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Show Me Yours

Posted on Mon Nov 6th, 2023 @ 9:17pm by Captain Jocelyn Blake & Fleet Admiral Sturnack

Mission: Episode 3: Conflicts of Interest
Location: The Castro, San Francisco
Timeline: Mission Day 6 at 1930

The first thing Jocelyn noticed when she and Sturnack materialized at the public access transporter was color. A brilliant rainbow was painted on the wall across from the pad and the idea that her extremely Vulcan lover stepped off a pad to be greeted by a rainbow everyday struck her as an extremely amusing dichotomy. She turned her head to study his profile, appreciating the curl of dark hair against his elongated earlobe. His face, however, gave nothing away.

They had come from the terminal in Cow Hollow a few blocks from her apartment. She'd been quick in packing an overnight bag, aware of the Vulcan waiting with extreme patience in her living room. Now they stood just outside the Castro transport hub, her Vulcan companion looking placidly at the streams of people moving up and down the street. Around them, the CinC's contingent of security officers fell into place and, after diligently looking around, indicated it was safe to proceed.

"Lead on," Jocelyn said as a wiggle of nervous energy made it's way through her.

Lead on, Sturnack did. The Vulcan navigated them down the street a few blocks, then turned to take another block west. It was dark at this point and the puffs of their breathing caught in the streetlights as they walked. The Castro was one of the more historic areas of the city, having long been a bastion for those who were Other. A Vulcan on Earth certainly fit that bill and it was with confident steps that Sturnack brought them to a small apartment building nestled amongst other, similar structures. Looking at the building's fa├žade, it was clear that it could only contain five or six units at best but it had a rather charming look to it. Next to the door, a plate of names assigned to buttons announced who lived here: the Vulcan's moniker was attached to the topmost button.

"My apartment is on the top floor," Sturnack explained, placing his thumb on the door handle's sensor plate. The ornate, golden handle scanned his biometrics and unlocked the door, which swung open with a creak as the Vulcan led Jocelyn inside. The door closed behind them as Sturnack moved to summon the not-so-turbolift with a button press. In old buildings like this one, ancient-style elevators were still in service. They waited quietly until, finally, the elevator doors slowly opened, permitting them entry even as another resident exited. She seemed to know the Vulcan -- or at least be familiar with him -- as she greeted the man as she passed.

"Would you like the honors?" Sturnack asked pointedly, gesturing to the panel of glow-limned buttons. The number 6 shone out at them from the top of the button bank. "I've found that many humans find this type of lift antiquated but interesting," he offered in way of explaining his offer for Jocelyn to do the button pushing.

Eyebrows raised and lips pursed in amusement, Jocelyn stretched out her pointer finger, pressing the button inward and releasing it to a satisfying return of the button to its original position. Shortly after the lift began the trek upwards, making her eyes widen. Antique elevators were clearly very different from modern day turbolifts. For a moment an imagined image, something dredged up from holo-movies that her mother had loved when she was a kid, flashed through her head. The redheaded heroine and her hero waiting innocently as the lift doors closed only to pounce on each other as soon as the lift started into motion. They'd part quickly moments later when the lift doors opened again looking only slightly more disheveled than when they went in making it clear what they had been up to. Of course the thought ran through her head with very specific players in mind and with it her cheeks flushed red and she pressed her lips into a thin line together while keeping her eyes fixed firmly on the lift doors.

Sturnack noted how the novelty of the elevator entertained the woman. To him, it was just a physical action that he repeated a few times each day. Taking the antique elevator was as natural to him as a whisk-you-away turbolift. But the Vulcan found himself interested in Jocelyn's reactions, though, not just her physical responses. A looping pinky found its way around hers and, suddenly, an unintentionally blaring surge of emotion engulfed him through the link they shared. It was a powerful wash of feelings and they left behind a very clear idea of what the man should do next. As the elevator rose to the second floor and then the third, the Vulcan turned and leaned in, gently pressing his lips against Jocelyn's.

