Neutral Zone Neutrality
Location: Deck 8, Crew Quarters
Timeline: 2396 - en route to the Aldeberan Nebula
While the U.S.S. Hera was warping its way through Romulan space towards the Aldeberan Nebula with hours to go, much of the crew were on proverbial pins and needles waiting. The bridge crew was on a tight rotation to keep everyone fresh so that the ship could react in an instant if a threat arose, and for the first time, that included the ship’s civilian Intelligence Operative, Jaeih Dox.
The elder Rihannsu woman had been assigned bridge duty for the expected conflict, but that was predicted to be approximately eight hours away when they reached the nebula. So for now, the anxious woman could only wait. Wait, and babysit.
In her overly spacious cabin on Deck 8, Jaieh was pacing back and forth rocking the tiny baby Moira in her arms. The child of the Hera’s Captain, Enalia Telvan and her wife Maica, Moira was also freshly named as Jaeih’s Goddaughter and it was a responsibility the former spy took very seriously. But it was also atrocious timing.
The was research to be done and intel sweeps to perform. Or, in the case of the hyper through Intel asset, be re-done and re-performed. In truth, she had the time to help the Captain at the moment, but she was concerned. The Hera was purposefully acting as bait to lead the Tal’Shiar Commander Dalia Rendal away from the ship with Commander Paris, Mister Sonak, Jaeih’s bond-sister Az’Prel and her daughter Mnhei’sahe. The ship on its way to a hidden colony of reunificationists where her daughter had been tasked with aiding to bring their two races together again. As such, Jaeih was a wreck and the baby knew it, fussing in her arms and being finicky with her bottle.
“Oh really? Now you’re not hungry? Well, then you don’t need this, do you?” Gently, Jaeih took the bottle away with a sarcastically stern expression, and as she did she rolled her eyes and sighed… at herself.
“Really, Jaeih? You’re playing power games with an infant?” And as she spoke, Moira’s dark eyes went wide, her lips began to quiver and she reached for the bottle and began to cry.
“Oh, for Al’thindor’s sake. You’re fighting with a baby and you’re losing! Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” She gave the bottle back to the spotted, green baby who immediately began sucking again and stopped crying. “There you go, my little a'rhea. Your Theirr’anov is sorry. Yes, she is.”
Referring to Moira as her ‘dear heart’ and herself as the child’s ‘Godmother’ in her own native Rihan, she smirked lightly and muttered. “That’s right, no godchild of mine isn’t going to know a good, proper few languages.”
Continuing to pace in her drab, unappointed quarters, Jaeih looked around and scowled. And realizing that she wasn’t alone in her concerns, she decided to be a nosey Mother-In-Law. If she was this nervous, Mnhei’sahe’s pregnant wife, Ensign Mona Gonadie had to be an absolute wreck. So, grabbing Moira’s diaper bag, she left her quarters and made her way down the corridor to Mnhei’sahe and Mona’s shared chamber. Pressing the entry button that she had the entry code to, the door wooshed open and Jaeih leaned in. “Mona, dear. It’s Jaeih. Are you in here?”
While Mona was normally unflappably optimistic, the new influx of emotions and hormones in her system, coupled with once more being separated from her bond-mate so soon after the kidnapping and the Starfleet interrogations, she was 'on-edge' to say the least. Hence she was sitting in one of the nested chairs the couple had recently gotten so she could be more comfortable during the pregnancy, rocking back and forth, humming agitatedly when Jaeih opened the door.
"I am. I'm... Yeah, I'm here." As Mona spoke, her feathers all raised up on end and she had to ruffle herself to get them to settle back down. "Yeah, sorry, is there something I can help with?"
Taking in all the visual cues combined with the aural cues such as Mona's slight stammer and the tone of her voice, the Intel operative in Jaeih immediately informed the mother-in-law in her of the situation. "Frankly, yes. I'm having a bit of a hard time getting Moira here to settle down and though you might be able to help. You're quite soothing to Miss O'Dell and Miss Gavarus's precious little Minnie and I was hoping that nigh-magical effect might be helpful here."
