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No More Sorrow

Posted on Sat Nov 11th, 2017 @ 8:15am by Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Staff Warrant Officer Laena ben-Avram
Edited on on Sat Nov 11th, 2017 @ 8:16am

Mission: Mission 0: Everybody Has A Story
Location: USS Vindex
Timeline: 2388

Laena's petite figure stood calmly outside of Akiva's office, a PADD firmly grasped in her hands. She had just pressed her finger to the chime and now awaited the Commander to beckon for her to enter.

Duty always called. Akiva had looked forward to handing the Vindex back over to Claudia for every moment of the hostage crisis, but now it seemed playing catchup would consume his life for the foreseeable future. The number of new additions to the crew was not the least of his encumbering responsibilities.

"Enter," he said without looking up. Depending on who it was and what they wanted, he would handle the matter and send them away without breaking his stride.

The doors opened and Laena stepped in, her footsteps silent. "Good evening, Commander," she said in a soft tone.

"Crewman Laena," Akiva nodded. He noted the PADD in her hand and the diffidence of her body language, then sighed. "What can I do for you?" he asked while setting his own PADD down.

"It's Petty Officer," she corrected, immediately regretting that she did so. "I apologize, sir. I shouldn't have said that."

Akiva cocked his head in irritation, though he soon smiled with nervous energy. This woman was as timid as she was beautiful. And, for once, he did not feel like the one tripping over himself.

"All right--what can I do for you, Petty Officer?"

"I wanted to give you this," she said, taking a few steps forward to set the PADD down on his desk. "It's a transfer request. Deep Space 9 has an opening in their Science Department and I'm hoping to take it."

Akiva balked at the surprise announcement, then reviewed the request. "I don't believe their facilities are a match for ours," Akiva said. "At least, not where your position is concerned. Can I ask why you you wish to transfer?"

"I took this assignment for real world experience but..." Laena's voice trailed off as she looked at the ground. "Maybe this experience was a bit too real."

"So you'd rather live in a box?" Akiva asked. "Stitching together outdated charts that somebody else already compiled?" He stood up from his chair and walked around to the front of his desk.

"I would say experience is the only thing that matters," he continued with forced eye contact. "With our upcoming mission to delve into the heart of unknown territory, your experience would be invaluable."

Laena looked away, but he couldn't stop now.

"We've all come through so much these past weeks." He swallowed the lump in his throat to still his shaky voice. "Gavara was the time to transfer. Our core crew has been bonded together in a way that nobody else will understand. The newcomers will find their place eventually, of course, but... it won't be the same. And they know it." He paused for effect before adding, "... and if you run and hide away at DS9, you will know it too."

"How am I supposed to live with this, though," she said, not looking up. Her bottom lip began to quiver, slightly, "How am I supposed to be ok?"

"Together." The word hung in the air, limp and impotent. When Laena neither spoke nor moved, just stared away from him, Akiva tried again.

"Hey..." How did Claudia do this so easily, he thought to himself. He reached out a trembling hand to uplift Laena's face. When he met her eyes, they shimmered wet with unshed tears. Such fragile beauty made him quake inside, though it also ignited a flame within. He needed to encourage this broken woman, and not just on a professional level. The expectant look of an all but forsaken hope deep within her eyes demanded it of him as a man.

"We will get through this together." The word felt more compelling this time. "I am no stranger to tragedy myself, and I understand the instinct to hide from the world and everyone in it." Maintain eye contact, he told himself. "I spent 20 years within a cocoon until I learned to let people inside. What I found is they are not 'ok' either. That they need me as much as I need them. That only together will we overcome the cruelty of this world."

Rather than calm her, Akiva felt as though he only stirred Laena's emotions even more. He pulled his hand away as though from a stove. "At any rate, that is how I see it. I will pass this along to the captain if you wish, but... I will pray you have a change of heart."

