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Coming Home

Posted on Thu Sep 8th, 2022 @ 10:53pm by Captain Jocelyn Blake & Fleet Admiral Sturnack

Mission: Episode 3: Conflicts of Interest
Location: Jocelyn's Apartment
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 2100

[Jocelyn Blake's Apartment]
[Cow Hollow, San Francisco]
[MD 1, ~2100 Hours]

The door to Jocelyn's apartment had long been repaired. It was still the old fashioned sort, with a knob and a lock, but in its repair Starfleet security had added a panel that required biometrics to open the lock. Even then an image of the blood red paint scrawled across the door came to mind when she approached.

It was a surreal sort of thing. She had been crashing on Jordan's couch for a couple weeks, only visiting her apartment to shower and dress, maybe to eat, but mostly she had all but been living with her friend. And then the assassination attempt and she found herself living with Sturnack. It had been so long since she had slept in a place alone that the mere thought made her insides wiggle uncomfortably.

Even as she thought it, though, the reassuring presence of Sturnack loomed at her back. He'd agreed to spend the night with her and she wondered if she ought to explain herself. So little of their relationship had actually been discussed. She wondered if he wished to be alone. If he already regretted the messy emotions of his new paramour.

Her hand, which had been reaching for the biometric lock dropped just short and she turned to face him. "Before we go in," she said softly. "I'm sorry for not asking if you wanted to stay for dinner tonight." She'd felt his annoyance through their linked hands at the time and it had flitted at the back of her mind ever since. "I was eager to make sure Admiral Andolini and his family were comfortable, but it's also not fair of me to assume that you are ok with such things. I'll try to ask about things in the future."

"I appreciate the consideration," Sturnack said, grasping his hands behind his back. "I was not mentally prepared for small talk and co-mingling with a...cacophony of people and animals," the Vulcan named them such. "However, there is something you should keep in mind about our bond, Jocelyn. Having an emotion that you can sense does not equate to me acting on said emotion. You are feeling all that occurs before my mental filters compartmentalize and repress my emotions. In essence," he raised an eyebrow, "you are getting an unfiltered glimpse into my psyche. While what you sense should guide conversations you begin with me -- like this one," he nodded, "you mustn't assume that a sensed emotion is immutable fact regarding my mindset. Does that make sense?"

She eyed him, chewing the inside of her cheek as he spoke and nodding her understanding at his question. "I think so," she said. Her voice held a touch of uncertainty to it, though. "It may take... some practice... on my part, but I'll get it eventually."

Blue green eyes held brown for a long moment before she turned, thumbed the lock long enough to confirm her presence, and the pulled the door, twisting the knob to release the latch.

She surveyed her apartment with fresh eyes. How long had it been since she'd brought a man home with her? Outside of Jordan, whose friendship was the closest she had to an actual brother, it had been... a while. The entry let a person in to her living area which was dominated by a couch, an overly stuffed chair and a view screen on the wall. Shelves displayed awards, books, and a few trinkets that mattered to her, among them her old coffee tumbler from her time at R&D and next to it her tumbler from her assignment to the Academy.

It was a largely tidy place considering she'd barely been present for some time. "Make yourself at home," she said as Sturnack stepped into the room. "Bathroom is back that way." She pointed to a hall that held two doors, the bathroom and her bedroom. "Kitchen is through there." She pointed again before extending her arms out to either side. "And this is the living room."

Sturnack surveyed the apartment with interest. It was mostly well kept but, like Jocelyn herself, there were signs of tidiness fraying at the edges in places. Living spaces were, after all, a reflection of their owner and the Vulcan found himself not at all surprised by the state of Jocelyn's place. "It is...cozy," Sturnack commented, eyes falling on a soft throw draped over the backrest of the stuffed chair. "I regret that circumstances have kept you so long from being comfortable here." Was that a tone of sorrow in his voice? Normally such emotion would be swept aside but there was something to the way he'd admitted lament.

Jocelyn was unsure how to parse both the Vulcan's words and his tone. Did he mean since the vandalism? The time at the Fortress? Perhaps it didn't matter. She had been a few feet from him when he spoke, but now she turned back. Her hesitation was brief, though it was unmistakably there--they simply hadn't had enough time alone with each other yet for her to be sure of how to act. So, for good or ill, she went with her gut approaching him slowly and wrapping her arms around his neck before resting her head in the crook of his shoulder. "Nothing to regret," she said quietly. "You wouldn't be here if it weren't for those circumstances."