If the sudden, belly tickling, shift of the elevator had surprised her at first, she was completely unprepared for the surprise that accompanied having an image in her head turned into reality. Had she realized he would reach out like that she might have attempted to temper the way her thoughts had wandered, but it was too late now. She met his kiss with her own, less gentle, response, turning in toward him. Somewhere the back of her mind screamed that she should be careful about touch. That she needed to be aware of how much she was transmitting. But that part of her was very promptly drowned out by the ridiculous joy she felt at being kissed. And joy it was. Joy and relief and the looming memory of other things that had become reality for them barely a week ago.

After a moment, though, she heard a ding and, like the heroine in her mental image, she pulled back, pulling her hand free of his so he could be free of the absolute turmoil of emotion that had overtaken her. Wide-eyed, she looked at him. Opened her mouth. Closed it. Repeated those two things again. And then, because she couldn't help it, grinned like a teenage girl.

"Interesting. You are without speech," Sturnack commented, allowing his hand to gently fall at his side. "I have heard that intimate contact can often cause breathlessness and an inability to form, much less voice, coherent thought," he continued, gesturing the woman out of the elevator and into the hallway beyond. He'd, of course, felt all of the emotions running through Jocelyn's mind, though they were loud and jumbled. He thought he picked up a wisp of confusion along with the joy; felt Jocelyn question the closeness and the touching. It was understandable: they were, after all, trying to find and explore the new boundaries that being together entailed. And Sturnack, for his part, was operating without any kind of helpful playbook.

"It's apartment 4B," Sturnack sounded, rounding a corner and coming to the door marked as such. Allowing his hand to linger on the door pull, the bio-metric sensors confirmed his identity and released the lock with an audible click. With a turn and a push, the door opened onto a spartan apartment with an open-style floor plan for the living room, dining room, and kitchen.

The first of the rooms contained the main living area: there was a couch in brown leather and two matching arm chairs, all situated to face the large viewscreen inset into the wall. To the left, a large picture window showed the twinkling street below and the high rises of the Castro beyond. Behind the couch and chairs, curious but very obvious Vulcan-looking artifacts tastefully adorned the wall situated there. Missing were any of the accoutrements found in Jocelyn's place: there were no cozy throws, pictures of loved ones, foot stools, or other homey-feeling items.

Mind still a jumble of contradicting emotions Jocelyn trailed a few steps behind Sturnack. Once he'd turned his back to move down the hall she'd absently brought her hand to her lips, fingers lingering there for a just a second as she worked on regaining her faculties. To the Vulcan's credit, he was right. She had been speechless, but her lack of any verbal feedback hadn't seemed to bother him so rather than say anything more she simply followed him into the apartment, coming around to stand next to him and take in the space that was his.

The very first thing to strike her about the minimalistic style of his apartment was that it was, undeniably and very appropriately, him. In fact it so much screamed Sturnack, or maybe more appropriately Vulcan, at her that she found herself holding her breath, as if her mere presence there might disrupt something. Although none of the haphazard homey details of her own apartment could be spotted, upon a second scan she began to pick out details that struck her as unique to Sturnack and not just generically Vulcan. The leather of the furniture spoke of a certain appreciation for fine, yet comfortable things. And though the items on the wall were undeniably, culturally, Vulcan in nature, she spotted a thread of grey-blue in some of the objects. She didn't know how much color preference went into things for Vulcans but she knew his favorite color was blue.

Not waiting for an invitation, she made her way over to the wall to look at each object more closely. "Which is your favorite?" she asked after a moment, casting a look back over her shoulder in his direction.

"The IDIC," Sturnack replied without needing time to think. He gestured to the famous Vulcan symbol, which hung on the wall behind the couch. It wasn't obnoxiously big but sizeable enough that it felt proportional to the furniture. The wall hanging was clearly made of very old stone and was completed in three parts: a circular background with a triangular base that jutted into the circle, terminating in a dull red sphere. An elegant display of plant stem-like calligraphy flowed up the base.

"My people value infinite diversity in infinite combinations," he explained. "This piece is several hundred years old and has been in my family for many, many generations."

Jocelyn had moved towards the IDIC as Sturnack spoke, her hand half raising before it occurred to her that maybe she shouldn't touch the centuries old family heirloom. Her hand dropped to her side as she gave voice to a thought.

"Is that why you've always been most attracted to non-Vulcan lovers?"

Had he been human he might have been offended. Vulcan, she wasn't sure how he would react. As it was the words were out of her mouth before she realized she probably shouldn't have given them voice. Her cheeks flushed hard.