Laena just stared at the man, suddenly feeling unsure of her decision. Her eyes glued to his hand as he pulled it away. The hand that, until a few moments before, was resting softly on her chin. His touch was warm and gentle and she had to admit, she was not afraid of his touch like he was with most people. "Letting people in isn't exactly something I'm good at," she said, her voice shallow and soft.

"It never gets easier," Akiva said. "Not until we make the effort. After a while, you grow old, alone, and..." He trailed off, suddenly feeling vulnerable and exposed.

"I don't want that," she said, suddenly feeling the need to defend herself. "I just..." She looked away again, taking a deep breath. "Sometimes I just get frightened and people touching me freaks me out and so sometimes solitude just...makes it easier to handle."

"I apologize," Akiva said. "I normally don't... and... it won't happen again." He pressed his hands against his legs and wished for pockets to hide them.

"No." She looked at the man, "Your touch was...calming, actually." A weak smile pulled at the woman's face.

Warmth kindled within Akiva's chest and fluttered outward to his... extremities. "Oh." He gulped. "I'm glad I could help. If there's anything else I can do for you... or to help you decide what to do... I mean, what you want... I mean... where you want to be. Oy vey."

Akiva turned away to hide his flushed face. It had been a long time since he had lost his composure so completely with a woman.

Laena leaned forward and gently pulled the PADD off of the man's desk, "Thank you for the talk," she said as she turned to leave.

"You've changed your mind, then?" Akiva asked, barely turning to face her.

"I'll give it more thought," she simply said.

"Ah. Very well." Akiva shuffled back around to his desk and seated himself. It was the closest he could do to hide from the woman other than curling up in the corner in a fetal position. "Please let me know what you decide." There. He dared not say anything other than that. Any further offer to help would seem perfunctory at best and lecherous at worst, at least to his embarrassed mind.

"Aye, sir," the woman said. "Perhaps, next time, I should send a message rather than see you in person?"

Akiva gulped. "If you prefer." He forced himself to look up from her feet to her face. Unfortunately he glanced over everything in between. Oy vey, why did he do that?

"I will be here if you need me."

In silence, Laena walked out of the room.

Akiva slammed his head on his desk. "Mishegas."

Laena laid on her bed, staring at the PADD in her hands. The words "Transfer Request" splashed across the top of the document, the underlying sentences riddled with her deep regret for leaving the Vindex and asking to join Deep Space 9. She scrolled through the pages, reading what she wrote. Maybe Akiva was right? Maybe she was hiding and shouldn't?"

She got up from the bed and walked through her quarters. Her eyes dancing around the room until they fell on her desk where her communication screen sat. It was only the day before she had talked to Paxi. A smile grazed her face as she thought about him, someone she hadn't talked to in months. But it was time to let that go. He had moved on and perhaps it was time for Laena to do the same.

She looked at the PADD again, her finger tapping on the back of the casing. A smile crept over her face and she quickly walked out of her room.

Akiva felt bushed. It had been a long day topped off by a fun party. That meant, of course, that he was dead to the world. Social functions had always been difficult affairs, though this crew had done more to bring him out of his shell than any other assignment. The rigors of command likely catalyzed his growth, but truth be told he had grown fond of his fellow crew.

The quarters felt quiet without Biynah creeping about. She remained at her sister's for a sleepover, which left him alone for the night. Perhaps that was for the best, as the fermented beverages left his head a little befuddled. After quick shower and a bite of flatbread to chase his drinks, his tips thoughts turned toward bed.

That was when the door chimed. Who could it be at this hour? Akiva wrapped himself in his linen robe and called out, "Who is it?"

"Petty Officer Laena," came a voice through the door.

Akiva jumped at the soft voice. They had spoken mere hours ago about a transfer, and she had promised to think it over. He was hardly dressed to conduct formal business, but perhaps Laena simply wished to withdraw her earlier statement.

"Enter," he said as he tightened his bathrobe.