"Perhaps," Sturnack admitted, gently moving to exit the embrace without comment. He seemed somehow uncomfortable with the touching, walking to put a few feet of distance between them again. "I find myself burdened by worry, Jocelyn. A lot will change tomorrow. Many things will become harder for us as the details of our coupling are outed. These difficulties do not change my mind on the course we have set. But it would dishonest to say that my mind is not very much occupied at this time. As I'm sure yours is, too," he said dispassionately.

She didn't miss the shift away. It was gentle and kind, but distance was distance all the same. As she spoke she wrapped one arm across her chest, gripping her bicep and rubbing lightly. She knew it would be different. She knew and she willed herself to patience, tucking questions of how they should interact to the side in favor of those looming questions he mentioned. "I'm aware of what we are about to encounter," she said simply. "I agreed to this course with open eyes as well and I, maybe more than most, know how much stands be lost if the winds of public opinion shift against us."

Although it was tempting to drop her eyes from him, she didn't. Instead she stood there, hand cuffing her bicep as realization began to creep in. She had missed home and freedom, but now home and freedom felt like they held dangers at every corner. Now... now she missed the Fortress. "You'll find it silly," she said softly, "but I miss it... the Fortress I mean. I wish there had been more time for us to figure ourselves out... alone... before we had to let everyone else in."

"I do not find that silly at all," the Vulcan turned back to face Jocelyn. In a calculated move, he took a few steps in her direction and held his fore- and middle-finger up for her to touch with her own. Such would allow her to sense the same desires behind his own mental barriers. "At the Fortress, it was only us. We had the freedom to interact without the wide world playing much of a factor. And now it is as if the shuttle has left the shuttle bay with us barely holding onto the hull versus being inside. Much is happening quickly. Too quickly," he admitted. "I admit that I am extremely out of my depth. Both as a paramour and as a Commander-in-Chief."

Jocelyn's eyes flitted from Sturnack's own gaze to his outstretched fingers and back to his gaze. Hesitation again, but this time less. She wanted the clarity that touching him brought. Her hand dropped from her bicep and the opposite hand formed into a mirror of Sturnack's. She closed the remaining distance and softly ran the back of her fingers down the backs of his before bringing them around so that their tips touched.

The reconnection of the mate bond was instantaneous and as her awareness of his underlying emotions registered she felt herself relax. True to his words worry twisted beneath his surface, but also affection and determination, the desire for comfort and a small amount of self-doubt. His emotions played across their link like a muted rainbow, held in check by his Vulcan training, but visible to her. Her own emotions, she was sure, were much louder and messier. They played out in her eyes and her body language even as they flowed between the two of them. Fear. Longing. Sadness. Affection. Desire. All present and on display in a way that still, only a day later, amazed her.

"It has been a long time since I have had a serious relationship as well," she said softly. "That part at least, is only for us. At least we are out of our depth there together."

Sturnack felt the rushing of emotion from Jocelyn through the bond. To one trained in emotional suppression, her feelings were like someone suddenly shouting in a quiet room. The Vulcan took a subtle breath and applied his own brand of calm to the link, hoping it would flow through and affect his paramour. True it had only been a day but, to Sturnack at least, the bond formed was something that would forever change their lives. It was important that they treat it well: protect it from the outside world in as much as was possible.

"Then we can both learn to navigate," the Vulcan said, "together. Where shall I sleep tonight?" Sturnack asked, arching an eyebrow. He did not wish to presume anything and thus gave Jocelyn the option to settle him on the couch instead of her bed, should she wish. Clasping his hands behind his back, he awaited the woman's response with a placid expression. Before the link faded, however, Jocelyn would likely have felt some degree of nervousness as to her answer.

As was true every time the link was disconnected, Jocelyn felt a sort of loss, as if a part of her disappeared with that connection. Somewhere in the back of her brain it registered that she'd like to understand that better, but it was a minor thought in the face of everything else and was quickly quieted. "With me," she said without hesitation. "Unless... unless you'd rather not." Her cheeks flushed slightly. "I mean... I'd like you to stay with me. After last night... I think it would feel odd... not to... if you are here with me. I mean..." She was getting flustered and she could feel it. It was one thing to take Sturnack to bed in the middle of Pon Farr and another entirely when he was his cool rational self. She was suddenly struck by how immensely small her understanding of Vulcans was.

"I thought perhaps you might choose such," Sturnack nodded slowly. "I am amenable to sleeping with you, Jocelyn. Though outside of the Pon Farr, you should know that sexual intercourse and loving embraces are somewhat...different," he stressed indifferently. "That is not to say that things will not be sexual beyond Pon Farr: Vulcans do engage in such activities from time to time. But I want to set the expectation that such times are not the norm as they might be with other couples. I do not wish to offend you by that," he seemed almost uncomfortable himself, "but merely establish things you should know."

