Heart and Soul
Location: Crew Quarters, Deck 8
Standing in the dimly lit nursery of her expanded family crew quarters, Lieutenant Commander Mnhei’sahe Dox watched her children sleep.
In the large, rounded nest-like crib, all three girls slept clustered tightly together. Golden feathered Amihan had a slightly melodious little snore that resonated with the rhythmic thrumming all three made in unison. Little blue and green plumed Tala was curled up in a ball, nuzzled up to her golden sister, with her tiny hand wrapped around Ami’s arm. Hlai’vana, with her head of black and red feathers, draped herself halfway across the other two, and occasionally let out a horky snore that made their Romulan mother smile lightly.
It was amazing to Mnhei’sahe just how much they looked like their birth mother. Her Miradonian bond-mate, Mona Gonadie. As a matter of generally accepted fact, when a Vulcan or a Romulan mated with another species, what you tended to end up with, was almost exclusively very Vulcan or Romulan children. Their DNA was considered quite pervasive in pairings, tending to biologically dominate any children produced. But not here.
Here, all three children had lighter bones. Varying degrees of feather coverage instead of hair, and pronounced, Avian features with angled, almond-shaped eyes and pronounced, curved in noses like Mona. Their blood was green and their ears were pointed like Mnhei’sahe’s, but that was it as far as visible cues went. In truth, they almost looked like physical representations of some of the bird-themed gods of Romulus’s ancient past. Tiny little Al’thindor’s, each one.
Perhaps that was due to the blessings the goddess Hera bestowed upon them. Perhaps Miradonian DNA was one of the rare few that was MORE aggressive than Romulan. But Mnhei’sahe didn’t care. As she watched them slumber, they were the single most beautiful, perfect things she had ever seen. And somehow, they were hers.
That thought put a shot through her stomach that tightened the knot that had been tensing her up since oh three-thirty hours that morning. They might be Miradonian, but they were also Romulan. They were HER children, which made them a part of house Rul within the Star Empire. And the house Rul was what occupied her thoughts for most of the day.
That day began with a summons to speak with Mnhei’sahe’s grandmother that arrived at oh three-thirty hours in the morning. And the holographic call itself prompted by the Hera’s most recent mission that left them collaborating with several Romulan ships, to escape a strange nether realm called the Undrheim, was only an hour after that. So with only a few hours of sleep, the exhausted pilot, along with her Captain and First Officer, was forced to debate with the grandam of the Romulan Senate over the fate of those Romulans.
And eventually, her own fate.
As the holographic conversation ended, an official request for a physical audience had been made. An audience for Mnhei’sahe herself, as the chosen voice of her Grandmother in discussions with Romulan reunification colonies. An audience that the conflicted Romulan pilot knew was inevitable and had been dreading. Now, there was no longer any waiting or wondering. The official request was out there and had to be addressed.
Now, the decision was going to be put to the Admirals and Diplomats to ponder and discuss at Starfleet and all Dox could do was wait and see what others had to say about her own future.
But, as Mnhei’sahe stepped quietly out of the sleeping children’s chamber and headed back to the main living area of her shared family quarters, she knew that she had a more important family member that she had to talk to about all of it. Her wife and bond-mate, Mona.
Due to her unusual schedule during the day, she had spent most of that day dealing with this proverbial bombshell while Ensign Jessica MacNielle took care of her department. After the meeting, she talked with her mother as she was an expert on not just Verelan t’Rul, but on Romulan Politics. Then she spent a few hours preparing her official report to the Captain. Having now made that report, she had been relieved of duty for the day a little earlier than usual to allow her to catch up on her much-needed rest.
That meant she made it back to their shared quarters a good bit earlier than Mona, who had been on duty in her R&D Department all day, with very limited information about what had been going on with her wife. So Mnhei’sahe was expecting an emotional meeting once Mona got home.
And, as the red-headed Romulan pilot prepared a pot of Miradonian Sunset Tea made with the cova root they had brought back with them that she had been learning how to brew on their stovetop, instead of the replicator, the door to their quarters wooshed open only two minutes after the end of Mona’s shift. Clearly, the brilliantly plumed, avian inventor had made all haste in getting home.
With a flutter of feathers, Mona rushed to Dox's side and wrapped her arms around her. "I got home as quickly as I could. Sorry I didn't take off from work early, but I wanted to make sure the work on Daycare One was on schedule. After all, if what Jaeih says does come to pass..."