It was a partial lie, as Jaeih had Moira well under control and she was there specifically to check on her fragile daughter-in-law, but she thought that distraction might help Mona. AND she wanted to see exactly how out of sorts Mona was by testing the living lie detector's focus in the moment.
Completely missing the partial lie, Mona ruffled her feathers again and smoothed them out before nodding consent. "I think I can do that. Maybe mine will settle down for a few as well."
The master spy kept the concern off her face with all the skill her job often required as she brought the tiny green bundle over to the very pregnant Miradonian and gently handed Moira off. Since Mona hadn't caught the lie, Jaeih let it ride hoping that focusing on Moira would relax Mona enough to help.
As she did, the tiny tot almost immediately smiled. Under normal circumstances, Mona seemed to almost give off a calming energy that Jaeih chalked up to the Miradonian's unique nature. But now pregnant with three babies that seemed to have not only Mona's natural empathy, but their Rihannsu other mother's natural mental talent, and that effect was almost now measurable. There was an audible thrumming that Jaeih could be sure, but she suspected came as much from those three grandchildren in Mona's belly as Mona herself.
Without asking, or being asked, Jaeih went into the kitchen and began preparing a pot of Mona's favorite tea. A calming Miradonian blend that Jaeih herself didn't care for but Jaeih wasn't the concern here. As she did, the woman who found herself with a previously undiscovered maternal streak talked calmly. "She will be fine. She had Commander Paris, my Az'Prel and Commander Sonak to support her. She will succeed and she will return unscathed. Of that, I have no doubt."
Returning with a cup of tea for Mona that she placed on the table in front of the brilliantly plumed woman, Jaeih sat in the normal chair to her side and placed her hand on Mona's upper arm. "And she has you. That energy from your bond that she says is ever-present in her. That gives her an impossible strength. And you have that from her as well, correct?"
The brightly plumed aviatrix nodded, finally calming down as she fed Moira and enjoyed at least the aroma of the tea near her. "Yeah, our minds are as one because of that. I know she's safe. Stressed, but safe." Then she realized something about what her mother-in-law had said and she slowly looked over at the Rihannsu woman curiously. "Wait... My Az'Prel? That's odd wording for a bond sister. Are you two..."
Suddenly, Jaeih blushed a bright green as she just now realized her verbal slip. One she had not intended to make, unlike her other comments so far. "Uh... well. Lying now will avail me naught, I suppose."
The elder Rihannsu woman sat forward, fidgeting slightly with body language she shared with her daughter that Mona instantly recognized. "I... do not know. My feelings are... confusing. And they are kept to myself as of now, and I suppose now, with you. But... when we were on ch'Rihan and I saw Enalia in disguise, there to rescue Mnhei'sahe, I was elated. My faith in our Captain bolstered, as you would well imagine."
Looking over, Mona was meeting her gaze with those piercingly deep amber eyes that could see through any subterfuge if they were focused on it as such and Jaeih sighed, scrunching her lips up awkwardly. Mona couldn't help but smile at the many ways in which mother and daughter shared the same mannerisms.
Continuing, Jaeih looked back ad Mona deeply, "But when my Scorpion crashed on that landing pad, and Az'Prel used a centurion's head as a stepping stone to rush to my side and help me out of the cockpit, I felt something... different. Something I hadn't felt since... since Mnhei'sahe's late father. My heart swelled in my side."
Then Jaeih's eyes narrowed and she mock-scowled, "She does not know this."
"Oh, of course not," Mona replied, shaking her head lightly. "She's Vulcan and dealing with her own emotions and logic. I'm sure she's missed the signs and has no feelings for you other than that of a sister." Mona paused a moment before asking a loaded question. "So which one of you asked to be sisters first?"