If she was flushed before she was outright blushing now. "Ok," she said slowly. "I'm guessing you're familiar with what is more the norm for humans, but... if... not... I can explain. I..." She was stumbling over her own words. She wasn't offended by the revelation. If anything it gave her some clarity around his reaction to her hug. But still... it felt like fumbling in the dark toward some kind of middle ground. Or maybe just fumbling in the dark in his direction. She stared at him for a second, as her speech stumbled to a halt and then with an exhale that was half sigh and half the release of a deep breath she flopped onto her sofa and ran her hands into her hair.

"I don't want to push you," she finally said. "And you don't... you don't have to make concessions just because I want something. I mean... I want you to sleep with me tonight, but..." she trailed off, tilting her head to the side to take him in. "I only want any of those things if you also do. It's... important... to me that these things be mutual."

"I understand," the Vulcan said, nodding his head. "I promise to only partake in the things I am comfortable doing. And tonight, that includes sharing a bed with you once again. However," he lifted his chin, "we still maintain separate lives and live in our own individual spaces. I do not expect that we will be together every moment we are not working. But perhaps," Sturnack conceded, "a couple of nights each week, we can enjoy time together. It is important to me not to rush this by immediately intertwining the whole totality of our lives. Does that make sense?"

Nodding her understanding, Jocelyn let her hands drop to her lap. "Of course," she said. "I don't want to rush this either. It's just... very different from any other relationship I have been in. I am sure we'll find a rhythm that works for us both." She sat quietly pensive for a moment and then, like a receding storm cloud her expression cleared. "For now, though, I am going to put on pajamas and drink a glass of wine and you are more than welcome to join me." She gave him a small smile then, shifted forward before pushing herself to her feet.

"I am afraid," Sturnack replied, "that I left my...pajamas," he referred to his gray sweat pants and matching sweater, "back at The Fortress. I did not anticipate sleeping away from my apartment tonight." He blinked then, attempting to think of an alternate plan. He wanted to please Jocelyn but, at the same time, was too modest to suggest hanging around in his underwear. "Perhaps I could replicate something suitable, Jocelyn? And I believe a glass of wine would be welcome after the dinner we've just experienced." Did he mean that Andolini and his family were a bit much to handle? Such a comment could only mean as much.

Eyes traveling her new beau from head to foot the redhead nodded, though an appreciative smile lit her features. "Through here," she said indicating the kitchen. She led the way and, after directing Sturnack to the replicator moved to one of the cabinets and pulled down a bottle of deep red wine and two full belled glasses. She poured an ample portion for each of them and by the time she turned to return to the living room Sturnack had already disappeared with his replicated pajamas.

She made a guess that he'd gone to the bathroom to change, but just in case she knocked on her own bedroom door before slipping inside to change herself.

The knock went unanswered. Indeed, Sturnack had made his way to Jocelyn's bathroom and was in the middle of changing, the door left open. Out of the corner of his eye, the Vulcan spied the woman enter the bedroom and move towards her closet. As a matter of decorum, he moved to activate the doors' controls but then stopped, wondering why -- if they'd been so intimate -- he was bothering with modesty. It was illogical. They were on a collision course with intimacy; nudity was hardly an affront to Vulcan modesty at this point. So instead, he left the doors open and allowed Jocelyn to see him as much as she wished while he changed.

She was halfway through the room before she realized that Sturnack was standing in her bathroom only partially clad. Had she missed his answer to her knock? She froze, warring between uncertainty and action. Images from the night prior dashed through her head and her cheeks flared, two splotches of brilliant red at the peak of her cheek bones. Earlier it had seemed as if he was warning her not to expect an amorous reception most times and she was annoyed with herself for slipping immediately into that thought pattern.

She cleared her throat and turned, dragging her gaze away. "I'm sorry," she said eager not to come on too strong. "I didn't hear your reply so I just assumed."

"There is no reason to apologize," Sturnack replied from the other room. "We have certainly seen...more," he stressed passively, "of each other in recent moments. Seeing it again should hardly cause affront, I would think," the Vulcan said, passing his arms into those of the shirt he'd been given. Pulling the garment down around his mid-section, he then turned attention to his lower half. Pulling up a pair of sweat shorts, he then turned to see Jocelyn in the bedroom across the way. "Does this suffice?" he asked, gesturing at what he was wearing.