"I have heard it said that 'opposites' attract," Sturnack replied without needing to take a beat. "I have taken Vulcan lovers from time to time. Particularly during the Pon Farr," he clarified. "While those times have been...sufficient," he chose the word carefully, "I have not wished to form lasting relationships with them. They're of my own culture...something of which I already know a great deal about. I prefer, instead, to explore my opposite; to find wonder in the unimaginable. My preference for non-Vulcan suitors is a point of great disagreement with my mother," he noted. "Would you care for some wine? A bottle was gifted to me by Vice Admiral Shu for Christmas. I believe it is over 100 years old."

The detail of his answer surprised Jocelyn nearly as much as the fact that he had an answer at all for her offhand question. For the second time that day she found herself speechless, turning to look at him appraisingly for a moment, a small smile and no small amount of curiosity on her face. "I... would love a glass," she commented, turning away from the wall and the IDIC. She was right behind him headed into a small kitchen area when another thought occurred to her. "Your mother..." she said slowly... "How... umm... did she take the news? About us, I mean."

"She is not yet aware," the Vulcan said matter-of-factly, moving deeper into the kitchen and pulling a corkscrew out of a drawer. Sturnack then retrieved two wine glasses from a cabinet and set them down on the counter. "We rarely communicate, my mother and I. And when we do, my...personal life is not a common topic of discussion. We have both agreed that the less she knows of my extra-Vulcan affairs the better. I assume," he noted, "that she will find out about us when the rest of the Alpha Quadrant does: with tomorrow's airing of the interview."

The bottle of wine -- a Christmas bow still attached -- had sat gathering a few days of dust on the counter but was now retrieved, the corkscrew plunging deep into the cork. With an audible pop, Sturnack pulled the wooden stopper from the bottle and poured two glasses of the burgundy liquid. One was handed across to Jocelyn while the Vulcan raised the other in a toasting gesture. "To new beginnings," Sturnack offered, clinking glasses and taking a sip.

Jocelyn accepted the glass gladly, echoing Sturnack's toast softly before taking a sip of her own while she considered what he'd said about his mother. The dark burgundy liquid was dry on her tongue and heavy with dark berries. Swallowing, she held out the glass, swirling the liquid in it and raising her eyebrows at the legs forming on the glass. "That's... a really good wine..." she commented appreciatively.

Both were quiet a moment, whether savoring wine or lost in their own thoughts, it was a comfortable silence. "My parents were surprised," Jocelyn finally said. "A little bit disappointed to find out this way. I think I turned the image of their little girl married with children on its head a bit with the news. They'll recover though. Mom made me promise to bring you home sometime." She glanced up at Sturnack, wishing she was a better judge of his body language, before her eyes returned to her hands on the stem of her glass. "I told them I wasn't sure when that would work, but that I'd ask you."

"It should be noted," Sturnack said, taking another sip of his wine, "that Vulcans and Humans are biologically compatible when it comes to creating life. Our pairing does not automatically mean your parents will be bereft of grandchildren. Unless, of course, you would prefer our copulation to not eventually produce offspring. As for meeting your parents," he sipped yet again, "I would be amenable to becoming acquainted when you feel the time is correct, however awkward such a meeting might be."

Not anticipating her lover's response, Jocelyn had brought her wine to her lips, and had a mouth full of wine when Sturnack, in true Vulcan fashion, commented on the possibility of offspring from their copulation. Forcing herself to swallow the wine, she made a face as it burned and then, realizing how easily that could be misinterpreted, turned wide eyes on the Vulcan.

"Do... umm... is that a thing you've... thought about?" She managed to stammer. The initial shock of finding them talking about whether they might someday consider having children had shifted from intense surprise to a complicated bundle of emotions that made her stomach twist. She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. The temptation to reach out and touch him... to share the torrent of conflicting emotions, was strong, but she didn't know what he'd do with the extremity of them. Instead, she set her glass down and wrapped her arms around herself.