Laena walked through the doors but immediately turned around, "I'm so sorry, Commander."

"No, no, it's all right," Akiva said apologetically. "I was just preparing for bed, and I didn't want to leave you waiting if you were only going to be a moment."

"This won't take long," she said, turning around. "I just wanted to say thank you for talking to me earlier. You're right, I can't let what happened hold me back. I have to find a way to move on with my life. For bigger and better things."

Akiva gave her a knowing smile. "I am very happy to hear that," he said. "We all have to find our way, but we are stronger together."

"Can I ask you something?" Laena asked, taking a few steps towards the man.

"Of course," Akiva said. His brow turned in concern. Something appeared the matter with Laena, enough to overcome her typical reticence.

Laena stopped, a few feet from the man, "Earlier today it seemed like you were...nervous in my presence. Is there a reason?"

"I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety," Akiva said. "It... hampers me... socially."

"That's it?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"My relationships suffer from... my condition." Akiva's eyes turned erratic, darting in every direction except for Laena. "If I offended you, I apologize. I've been in counseling for it and I've seen improvement, but it's just my cross to bear."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Laena said. "I think I must have misunderstood something." She shook her head and turned, "I apologize, Commander."

"Wait... what do you mean?" Akiva asked. His pulse quickened, making him reach out for her hand by reflex. He pulled away when he realized what he had done. "I'm sorry, I know you don't like to be touched. I just... I don't know what to think at this moment, and that's a... an uncomfortable feeling." He closed his eyes and breathed in and out. When he reopened them, he felt less anxiety, though something else had taken its place. "Why would you feel the need to apologize?"

Laena looked back at the man, her eyes following his outstretched hand, up his arm and finally to his face. Without a word, she reached forward and took the man's hand in hers. "You don't make me uncomfortable," she simply stated.

At first he smiled at his successful social interaction, though the look in her eyes told a different story. Akiva gulped as he realized he was on the threshold of an entirely different league of relationship.

"I am... glad to hear that." His breathing turned shallow and fervid. Something very much like desire swelled within him. "Very glad."

The young woman just looked at the man, "Can you be upfront with me?" she asked.

"I will." Akiva stared at her, almost forgetting their hands were held together. The painful longing in her eyes almost begged him to give comfort. What's more is they made him feel empowered as though he actually could. "I don't... this feeling... it's new to me."

"Alright," she said, nodding at what he said. "I'll be honest, I'm not..." she sighed, not sure what to say. "Can we sit?"

"Please." Akiva gestured to the sofa opposite his dining area. He allowed her to sit before seating himself. "Permission to speak freely," he said with a half smile.

Laena took a seat, pulling the sleeves of her jacket over her hands. "I've had a lot happen in my past," she said. "And maybe someday I'll tell you. But my past has made me a bit nervous to open up to people. To be emotionally raw in front of someone can be scary. Intimacy and physical touch is something that I have to ease myself into, and I've only been able to do it with one other person." She took a deep breath and smiled. It felt good to open up to the man.

"I've never been." Akiva blinked repeatedly at his own admission. Now that it was out, he couldn't take it back. He looked away from Laena in humiliation only to lay eyes on his bathrobe. Unable to speak, to run, or to even move, he simply held his eyes closed fast and tried not to cry at his own pathetic inadequacy.

Laena placed a hand on the man's cheek, pulling his face back to look at hers, "Why would you be ashamed of that?" she asked. "There are days I wish I had never."

"Because I can't." Akiva's face folded into teary sobs. "I just can't."

"It's ok," Laena said, pulling his head to her chest and holding it gently. She rubbed his back as she rested her head on his. "Let it out," she said, softly. She took a deep breath, breathing in the man's clean scent from his hair.