Jocelyn, for her part, had mostly frozen in place. Granted his permission, she allowed herself to look and to appreciate. And then she reminded herself of what he had told her earlier, when she had tried to hug him, and at his question she expelled a breath and nodded. "If it's comfortable then it's perfect," she said and then willed herself to turn to and finish crossing the room, pulling a pair of loose shorts and an oversized t-shirt from her dresser. She didn't typically wear the shorts to sleep, but it seemed right to wear them for now at least, though the t-shirt practically obscured them. Not looking in his direction she quickly moved to strip out of her attire as a million questions swam through her head all at once.

Sturnack, meanwhile, pragmatically left the bathroom as Jocelyn was in mid-change, not slowing to look or comment. Instead, he moved with singular purpose back to the main room of the dwelling and took a seat on the couch. At first, his posture was rigid as Sturnack sat there waiting for Jocelyn to come out. But as the moments passed, the Vulcan willed himself to become more comfortable. After all, if Jocelyn could find comfort in his dwelling, he should be able to do the same in hers. "How long have you lived here?" he asked, making conversation as his eyes swept over her belongings, studying them.

"About 7 years," she said, the comment rolling off her tongue somewhat casually. "I moved after the incident with Admiral Leyton," she explained as she came around the back of the couch and stood there awkwardly for a moment. He wasn't particularly comfortable with touch and yet it felt almost odd to be sitting on a couch next to him and not... somehow... being couple-like. She opted to sit on the opposite end of the couch, legs tucked under her in a position he would undoubtedly find familiar as she turned and regarded him. "I got a lot of death threats then, too," she commented. "And my old place didn't feel safe anymore."

With a flip of her wrist she gestured toward the wine on the table, reaching for her glass and bringing it to her lips to sip slowly. "How long have you lived at your place? Here in San Fran, I mean."

"Fleet Admiral McGarry had a saying," the Vulcan began. "If they're trying to hurt you, then you're doing a good job." Sturnack let the sentiment hang in the air before saying, "I am dismayed to hear about having to move and the harassment you have received, especially at the hands of other Starfleet officers. And more problematic now is that such behaviors continue. Though, hopefully," he reached out to gently brush the tips of her fingers with his, the link flaring to life, "that will abate as time goes by. As upsides go, my presence here provides increased security, at the very least."

In answer to her question, Sturnack said, "I've lived in my residence for over 10 years at this point. My home is spartan compared to yours," his eyes tracing Jocelyn's various belongings. "However, it is very -- as they say -- Vulcan-esque," he said.

The spark of their link had caught her off guard, but she welcomed it all the same, a small smile settling on her lips at the familiarity. It was a small simple thing, but an acknowledgement of their relationship and even if he hadn't intended it as a deliberate act, she appreciated it all the same.

"Much like your office, I imagine," she said with a kind look as her eyes rose from where his fingers lingered on hers. "And yes, I prefer not being alone," she admitted. "It's... been easier... when I know there's someone else around. I was sleeping on Jordan's... Lieutenant Hoover's... couch for a while before we had to retreat to the Fortress." The complicated emotions she felt on that front were unmissable, she was sure, through the emotional link, but they were met with his calm certitude in the statement that his presence there at that moment would help keep her safe.

Both were quiet for a long moment, sipping wine and lost in their own thoughts before Jocelyn spoke up again with a small laugh. "You know," she said with a bit of mirth to her tone, "if you were human I'd have to say we'd started this all sorts of backwards. I feel like I should... I don't know... ask you what your favorite color is or something." Her expression softened then. "I'm looking forward to getting to know you better. The you that you are when you're not being the Commander in Chief."

"Understandable," Sturnack nodded. "I feel we have much ground to cover. We do seem to have...skipped," he dipped his head slightly, "several of the most common courting steps where human relationships are concerned. However, we have no reasons to rush these things," the Vulcan noted. "That said, my favorite color is blue. It reminds me of water, which is typically calming. And for you?" he asked, arching his right eyebrow. "What is the most pleasing color to your eyes?"

She liked the way he asked as much as his humoring of her question. Though you couldn't have called out emotion in his tone expressly, there was a particular cadence tied to the arched eyebrow that seemed to shift the meaning of his monotone slightly. Or perhaps she was just thinking too deeply about it. Either way she liked it. "I don't know it's name," she explained, somewhat sheepishly, "but it's the sort of pink orange color of sunset. It's a stunningly gorgeous tone and it makes everything it touches look warm and soft."