"I believe this conversation is, perhaps," Sturnack's right eyebrow arched, "premature in the typical cycle of human dating practices. However, if you wish to have it now, we certainly can," he nodded, setting his own wine glass down next to Jocelyn's. "I would, ideally, like to create offspring that will continue my family's line and legacy. However, I do have siblings that already have children, so this is not essential to our pairing, Jocelyn. I could, as humans are fond of saying, 'go either way' on this. What about you?" the Vulcan wondered, hands placed placidly atop his knees as he spoke. He appreciated that the conversation might be awkward for the woman but was unsure of how to make it less so. He offered his hand, should she wish to take it.

For a moment, Jocelyn simply looked at him. Not in alarm or with the look of someone who needs to process something, but just... looked. She took in the details of his features--the darkness of his eyes and the fierce sweep of his brows. The way his hair defied some of the Vulcan stylistic norms while somehow also seeming to honor them. She let herself picture them standing like this in a year. In ten. And as quickly as she did so, the twist in her stomach began to unknot. The complicated emotions were still there, but the tension seemed to ease and so she picked up her wine glass and, with a tilt of her head and a small smile suggested, "This conversation may be a sitting down kind of conversation."

The couch in Sturnack's apartment was no where near the same as the couch at the Fortress, but somehow Jocelyn still found herself occupying a spot on the end, kicking off her shoes and tucking her feet up underneath her. She angled her body toward him and, seeing he'd set his hand where she could reach it, she carefully slid her fingers against his palm, lightly tracing her fingertips along the lines of his hand rather than letting her hand rest in his. The connection that had come into being with the dramatic resolution to Pon Farr sparked back into life giving Sturnack a view into the complications of her thinking on this particular topic. Intrigue was there, curiosity paired with a willingness to sate that feeling. And there were spikes of uncertainty and worry--a degree of which seemed to be pointed at how Sturnack might react to her though to what exactly wouldn't have been clear. But underlying all of these was a calm well of affection, anchoring her emotions in trust and the continued pull of what lay between them.

"It's not uncommon for humans to talk about whether or not they want to have children early in a relationship. Maybe not... this... early... but still. It's not uncommon. We've had so much thrown at us, though, that we've hardly had a normal start. And, honestly, I haven't had much time to dream about it yet." She paused there, as a shot of worry ran from her to him. "But even then, it's... very easy... easier than I would have expected... to imagine us together. Together in such a way that children would make sense. And that is... exciting... and terrifying... and... and comforting all at once." Her explanation was halting as she tried to settle on the right words. "I'm an only child. And I would love to have children someday. Maybe two? I don't think a lot of children. Honestly, it's always felt so far off... there's never really been anyone I'd... consider that with... before."

Sturnack allowed the contact even though the emotional connect was like a microphone with the gain turned way higher than it should be. While his own emotional undercurrent flowed like a quiet brook in the woods, Jocelyn's emotions were akin to a thunderstorm overhead. The Vulcan would soon need to teach her how to lessen the intensity of her broadcast but now was not that time. Instead, he nodded as she spoke of her desire to have a child or two but likely no more, feelings of concurrence bubbling beneath the placid surface of his thoughts.

"Our pairing is quite new but," Sturnack began, "I can see the possibilities as well, Jocelyn. While I am not an only child myself," he alluded to his siblings, "I can understand how being such might confer a desire to have multiple children. Should our pairing prove successful," and there was a subtle questioning of that in his emotional spectrum, "I believe we could offer a lot to our children. But perhaps we are putting the proverbial shuttlecraft before the ship?" he asked, his right eyebrow arched.

It was the questioning, subtle as it might have been, that pulled her back to the moment and away from the desire to careen into what ifs that neither of them could truly answer. It reminded her of why she was there. What it was that she had hoped to do while they spent time together. She was quiet for a moment, still tracing his palm, before slowly withdrawing her hand and breaking their connection. The temptation to remaining touching was strong, but she wanted him to hear her and draw his own conclusions before they shared the emotions underpinning everything.

"That seems like as good a reason as any to have the conversation I mentioned earlier," she said. Her tone was quiet and warm, though perhaps a bit uncertain. Without his emotions she was forcing herself to pay attention to body language. It wasn't that Sturnack had no body language so much as it wasn't as clear to her as it would have been if he was human. "Is it ok if we speak about things we... need... from each other now?"

