of relaxed ease. "It doesn't hurt so bad," she said, though in fact it did hurt a bit worse than she would ever admit. She was still tough, even after all she had been through she was still quite tough, or at least she was pretty sure that she was. She was just feeling so tired now. The fog of her mind was somewhat lessened and she was pretty sure she knew the man who stood before her, but for the life left in her she could not recall his name, only that she felt safe knowing he was near her.

She slowly reach up and touched her hand to his face and her fingers gently moved over his features, the way one would touch a statue to feel the texture of the stone. He felt cool to her, but the again many things felt colder to her than they should have. Her skin was quite warm and slick from perspiration. She very clearly still had a fever that was taking it's toll on her mind and body, yet her smile said enough. It said that as long as he was with her, her body could burn to ash and she would not mind so much.

"Not really that bad at all," she said in a breathy and hoarse whisper. She wounded tired and weak, a shadow of the bright and cheerful person she more often was, but there was a spark of it still there, some quite flame still burning, like an ember deep among the ashes that could not be so easily put out.

Re: Day 02 [1930 hrs.] In Memory of When We Used to call "In Love"

Reply #3
[ Captain Ives | Isolation Ward 02 | Main Sickbay | Deck 07 | Vector 02 | USS Theurgy@Absinthe
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Being unsure if Nicole remembered him, Jien didn't say anything that might reveal who he was. If she did know him, he reckoned she would have said more. As it were, a brief silence settled between them. In this silence, Ives remembered when Nicole had come to his quarters the morning after the Ishtar Incident. He had been in his female form, and since they had parted on bad terms last they were alone, the silence between them were reminiscent of the one in the isolation ward.

The real reason she had come, however, was because of the sacrifice she had been willing to make the day before. To spend eternity in Ishtar's temple, together with Ives, in order to save the crew.

With a sigh, Nicole stepped closer. "Yesterday was... difficult.  More so for others than for myself, given I didn't have anything really happen to me, but it still wasn't easy.  It made me realize, though, that I'd been... that I'd hadn't... I mean to say..." It appeared she tried to come up with something to say, something to explain how she felt and what she'd been willing to give up to be with Jien. It seemed her words failed her, and she stood there looking just a bit helpless.

It was not only Nicole that had difficulty picking out words, which was evident in the lingering silence in the room. One hand upon her hip, Jien rolled the hilt of her grounded weapon in her fingers where she stood - head lowered in thought. The lamplight caught the blade as it rotated - sending fleeting spectres of gold across the walls around them.

"When you stepped forth," Jien said in the end, and lifted her large brown eyes to meet Nicole's gaze, "regardless of your intent, it made me realise I've been disinclined to talk through what happened between us last - unintended words or not. If I hadn't been so stubborn in my claim to be native of planet Earth and the Sol System, and chosen to debate the topic level-headed, I think we wouldn't have to be stepping on our toes around each other."

Stepping towards her dai-katana's stand, Jien picked up the sheath. "A little belatedly," she said and glanced over her shoulder, with a faint smile, "yet I am sorry. Can you forgive an outsider for trying a lifetime to belong somewhere, and defending her right to have a home?"

She sheathed the weapon in a fluid motion - 'burying the hatchet', in a way.

"I, too, am sorry," she said. "I never meant to even imply Earth wasn't your home.  We each pick our place to call such and I imagine the people of where you were raised see you much as one of their own." Nicole seemed relieved to have found something to say. Emboldened, she stepped closer to Jien, until less than a sword length lay between them and met her Captain's eyes. "When I stepped forward yesterday, it was an honest and unthinking response, entirely devoid of doubt.  I realized it, the moment after, that I meant to stay with you, even if it should mean the end of everything I am here, the end of my life, so to speak.  I respect you, Captain. I trust you as I have no one else in my life, save my father, and after what..." she looked around the room where they'd been so close. "After we..."

She struggled for words for a moment, then pushed on. "I want to find out if there's more to be had between us.  A fight's a fight, all lovers, even friends, have them."

Jien did have an answer for Nicole. She smiled faintly to the halfblood Bajoran, her smiles always ghosts since their exile began and they had to kill their own in Starfleet to get away. The highest cost of duty to be paid, death being far more kind.

"If there is more to have," she said quietly, standing still before Nicole - a trickle of sweat running down her neck after her exercise, "I would like to find out."
This was the day before the Calamity had come for them all, its hologram infiltrating the Theurgy mid-battle and appearing on the Main Bridge. Cala, as it had called itself, had torn through half the bridge crew before she set her aim upon Ives. Nicole had thrown herself in the way of the phaser bolt, and then Thea had engaged the other hologram before she could shoot twice. Jien remembered seeing Nicole on the deck plates, the smoke rising from the cavity in her chest. He had thought her dead already, but the medical transport had whisked her away to sickbay before Cala made her tactical retreat.