"Warm and soft," Sturnack repeated. "The same could be said for your quarters," he said, once again looking around. Whereas The Fortress had been inviting in its own, rustic way, Jocelyn's apartment was inviting in another. Soft surroundings sparred with the need for every day utility, creating something pleasant but not overly decadent. "I am sure that, if Marlena were presently here, she would say something like 'You've got great taste, woman,'" he emphasized the word, approximating how his aide-de-camp would likely say it. It sounded obscenely out of character for the Vulcan and was, in no way, said with a laugh or any kind of smile. And yet, through the link, an undercurrent of humor sparked through.

Jocelyn had been halfway through taking a sip of her wine when Sturnack gave his best impression of Marlena. For a moment she had to hold her breath, eyes dancing mirthfully before she swallowed hard to make sure she didn't spit the whole mouthful on him. When she did, though, the giggles that followed were all but uncontrollable. Their fingers had been touching, a sort of soft tracing back and forth, up to that point, but now she shifted, taking his hand in hers, unable to help herself. She needed something more to hold onto as she doubled over with laughter.

As she took the Vulcan's hand in total, the link flared in strength as Jocelyn's roiling mirth flooded through the connection. Sturnack was, himself, like a small boat on the ocean of Jocelyn's emotions. What had been small waves that lapped at and gently nudged the boat suddenly became multiple stories tall, approaching the tiny little vessel from all sides. As the water crested and crashed through the link, something quite curious happened. Sturnack -- ever the expected when it came to Vulcan behavior -- began to laugh. It was almost musical, the way the laughs peeled out of him. And it was with some amount of concern that Sturnack brought his hand -- the one linking them -- away from Jocelyn's and to his own mouth.

"As I said," he arched an eyebrow after collecting himself. "The link goes both ways. I was not prepared for how...funny," Sturnack chose the word with care, "my impression was. Forgive the outburst: I will need to do better in steeling myself against the strength of your emotions in the future."

Eyes wide Jocelyn held very still as if unsure if it was safe to move. The sound of Sturnack's laughter had caught her off guard even as she felt like she was getting a glimpse at something she wasn't meant to see. The removal of his hand meant she couldn't tell if she had caused upset or harm or if it had, genuinely, been a surprise. "There's nothing to forgive," she said softly. "If anything it's me who should apologize."

"An apology is not necessary. It...comes with the touch telepath territory," the Vulcan explained, gathering himself further. Sturnack seemed to have regained his composure and settled into the couch more deeply, sipping from his wine. "Vulcans steel themselves against powerful emotions at all times. It's an automatic, intrinsic skill we have developed. But when linking with others, the power of added emotions can overwhelm. It is why mind melds are not as common as the human handshake," he explained. "We will learn to navigate this link in time, I am confident."

Something warm and deep took over where the worry left off, making Jocelyn feel more like a teenager looking at a crush than a woman in an adult relationship with a man. She swallowed, nodding her agreement and hoping he was right. She wanted to learn that navigation with him and she trusted him that it could be done--that they could do it. She held his eyes for several long quiet moments, thinking for all the world how badly she'd like to lean across the couch and kiss him. She didn't though, his explanation about affection from earlier holding her in place despite the overwhelming instinct to move closer. Instead she said, "You do a really impressive impression of Marlena. Does she know you can do that?"

"I have not yet demonstrated my mastery of her character, no," Sturnack noted, shaking his head slowly. "I am unsure if she would appreciate the mimicry, though given her preclusion to humor, perhaps it would go over well?" The last was arced up in a question; the Vulcan, it seemed, was unsure. "I must admit that I am feeling tired. Given the late...hour of last night," he discreetly referred to their fast-moving jump into physicality overnight, "and the early morning for presents," he dipped his head appreciatively, "it would seem sleep has become a logical need. Especially since we have so much to accomplish tomorrow," Sturnack said, not relishing the idea of meeting with Whitford.

Jocelyn tugged at her bottom lip with her teeth, suddenly painfully aware of how tired she was as well, but still reluctant for this moment, another first amidst a flurry of firsts, to end. "She would love it, but she would never let on. More likely she's dish it right back out at you." As if drawn from the depths of her belly a yawn overtook the comment. The desire to kiss him was still there, but dimmed slightly by the constant thread of reminder that he likely would not like it if she did. So instead she cleared the last swallow of wine from her glass, set it down on the low coffee table and rose, holding out her hand for him to take or not depending on his preference. "Come on," she said softly. "Let's get some sleep."

=/\= A mission post by =/\=

Fleet Admiral Sturnack
Commander in Chief, Starfleet

Captain Jocelyn Blake
Press Secretary



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