"I believe that would, indeed," Sturnack arched an eyebrow, "prove most prudent. Tell me, Jocelyn," he took another sip of his wine, "what are the things you will require from this relationship? I will do my best to assess my current ability to manifest those things for you," he said, dipping his head with a bit of reverence for the woman who'd done more than just share his bed. She'd become very close to him and, behind Vulcan stoicism, he kept space for her in his heart.

She nodded once, chewing on the corner of her lip as she did, and then again as if psyching herself up for something. "There's really... two... things that stand out to me. The first, I think, you're already aware of. I want to spend time with you. Need to, if we want this to work. To get to know you. In some ways I feel like I know you more intimately than any partner I've ever had before. In others... there's just so much to learn, not just the obvious things about your heritage, but about you. I want to know..." here she faltered, scanning the space as if it would produce the words as she gestured carefully with the hand holding the wine glass. "... what your favorite foods are. And what you look like when you wake up in the morning. And... and... what you do when something doesn't go how you expect."

As Jocelyn began to explain her needs, Sturnack listened attentively. It surprised him that she wanted to know about the mundane aspects of his life. Logically speaking, why did what he chose to eat have bearing on their relationship? Or her feelings about him? The fact that Jocelyn enjoyed wine had little effect on how he thought of her, after all. But then the voice in his head that was Ovrora reminded him that not everyone was Vulcan, even as relaxed a Vulcan as he was himself. If this was something Jocelyn needed, then perhaps it didn't matter if he understood it or not.

"I appreciate you expressing that," Sturnack nodded slowly. "And you have my permission to inquire as to anything you would like to know about me, Jocelyn. Perhaps I will even have questions of my own," he said, falling silent for a few moments in thought. "You mentioned a second request as well?" the Vulcan asked then, eyebrow arched.

While she had felt confident in her first request, the second she felt less confident about. In so many ways what she was going to ask of him felt selfish. He had already made her aware that it was something Vulcans didn't do, and so she struggled with how to ask. "The second," she finally said, "is... affection... I don't mean we have to be affectionate the way that human couples are. I understand that's not what you... want... but... I also can't go without it completely. Affection... preferential affection... is one of the ways we," here she gestured at herself as if she were indicative of the entire human race, "show that we care about someone... romantically." She felt her cheeks flush then as she continued. "It's how we indicate sexual attraction as well, and it comes so natural to humans that without it..." She sighed. "I know it's more complicated for us with this." Both hands went up, one empty and the other pinching the wine glass by its stem,

"My mother raised this concern once," Sturnack admitted. "As you know, I once...fancied," he chose the human expression, "another. When speaking with my mother about pursuing Ovrora, she asked how compatible a companion I would be to someone who is so different from us." He took another sip of his wine, more to give himself a moment to think than to satiate any sense of thirst. "It is, perhaps, unfair to you that I am not more...physical outside of biologically-compelled couplings. I am rather new to pairings with non-Vulcans," he admitted. "And while we are physically intimate with one another, it is also different. Perhaps we could explore something of a middle ground between what you need and what I am conditioned to provide?"

"A middle ground would be amazing," Jocelyn said, relief flooding her reaction in a way that she hadn't anticipated. It clicked in her as it did that she had expected him to say no. That this was something she thought he might not be willing to do and that she had been preparing for him to do so in the way one prepares to be rejected. Awkwardly, with the flow of emotion she felt that relief manifest as her eyes blurred for a moment. She lifted her glass to her lips, sipping the wine slowly and dropping her eyes to her lap, buying time to get the mess of her emotions under control.

"And what about you?" she asked after a moment. "Those were the two biggest things I had. And I promise to be open and come to you if any others arise." She sipped her wine again, quickly this time. "What do you need from me, though? How can I help meet you halfway?"

"I...am unsure," the Vulcan began, sounding a bit at a loss -- a surprising tone for one of his kind. "My relationship experience even amongst my own people has been so limited. I do not believe I even know what my particular needs are," Sturnack commented. "And if I am unable to articulate them for myself, it is an impossible task to communicate them to someone else." He reached forward to take Jocelyn's hand then, intending to allow her to feel the emotional undercurrents he kept buried. Almost immediately, however, he let the touch fall away as the flood of her relief and other emotions assailed him. A slight twinge of his facial features underscored the effect of the touch-telepathic link that had momentarily formed between them; the Vulcan looked almost in pain.