"He's gone! My brother, my family, everybody is gone!" Akiva smothered his tears in Laena's embrace. "I lose everything I love... I nearly lost Biynah... and I... I..." His breathing quickened nearly to the point of hyperventilation. He coughed deeply, but refused to pull his face away from her bodily warmth. "I can't lose anybody else. I can't. And... and... I can't go home."

Laena didn't move, just continued to hold the man. "Let it all out," she said. While she wasn't expecting for this outcome, but oddly, she didn't feel uncomfortable or put out. She was actually kind of glad the man felt comfortable enough to talk to her.

Breathing came easier in a moment's time. Akiva bit his lip to still his trembling mouth. He didn't want to ever pull away. But the voice of duty, his ever living conscience, told him he must. His eyes and face felt puffy, but he felt alive for the first time. Up until that moment, he felt like an observer or passenger to his own life. Now, as he pulled his head from Laena's embrace just enough to look her in the face, he felt free.

"Thank you," he whispered to her, eye to eye and nose to nose. Her eyes shined with sympathy. And her lips called to his before he could stop himself. Their flesh-warm softness merged against his in a golden instant that stretched timeless. When their lips parted, Akiva seized up and threw himself to the other end of the sofa.

"Ha'Shem b'Shamayim, but I should not have done that." He rubbed his hands over his face, muttering, "Fool that I am... zine beh-sechel."

Laena sat there, slightly stunned. Her fingers went to her lips, instinctively, brushing over the soft flesh that was suddenly missing his lips. "I didn't mind," she said, suddenly realizing how weird that sounded. "What I mean is...I liked it."

"Still... I... protocol... reg... regulations." Akiva bent over with his head to his knees, hands folded over his crown. "I can't believe--" He suddenly stopped. His head slowly turned so he could take in Laena with a single eye.
"Wait. You liked it?"

A smile graced the woman's face as she slid closer to the man. "I'm not going to force you to do anything, and I would hope that you would never do the same to me." She pulled a leg under her, allowing her to sit just a bit taller and ran a hand over the man's shoulder, glad for the touch. "But I would be lying if I said that I wasn't, at least, intrigued by...whatever this is." She removed her hand and placed them in her lap, suddenly feeling very vulnerable and concerned.

The feel of Laena's caress on his shoulder felt like ice on a burn. Akiva closed his eyes again, savoring the touch. He had never felt so close to anyone. When her hand lifted, a mild groan escaped his throat.
"Laena..." Akiva didn't fully know exactly what he would be asking, but part of him insisted it was wrong. He ignored it. "I don't want you to stop."

Laena continued to sit there, her hands in her lap. "Com- Akiva, I can't." She took a deep breath, swallowing hard. "I just need you to trust me that things take time. I'm not the kind of person who rushes a situation, and I hope you can understand that."

"Oy vey." Akiva gulped, then stood up and paced, bathrobe and all. "I just meant the massage." He began compulsively scratching his neckline and dry-washing his hands. "I never meant... I mean, it would be lovely... you're lovely... and... but... no. Well, maybe... not now. Just... Mesheggener that I am."
He turned away from Laena.
"You should go. I appreciate your being there for me. I won't forget it. But... oh Ha'Shem help me."

Laena stood, walking over to where the man stood. "Of course," she said, placing a hand on his arm. "I'll leave. Hopefully we both sleep well. And maybe we can talk more soon?"

When Akiva turned to face her one last time, he wore a look of bashful shame and hope.
"I think I'd like that. Sleep well, Laena."

Laena raised herself up on her tippy toes and gave the man a kiss on his cheek, "You too, Akiva," she said before turning and walking out of his quarters.

As she walked down the corridor towards the turbolift, she glanced behind her, looking at the man who stood in the door, watching her leave. Her smile grew larger as she turned forward again, biting her lower lip in glee. It had been a long time since she'd had the feelings that were boiling inside of her. Excitement for what happened, safety in his presence and hope for the possible future. She would sleep without fear, without the old nightmares coming to haunt her.


Tonight, Laena would sleep on clouds.


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