Jien took her weakened hand into his own, pressing his lips to her fingers. The sight of her was blurred from his tears, even if he felt numb inside. He just couldn't deal with the fact that she would be taken away from him again. "I'm sorry," he said, unable to stop himself. It was his fault. "I'm so sorry, Nicole. I should not have... You should have..."

He could not tell her his part in her plight. He could not tell her who he was, and therefore, he could not even ask her for forgiveness.

Re: Day 02 [1930 hrs.] In Memory of When We Used to call "In Love"

Reply #4
[ Nicole Howard | Main Sickbay | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: Auctor Lucan
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Even though her smile was weak and tired as she felt his lips on her sweat soaked fingers it was quite genuine. Her grip was not as strong as it had once been, what strength she had at the beginning of the day had long since left her far more frail than before, yet she still held fast to his hand, almost dreading to break the connection in that moment.

"Jien," she breathed softly, her voice sounding strained and tired. THe name slipping from her lips in an emotion that was half a scold and half a compassionate plea. She ached in hearing the pain in his voice and she could not allow him to dwell in that agony. Even though speaking at all meant she could only really get out a single word at a time and it took some effort to do even that, she knew she had to get out at least a little bit. "Don't..."

She eyes shined up at him as she smiled at him, her face, though slick with sweat and lined with exhaustion, seemed to glow with love. She could in no way be angry with him for something like this. In her view he had done nothing wrong, even though she really did know very little about it.

She slowly pulled his hand to her lips and kissed each of his knuckles in turn. Every motion was slow and purposeful, she was to tired to waste any effort on anything. Yet she knew she had to hold on for a little bit longer.

"Don't... Indulge... Pain..."

In between every word she needed a breath that sounded like it rattled in her chest before escaping out again. It sounded pained and exhausting, but she still clung onto what strength she had left in her body.

Re: Day 02 [1930 hrs.] In Memory of When We Used to call "In Love"

Reply #5
[ Captain Ives | Isolation Ward 02 | Main Sickbay | Deck 07 | Vector 02 | USS Theurgy@Absinthe
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When Nicole said his name, Jien's eyes widened. She remember!

The single syllable of his name coming from her lips... it struck right through the fortifications he'd raised around his heart. His own hands might not shake like hers did, but they were benumbed by the implications. He realised he had had taken solace in the chance that she'd think him a stranger, and that he could hide in her ignorance. Yet no, there was no such mercy. She was fully there in wit and body, seeing him, and telling him... Telling him to refute the pain. The memory of when they had been together, that morning, before Calamity visited upon them, it came to him again. He'd been in his female form...

...so she changed into it. "I'm n-not. I don't have to. I feel it all the same. All of it."

Escaping into new flesh, it did not make her feel as numb as her hands. The pain inside her lingered always, yet Nicole knew her well. Jien was lying to her about refuting pain, and somehow - even if she'd never seen it - it was as if she knew she punished herself by memorising the crew manifests of the ships that had been destroyed in protection of the truth. That night, Jien had been reading about the USS Orcus, learning how many children she had orphaned. How many fathers and mothers that she had killed when she gave Carrigan Trent the order to fire. Even Doctor Nicander had accused her of self-flagellation, and yet Jien refuted the truth of it more readily than the pain.

The knowledge of the cost of duty. In her regard, it was what anchored her to what was right and true. She would not call herself a Starfleet Captain unless she knew what she did in the line of duty. And right then, in that isolation ward, she owned up to her mistake of ordering Nicole Howard's resuscitation.

"Please. Tell me," she began, clenching her jaw and steeling herself to speak clearly despite herself. Even though she had changed forms, Howard's image remained as blurred as before from her silent tears. "Say that we will r-remain together, h-here beyond the 400Hz range."

Jien lay her out there, with her legs still wrapped around him, and as the shower rained upon his back and neck, Jien sought out her mouth with his own - revelling in the taste of her and the feeling of having her beneath himself. He let his hands run over her wet skin, and his mouth wandered languidly - tasting the salt on her skin before it was washed away.

As she lay beneath him, she began to relax, her body twitching and spasming with aftershocks of her pleasure.  Languidly, she wrapped her arms around his back, her passion restrained but still present as her mouth met his.  Perhaps she thought of how she'd come there, to his quarters, feigning to repair his shower. Perhaps she thought of how she'd planned on seducing him, stripping their clothes from their flesh with the sonic shower's vibrations - taking them both beyond the 400hz range setting.