"I do know that our...bond," Sturnack referred to the link by looking down at their almost-touching hands, "is difficult for me. When we touch, the strength and complexity of your emotions is challenging to endure. It is like..." he searched for an analogy she would understand, "it is like trying to fill a glass of water from an open fire hydrant. It is hard for me to stay on my feet with the water blasting, if that makes sense. I wish to provide you with the emotional intimacy you require but I cannot stay standing in the stream for long," he admitted. "I could, perhaps, teach you how to temper your flow...if you wish, of course," Sturnack added.

She felt that sudden jot of connection, the depth of him, come into sharp clarity and fall away just as quickly as he pulled back, and she frowned as he did. This time, though, he was explaining and as she listened understanding--a missing piece to the puzzle of affection and give and take--seemed to fall into place in her head. Eyes widening in understanding she set her wine glass down on a nearby table and pulled her hands into her lap. Although it wasn't meant to be a gesture of separation the move may well have come across as such. Instead, though, she knit her fingers together, fingertips pressing into the backs of her hands one after another in a sort of quiet self-driven reassurance.

"Yes," she said, the word tumbling out of her much in the way she now imagined her emotions must. "I..." she closed her mouth, pausing again to consider her words. "This bond is something extremely... special. I can't imagine that there are many humans who ever get to experience it." She glanced down at her hands, feeling the way her fingers felt against each other and imagining his own fingers in their place. "I... I am always going to feel deeply and I am sure it will be messy, but I feel like I've been granted a gift. Like... like a secret Sturnack decoder... and I want to have that. Want both of us to have that. I want you to feel me and me you, but... but in a way that is good."

She was rambling. She realized it and quickly closed her mouth again, pulling her lips back in-between her teeth in a way that was reminiscent of someone holding back an enthusiastic child. "Please teach me," she said quietly.

Sturnack nodded to this. "I...would like that as well. This bond we share is quite unexpected," the Vulcan explained. "Amongst my own people, touch telepathy and the sharing of thoughts is an accepted -- even desirable -- practice. But it is usually in a controlled setting and done with great forethought and purpose. The strength of our," he gestured placidly to both himself and Jocelyn, "connection when touching comes as a great surprise. But not wholly an unwelcome one. If we can both temper the intensity of your transmitted emotions and help you to read the...subtlety," he chose the word with precision, "of mine, then I believe our endeavors together will be more successful."

Sturnack, too, set aside his wine glass and then raised his right hand in a customary gesture his paramour might recognize from her own familiarity with his people and culture. Forefinger and pinky were poised to press against both the left temple and cheekbone of Jocelyn's face, though he did not press his fingers to them quite yet.

"The teaching process will take time, Jocelyn," Sturnack said calmly. "And before we begin, I will help you to create some temporary barriers that will act as training wheels of sorts." Again, he used a human analogy to help his partner better understand his intent. "These barriers will allow us to touch more freely for a time while we put in the work to help you learn to establish barriers of your own," he explained.

"To do this, I will initiate a mind meld if you are willing," the Vulcan said, no trace of pressure or desire to convince present in his tone: this would be completely Jocelyn's un-influenced choice. "These barriers will only last for a few days, perhaps a week, and will need to be refreshed as we continue to work together on your own control. Do you consent?" Sturnack asked, moving his hand slightly closer into a ready position.

Eyes already bright with her enthusiasm at the prospect of being taught a way forward, Jocelyn's gaze took on a new intensity as the reality of what Sturnack was proposing sunk in. All of the things she'd learned from him to date... the nature of Vulcan romantic relationships, the mating bond, even the night they'd spent appeasing the pon farr and averting the dangers of blood fever... none of these had been known to her before those moments. This, though, was known. She was familiar, at least in principle, with the idea of a mind meld and knew that to do something like this with a human was, like the mating bond, extremely intimate--perhaps in some ways more so.

Eyes searching his face for some kind of clue Jocelyn released a long slow breath and nodded. "I do," she said.

=/\= A Mission Post By =/\=

Fleet Admiral Sturnack
Command-in-Chief of Starfleet

Captain Jocelyn Blake
Press Secretary

 

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