"No, no. You didn't need to take off early. It's fine. I'm okay." Mnhei'sahe replied. But the pure fact that they were touching meant that even without her enhanced senses to tell her that her wife was anything but fine, their empathic bond filled Mona in.
At that exact moment, while her wife's presence was calming her turbulent emotions, Mnhei'sahe was still a swirling mass of conflicting feelings and dark thoughts. The specifics of those thoughts weren't coming through clearly as Mnhei'sahe was subconsciously closing herself off, but the feelings, which Mona had been able to feel from a system away while she was pregnant, were still clear to her through their deep bond.
"I don't need my eyes or our bond to know when you're lying, my Minay," the brightly plumed avian replied as she squeezed Dox tighter and did her best to fill her wife with as much positive energy as she could. "I know it's not fine and I know you're not ok. My ears are nowhere near as good as yours and even I can hear that in your voice."
She then released the hug enough to be able to look into her lover's eyes. "But we'll get through it together, ok? We're family. We can do anything together."
"I know... I do." Mnhei'sahe said, letting out a sigh that came along with a massive release of tension in her muscles, as she finally let her grip on the tension she had been feeling all day loosen slightly. 'But... I don't know what to do about... everything that's happened."
Running a finger across Mona's brilliant, multicolored feathers on the side of her bond-mates head, Mnhei'sahe spoke gently. "So... I assumed my mother would tell you something of what's been going on. What did she say?"
"She told me that you've been asked to go to ch'Rihan and that you two went over the call several more times together. I pulled up the call on one of my modified emitters so I could see her properly and looked over it as well..." Mona sheepishly admitted, her vibrant eyes falling slightly as she ran a hand through the plumage over one of her ear holes in a similar fashion to Mnhei'sahe. "And either she's the smoothest liar in the universe... Or everything she said was true."
"Lies only exist where there is doubt." Mnhei'sahe said as she stepped over to pour the tea that she hoped she had brewed properly. Bringing a cup back to Mona, her shoulders slumped a bit as they made their way to the seating area. She always appreciated that Mona almost never said 'Romulus' or 'Romulan', knowing that those words still made her a bit uncomfortable. As such, Mona almost exclusively used the planet's native name of 'ch'Rihan' and the unaltered name for her people, 'Rihannsu'. It was a little thing that Mnhei'sahe deeply appreciated.
Flumping down in one of the more standard, plush chairs that still had an opening in the lower back for tails, as did all the chairs in their shared spaces, she leaned over and put her cup on the table as she continued. "At least, that's one of the very many lessons Mother drilled into my head this morning."
"But... everything she says... almost everything she has ever said to me seems loaded with hidden meanings and multiple truths. She doesn't need to lie if the truth is obscured in symbolism and verbal chess." Mnhei'sahe said as she hung her head a bit. "I've never been particularly good at that game. But... it became more and more clear that there's a lot going on behind the scenes on Romulus. And she may have convinced the Senate of the value of... acquiring me, now."
Mona nodded solemnly as she sat down and settled her tail feathers into the seat. Taking a moment to savor her tea, she nodded once more, this time in contentment and approval at a cuppa well brewed. "She's a predator. A hunter. A bird of prey. Yet she is also family. This is a difficult concept and a rare thing on Miradon. When one bonds to a hunter or one that is imprisoned they often make the choice to dedicate themselves to the church."
"In the wider galaxy... Things are not so easy." With another sip of her tea, Mona looked up to her bond-mate. "What conclusions have you come to, then? I'm just a simple bird and I'm not that good at politics, so I know I missed every meaning."
Fidgeting with her own cup, which she had yet to take a sip of out of anxiety, Mnhei'sahe nodded a bit as she responded, watching the ripples form in her tea from her movements. "Well... I'm not... well suited to church."
"I made a presentation to the Captain before coming home. Summarized my thoughts and concerns and what mother and I worked out." Mnhei'sahe said, still looking down as she spoke. "I think Hu'nanov... pardon... Grandmother and the senate, either in concert or separately, see what happened to the ship during that last encounter with Rendal as an opportunity. By playing our hand the way Starfleet did, reinforcing the two governments working together, I think they are taking that as a chance to go further."
"The Hera and the Warbirds working together and making such a bold, public statement has given the Star Empire some much-needed good publicity, for lack of a better term. And in the... spirit of that cooperation, it would be an amazing coup for them to have a Starfleet officer choose to return to the hearthworlds." the anxious Romulan woman said. "So... if Starfleet decides that I should go... and I believe they will... Verelan will try and make the strongest possible case that I should either stay, or accept a different and decidedly more permanent position with the Imperium."