Slowly, she settled onto the floor of the shower, her legs falling away from his hips, releasing him. Pulling her head back, she met his eyes and blushed brightly, likely feeling shy after what they'd done, how intimate they'd been. Jien had smiled, run his hands through her red hair, and allayed any fears by kissing her anew.
With her other hand, Jien reached out to run it through Nicole's hair, and she swallowed when she felt how feverish and slick with sweat she was beneath her touch. "Tell me... Please."

Re: Day 02 [1930 hrs.] In Memory of When We Used to call "In Love"

Reply #6
[ Nicole Howard | Main Sickbay | Deck 11 | USS Theurgy ] Attn: Auctor Lucan
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Somewhere deep in the fog of the mind was a memory, a place and a time now long gone and far away, so far from her reach. Yet she could recall the sensation of it. The passion, the taste of it, and in then some pain, some deep scar right under the surface that was unspoken and more forgotten than not. She could not recall words or even actions, but such things were mere frivolities to the emotion the words her captain spoke brought to mind.  It felt like it had been a lifetime ago, as if she had lived and died and been reborn so very many times since that moment, yet the emotion remained.

She took an unsteady breath and smiled up at her captain, though her eyes could not focus on much and all was a blur she could still tell when the masculine face shifted to a feminine one and the feeling of the hand holding hers let her know. She could not recall if it was ever odd to her, but in that moment it was simply a piece of her captain, of her love's identity and as long as the feeling was there not much else mattered.

And as she felt her lover's finger move through her hair she could not help but smile and relax just a little bit. She felt so weak and so tired, but she knew she had to hang on for as long as possible. There was some quiet fear in her heart that if she slipped away now, that would be it. She had come back once and that was one time more than many would ever get to. She could not leave anything unsaid, even if it was exhausting to hang on and try to speak, she had to do it.

"Somewhere... beyond... the four... hundred... hertz... range... I'll always love... you..." she said her voice sounding cracked and quite tired. She was slipping away now and there was very little to be done, but she still had some spark of fire in her eye that made it impossible for her to go gently into the darkness. She had to hold onto that moment for as long as she could. She kissed her lover's fingers gently.

"My... Jien..." she breathed slowly. She was so very tired now. The pain seemed to be lessening a bit. She just wanted to close her eyes for a little while. Slowly her heavy eyes began to close. And in that moment, in that last moment all she could really think about was how warm her lover's hand was and how safe she felt as long as it held her own.

Then she thought no more and there was no more pain.

 

Re: Day 02 [1930 hrs.] In Memory of When We Used to call "In Love"

Reply #7
[ Captain Ives | Isolation Ward 02 | Main Sickbay | Deck 07 | Vector 02 | USS Theurgy@Absinthe
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Just when she had reached through to her, spoken with her at last... Nicole slipped away.

In a mix of chock and horror, the biobed in the isolation ward began to beep frantically, and the sliding doors sprung open behing Jien's back to admit Doctor Nicander. "Captain, get out. Now! Thea, get Nurse Maal in here!"

[Yes, Doctor.]

"Is... Is she..." began Jien, who numbly got to her feet, unable to accept what was happening. She had dropped her bygone lover's hand - the warm feeling of her fingers gone. It looked like Nicole was asleep, but Jien knew that was not the case, even if the couldn't make herself believe it. The lights from the biobed flashed across her sweat-beaded brow.

"By the winds, get out!" cried Nicander, throwing her a grim look from where he stood at Nicole's side. Maal - a young, male nurse of Klingon blood - gently pushed past her into the ward, and Jien swallowed, clenching her jaw.

Despite how she wanted to remain, Jien found herself slowly backing out of the sliding doors. The last she saw before they closed was Nicander trying to resuscitate Nicole, and Maal preparing a hypospray. When the doors did close, Jien raised a trembling hand to cover her mouth, the tears finally leaving the corners of her oaken eyes. "No..."

Even if the official time of death was not set until a few minutes later, Jien already knew that Nicole was gone.

The shower roared in his ear, yet his blood already pulsed throughout his whole frame. When she was properly positioned, when she aided him with her fingers, Jien cupped her breasts from behind with rough hands. She kissed his jaw over her shoulder, whimpering in need. She would feel something entering her finally, for it was inside her - the head making way for the rest of him.

She pushed back from the wall, forcing herself onto him. The steam from the water spray whirled around them as Jien moved - his surging movement making her stand on her toes with each thrust - forced her to use the wall of the stall for support.
- FIN

 
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