"I've no idea her feelings, and I can well control my own. It's... I suppose I am more relaxed around you and I let the guard slip a bit." Jaeih allowed the hint of a smile to grace her usually stern mask. As she did, she leaned over and gently took the resting Moira, who had fallen fast asleep in Mona's arms.
"Here. Have some tea, my dear." Jaeih said quietly. "I suppose I said so first during that horrible business with Cleopatra Mudd. It was reciprocated rather immediately and with, what I felt, was emotion behind it. If all we ever are are sisters, that will be enough. I would put myself upon a blade for that woman, Mona. As much as I would for Mnhei'sahe or you."
As Mona sipped at her tea, she thrummed a bit louder, enjoying the distinct oils of the bark and leaves. "I've seen how she looks at you. You make her question her logic. How about... You ask her to join you on the holodeck? For say... A hot springs visit?"
"Well, that's a bit... forward. In truth, I... I don't know how comfortable I am with my own feelings right now." Jaeih fidgeted as she got up to replicate herself a coffee. "Besides, between Enalia placing such trust in me with little Moira and your three little ones on the way, to say nothing with my duties here on the ship, I'm sure I have enough on my proverbial plate than trying to deal with such foolishness."
Taking a sip of the fresh, hot brew, Jaeih paced slightly as she was wont to do when nervous and she was clearly nervous about this topic and was transparently trying to dismiss it, rather badly. "And besides... Mnhei'sahe didn't ask me to keep an on you to talk about my nonsense. Not that she needed to, mind you. But nevertheless, how are you holding up, my dear?"
"Poorly. I need a distraction and your love life is perfect for it," Mona replied with a sour look. "I'm relieved of duty until the chicks arrive and that leaves me with more time than I know what to do with. On top of that, I'm starting to molt. One thing Miradonians haven't evolved out of is molting for the nest, so there's that to worry about... Feathers are going to be all over the ship..."
"I suppose that explains the... floof." Jaeih said, bringing her hands up to her head and wiggling her fingers slightly. "And you have... five months to go, still? Well, you can still work on your designs and inventions, I imagine. And your quarters! This chamber is fine for you and Mnhei'sahe, but it will become far too crowded rather quickly. Will you have to be planning for that, soon?"
The questions were asked quickly and with a bit more emphasis than normal, as the elder Rihannsu woman was clearly trying to change the subject off of her confused feelings for the Vulcan woman she had clearly become quite attached to.
"Yeah, five months, or so the doctor says," Mona replied, batting her belly softly. "And they should be able to fly within a month after that. And talking a few months after that."
"I suppose we shall see about that. Rihannsu bones are denser than not. Still..." Jaeih allowed a smile to creep across her face as she looked down at little Moira, sleeping in her arms, "Judging from their parents, they will, no doubt, be positively wonderful regardless. And... you can feel them, as you do Mnhei'sahe?"
Mona nodded solemnly as she rocked back in her nested chair slightly. "Constantly. It's like a tiny chorus in my head at all times. When they come out, Miradonian chicks understand a vast array of emotional issues too, so don't be surprised if they're trying to counsel you on the meaning of their favorite food and why it's so delicious or something like that. And the whole lie detection thing? You're safe until puberty. Speaking of which... I need to get some holonovels for them..."
The usually stoic intel operative let out a light chuckle, which caused the baby in her arms to stir slightly. Stifling it quickly, Jaeih shook her head lightly with a smile and a raised eyebrow. "Holonovels? Do you think they'll have your visual acuity? Won't they see right through holograms as you can?"
"Half Rihannsu," the brightly plumed avian replied, waggling one finger. "Their genes read that they'll have my Minay's eyes so they won't have my visual acuity until puberty at the earliest. Hence, no proper lie detection and no hologram detection right off. And you're right about their bones, but so far they're growing hollow, thankfully. Otherwise, I'd be an extra thirty kilos."
"Thank goodness for hollow favors, then." Jaeih chuckled. "Mnhei'sahe was like carting around a piece of bulkhead for thirteen months."
