MAIN LIFT, I.H.S. VAXXAR
Sass heard Kel-Paten’s hard bootsteps come up behind her just as the lift doors opened.
"You’re off duty until I tell you otherwise, Sebastian," he said as they stepped inside.
"Ah. And who died and made you C.M.O.?"
"If I see you on the Bridge any time today I will forcibly carry you back to your quarters."
Could be interesting, Sass noted. Then: Naah.
"You don’t have to keep looking at me," she told him after the lift doors closed. "I’m not going to keel over on you again."
"I should have realized you weren’t well yesterday."
"You shouldn’t have realized anything. You can’t keep track of all four hundred fifty of us on board. That’s Eden’s job. If anything, I should’ve checked in with her earlier when I didn’t feel well." Those letters. Those damn letters and the way he’d looked at her when he’d walked into Sickbay. It made her stomach tense and she knew it was guilt knocking at her conscience’s back door. He’d thought she was dying. Cal Monterro had hinted how miserable Kel-Paten had looked.
"All the more reason you are not to be on active duty today."
"There’s been... a lot of stress accompanying this transtion, with the new Alliance," he said, ignoring the daggers she visually flung at him. "We’ve only this Serafino situation to wrap up right now and when that’s finished, well I think you might want to take some time off."
Oh no. Oh no. This wasn’t heading where she thought it was heading. Not now. Not so soon! "I really don’t think---"
"Perhaps just a couple of days. Some light R & R ." He wasn’t looking at her, but watching the digital deck numbers flash on the wall of the lift.
No. No, Sass pleaded. Please don’t mention T’Garis. Please. I can’t handle this right now!
"Have you ever been to T’Garis?" he asked just as the lift doors pinged.
She stepped out onto the Deck 2 Corridor. "No, I’ve never been to T’Garis," she said through clenched teeth. "You wouldn’t let me, remember? Something about a little inconvenient war going on. Damn tough to bust through the neutral zone with the Vax on my tail all the time."
She lay her hand against the door scanner. "But," she continued brightly as the door slid into the wall, "I’ll probably get there sometime. I know A.T. wants to go. I’ll mention it next time I talk to her." She nodded at him. "I’ll be in my office after lunch. Not on the bridge, Admiral. In my office." And she hit the manual override on the inside of the door frame, closing the door in his face.
From his position on the back of her couch, Tank perked up his fluffy ears and murrupped several times.
"Don’t ask, fidget, you don’t want to know," she told him, then stripped off her jacket and fell promptly asleep on her bed.
then same chapter, a few pages later...
BRIDGE, I.H.S. VAXXAR
Brynar Kel-Paten sat in the command chair, one elbow on the armrest, his chin in his hand and watched, without watching, the movement of his senior officers at their stations. No one spoke to him, which was just as well. His mind was on other things.
She thought he still doubted her allegiance to the Alliance, because she’d known Serafino years ago, when she was a card dealer at a nighthouse of questionable repute. Queenies. He’d never been there, but he’d been to the higher-priced versions the Empire had to offer. That Sass knew more about a darker side, a very much less legal side, of life, he had no doubt.
That that was also what created an ease between Sass and Serafino was also a logical conclusion. They’d spent their formative years in similar circumstances.
But Kel-Paten was afraid there might be more than just that. Everything about Jace Serafino when he was around Sass-- the way he moved with a controlled grace; the way he talked as if every word were intimate; the way he looked at her with anticipation-- everything said something more was going on.
But what it was he couldn’t prove, yet. Other than the one thing he did know was that Serafino would, given the chance, strip Kel-Paten of whatever he valued, whatever he held dear.
Because he’d been the one who had found out about Serafino’s sister. And he’d been the one who had relayed that same information to the Defense Minister, all the while uncomfortably knowing that the young woman and her son were innocent bystanders.
He wanted very much to believe that they had been taken into protective custody and were safely relocated.
But he’d never been able to prove that.
And Serafino had never mentioned that. But he knew; he knew Serafino knew he had been the one to find his sister.
And he also knew Serafino would stop at nothing to get revenge.