"My mother said... 'Romulans never say anything without reason. Every gesture is a statement. Every unsaid word a declaration'. Verelan mentioned that the Romulan AMBASSADOR wanted to meet me as well as the Senate. We both suspect that she is angling to see if I can be lined up for that position. She knows I won't abandon Starfleet or you, and an ambassadorship... a real one would allow me to keep BOTH and still serve the Empire and work towards her endgame. It would... demand my spending more time with her and under her proverbial wing."
"The Captain agrees, as she knows more than a little about being groomed by a parent, after all. She thinks Starfleet may already be rethinking my own career with all of this as well. At least, with what whispers she's heard from Admiral Meowlith. I'm suddenly more valuable to both sides." Mnhei'sahe said, a tone of defeat in her voice, which felt weaker in that moment.
"Now we just need the Artans to start vying for your attention..." Mona muttered as she stared into her tea and sulked a bit. It seemed like everyone wanted her Minay these days. Why couldn't they just leave their happy little family alone? "If you go to ch'Rihan, I'm going with you."
At that statement, Mnhei'sahe stiffened so much she almost dropped her cup and the blood flushed out of her cheeks. The emotional reaction was so immediate and intense, that the sound of the trilling through the baby monitor on the coffee table even changed as the sleeping children, who could still empathically feel both of their mothers from a distance, were clearly feeling Mnhei'sahe now.
"The Artans tried, but I got that off of my plate, at least. But the Romulans... they knew about you at the beginning. When I was a prisoner on that ship, Verelan did her best to avoid bringing you up so as to try and frame my thoughts away from... from you. But she knew... but..." Mnehi'sahe stammered a bit as the accent she usually had almost completely under control began to leak out in her words. "If you're there... you are in direct danger. There are too many variables. Too many ways they will try to use you to get what they want, Mona. As it is, it's dangerous enough if the Captain insists on the Hera bringing me there. Legally, I am also a citizen of ch'Rihan. Verelan claimed me as her heir after the kidnapping. They could use that claim on me to decide that the ship is somehow... detaining me against my will. Use that as a legal justification to take me."
Losing Mona was, perhaps, Mnhei'sahe's greatest fear during her captivity, and that fear was all but boiling over now. "If YOU'RE there, that gives them even more leverage to get me to concede to their demands. They will try to use you in any way that they can. In ways I can't even begin to guess. It's... it's too dangerous."
Mona reached out and rested her hand on Dox's, squeezing it tenderly. "And it's my risk to take. You've seen Miradonian culture. You know how important family is. You know that bonded pairs rarely leave each other's sides. We don't have that luxury in the greater universe, but if you go it's my will to go with you and stay by your side at every step of the way if I'm allowed by the powers that be. You will never be alone."
Silently, Dox nodded as she took Mona's hand into her own and she began shuddering slightly. The tension of the day had dredged up all of the feelings she had been struggling with since her imprisonment and threatened to burst out of her as she sat there.
It was something that Mona had seen many time before in their relationship, when her wife would have to struggle to contain her pain and her anger and her feelings of powerlessness that began to overwhelm her. Sitting there, Dox began to curl up slightly and her muscles tensed up and her face curled into a tight grimace as she struggled to keep her tears in check.
In her mind, she could hear her mother's harsh words to her when she was only a child telling her that tears were signals to your enemies that they've hurt you. The endless lessons that taught her from a young age that expressing your pain and fear made you weak echoed in her mind.
But then, as she felt she was about to burst, she remembered the words of her mother from earlier in that same day. The very different woman who was doing all she could to be a better mother in the here and now: 'There will be time later to feel what you are feeling. Tonight… when you return to your quarters, you may tell Mona of the turmoil in that heart of yours too open for your burdens. Cry. Rage. Scream to the elements or Al’thindor. Then, you may let it all out then, Mnhei’sahe.”
With that small memory fresh in her mind, the dam within her finally cracked and she leaned across the small gap and all but collapsed in Mona's arms, tears streaking her cheeks and a silent scream of rage muffled in her wife's chest as all of the powerlessness she was feeling flooded out of her.
And Mona was there to receive it all. She too had been feeling overly stressed and emotional over all of that which had been happening and she too couldn't help but let her tears flow freely as well, holding her dearest as tightly as she could to her birdie bosom as she thrummed in a different way than she had ever done before, reverberating throughout both of them almost silently, bringing their bond closer so that their worries, stress, and pains could join together within each other. "I'm here for you. I will always be here for you. This I swear to you, forevermore."