"Still, that's somewhat fascinating, actually. By and large, my people and our Vulcan brethren are notorious for... aggressively dominant genes whenever we crossbreed." Jaeih said with a quizzical expression. "Then again, these three darlings may be the very first of their kind in all the universe, to my knowledge."
Then, the elder Rihannsu woman got up and gently placed the sleeping Moira in the second nest-chair next to Mona that acted as a near perfect cradle. And as she did, she looked down and kneeled before her daughter-in-law. Looking over at those deep amber eyes of Mona's, Jaeih held a hand out and raised her eyebrows slightly for permission. With a smile and a nod, Mona happily agreed.
Placing her hand on the pregnant Miradonian's belly, Jaeih was thoughtful and smiled. Warm smiles were something that still seemed almost odd on the usually inscrutable woman's trained face, but came easier more and more. "There's an irony there, I suppose. That my people once worshiped the great firebird Al'thindor. We adorned its image on our ships. We were 'those who flew under the Raptor's wings.' Half our language evokes a connection to the avian. Now, through you two, it is as if fate stepped in to make that ancient connection real."
"And Miradonian religion is full of similar symbology, from the Moon Goddess Minay, which we saw the blessings of at our bonding ceremony, all the way to the mythos of how the stars came to be in the sky - Altha'donar, the peacock who flew too close to the sun because of the Trickster, Nicoo'la and whose ashes were scattered across the night sky by the wise old bird Goo'lga."
"Then again, avians are the dominant form of life on my world. If something ridiculous were dominant, like sea monkeys... Who knows what kind of mythos we'd have. We'd probably worship the sun instead of the moon or something." Mona chuckled softly as she tenderly moved Jaeih's hands around so the chicks could each get a chance to thrum at her directly and get in some bonding time.
Listening, Jaeih logged all the names and stories away in her mind like a good intel operative, pausing to appreciate the metaphorical allegories and the bizarre similarities that seemed to link her people and those of Mona's. But in the moment, she instead concentrated on that unique and soothing hum that came from Mona's belly. From her grandchildren.
Three distinct hums she could feel through the bones another hand that put a tingle down the elder woman's spine. She lacked her daughter's psionic sensitivity, but could feel the thrumming all the same and she felt emotion well up in her at the idea. "Are they... aware that I'm... of me?"
"Mmhm..." Mona smiled wide as she moved Jaeih's hands a bit more. "And they already know you as Gran'mama and know you'll spoil them rotten. They're also looking forward to playing with Minnie and Moira already."
At that, the usually cynical woman was taken aback as her eyes went wide for a moment. "Really? They're that aware already. Amazing."
Then the elder Rihannsu let her expression settle into a wry grin as she leaned in close to Mona's belly and mock-whispered, "Very well then, a’rheasu..." using the Rihan term of endearment for 'dear heart's', "I will also accept 'Hu'nanov' or 'Nonala'. And I shall shower you with Osal twists whatever your mothers say you cannot have." she added, referring to the words for 'grandmother' in Rihan and Miradonian, respectively.
The thrumming from the gravid avian's belly audibly increased at the promise of sweets and Mona couldn't help but chuckle. "See? They know you already."
Stifling a louder laugh for the benefit of the sleeping Moira, Jaeih straightened back up into a stand and looked down at what she would have thought impossible just a year ago. A daughter-in-law, pregnant with three children, all that she would happily die for. But more, that she wanted more than ever to live for and do right by. The smile on her face was warm and sincere as she took a breath.
"It's getting late, arham’paenhe." Jaeih said, calling Mona the Rihan term for 'my daughter' as she held out her hands, "I swore that I would look after you until your wife returns, and I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't get you AND that little one there off to bed."
"Well, I won't argue with you on that," Mona replied as she took Jaeih's hands and let her help her out of her chair. "Thank you. Just be sure to take care of yourself as well, ok?"
In spite of her added weight with the little ones, Jaeih pulled Mona up with little fuss and a warm smile. "I will, my dear. I have a great many reasons to be my best for, after all."