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What Is Love?

Posted on Tue May 31st, 2022 @ 1:26pm by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Warrant Officer Laena ben-Avram

Mission: S1E5: Symphony of Horror
Location: Deep Space 9
Timeline: MD 3

The day was half over, but Akiva was already done with it. His meeting with Admiral Tau left him filled with dread and foreboding. The elation of reclaiming the station from a terroristic threat had been deflated in short order. And then there was Mrazak snatching his staff away on his half-cocked mission without so much as a word. What transpired between him and Arianna Frost was something he did not want to even contemplate. How had it even happened? Were it not for the memory of Ari's sultry voice saying, "I don't regret this," he would have been more than willing to chalk it up to an idle daydream. But there was no denying the tingle in his lips at recalling the...the incident.

He needed to clear his head, but on a bustling station recovering operational security, there were only so many places Akiva could go. There was only one soul he knew from Adam. Yet... dare he face her? Had he done anything wrong? The multiple directions that inundated Akiva with stress threatened to send him spiraling. In that light, there was no one else he would rather turn to, if she were willing.

"Computer, what is the location of Laena Cavitts?"

"There is no one on the station under that name."

Akiva frowned. "Give me the location for Laena Sendelin."

"There is no one on the station under that name."

"Give me the location for Laena ben-Avram."

"Laena ben-Avram is currently in guest quarters 119, Habitat Ring Level 12, Section 32, Hall 9."

She had taken his surname. The station's computer wouldn't get that wrong. Yesterday that would have made Akiva feel giddy. Now...

"Tzoah Rotachat," he cursed under his breath.

Laena sat in the chair by the window, gazing out over the brilliant wormhole that currently sat open as cargo shipments came in and out on their way to the gamma frontier. Getting guest quarters with a window was rare, and a window with a view like this? Laena wasn't sure what she did to deserve this, or what strings were pulled. But she certainly didn't want to question her good fortune.

A smile spread over her face. Seeing Akiva was rough, their initial interaction on the station was certainly not what she was expecting. But it turned out well. She began to think back to the beach on the holosuite. The touch lingered in her mind as she felt his hands on her body again. Hands that knew her so well. Hands that held her and protected her. The touch was familiar and comfortable and she was determined to never let it go again.

A chirp from the door startled her, bringing her back to the present as she look up. "Enter," she called.

When Akiva walked through the door, he looked like he'd been literally dragged. "Hi, Laena," he said meekly. "Are you well?" There had been a failed takeover recently. "Were you the near the fighting?"

Laena shook her head as she stood, walking over to her husband and wrapping her arms around him. She buried her face in his chest and she took a deep breath. "No, I was taken to a safe area with other guest officers on board. But they released us after it was over."

"Good. That's...that's good." Akiva choked up similar to how he used to feel whenever he was around Laena, before they were betrothed. Pledged. Engaged. Whatever it had been. Now that she had come back and the pain and the passion had all rekindled at once, Akiva didn't know what to think or feel. They had lain together, and normally that should be enough. But... what had happened outside the Megaera? Or, worse, what had happened in the interim between his breakup letter and now? It made Akiva feel as though he were standing on quicksand. "Can we talk?" he managed at last.

Looking up at the man with a sweet smile, Laena nodded. "Of course we can."

Akiva walked over to the window next to her chair. Standing felt easier right now. His hands folded behind his back as they did when he was on duty and searched the starfield for answers to a complicated command problem. By now he knew answers weren't out there, but old habits died hard. "About last night, I mean."

But what could he say? That it was wonderful and painful. Healing and tormenting. Everything he wanted and feared all wrapped together. No, this wasn't a time for feelings. It was a time for planning.

"We've been through a lot. Not just together, but also apart. I think..." He closed his eyes as a grimace overtook his face. "... I think we both need more time before we can go back how things were. Before, I mean." Turning to face her directly, he reached for her hands. "I don't want us to hurt each other any more. If we are meant to be, then time will be on our side. I will reinstate your clearance to Overwatch Station if that's what you really want. But I'm done forcing things. If you return, you will be assigned quarters other than mine."

Akiva tried to smile, but all it managed to do was even out his frown. So much doubt...

"All I can offer is a new beginning. The rest I leave in HaShem's hands, as well as yours."

Laena reached forward, snaking her hands into Akiva's as she laced her fingers into his. "I appreciate that, Akiva. It's what I've always wanted." She leaned forward, standing up on her toes to reach Akiva on eye level, pressing her lips gently to his. "I love you, Akiva. That has never changed. You've always been the one I wanted. I just felt we were moving too fast and it scared me."

The intertwining of their fingers together sent warm pangs and cold chills up Akiva's arms and throughout his entire body. He even let out a small shudder and grimaced as he did so. "I understand exactly what you mean," he murmured to himself as much as her. "Too fast is not good. Not at all." With a pained look in his eye, Akiva said, "No matter what happens, I will always care for you, Laena. I can promise you that."

She kissed him again. "What could happen, silly? We'll take this slow, but we both know how this will end up." She giggled. "We just need to give it the time to get there naturally."

A dull roar filled Akiva's ears as the room began to spin. "Naturally. Right." She was being so kind and so sweet to him. Such moments had felt so rare before the end... And, now, right amidst their reunion... what had he been thinking? Why was his heart holding back? "I... I..." His breathing turned labored. "I need to sit do--"

But his body decided to topple instead. The hard floor was more than happy to catch him.

"Akiva!" Laena yelled, trying to catch her husband. But she wasn't fast enough as he hit the floor with a loud thud. She rushed to his side, "Akiva, Akiva, wake up," she said, gently patting his face. When it didn't work, she looked around. Springing to her feet, she grabbed a pillow, lifting Akiva's head and sliding it under him. At least if he wasn't awake, he could be comfortable.

She sat there for a moment, thinking of what might work, when an idea struck. She moved to the replicator, pressing one of her quick-action buttons, and a glass over water quickly appeared. Kneeling next to him, she quickly splashed the liquid in his face. "Akiva, wake up," she said, smacking his face a little harder this time.

Laena's voice was garbled as if under water. When Akiva's eyes opened, he realized he was on the floor. "Ugh. What happened?" he asked, though the story told itself. He had not nervously fainted in a long time but it was not an experience easily forgotten. "Not again..." Seeing Laena hovering over him like an angel from heaven, though, made him groan. "I'm sorry..."

Gently caressing his cheek, Laena smiled at him. "It's alright, my love. It happens."

Akiva swallowed whatever moisture was to be found in his mouth. There was little to none. Her love. "Laena... there's something I have to tell you..." He closed his eyes and shivered. How had it come to this? "I just don't know how."

"You can tell me anything," she responded. "If we're going to rebuild what we had, we should start with no secrets. I will bare my soul to you as you have always done to me."

"Yeah, about that..." Akiva hunched his shoulders a bit sheepishly. "After I last contacted you, I kept in touch with a...a colleague." Was that really all Ari was? "A colleague and a friend," he added. "We met during Memory Theta's audit. She accompanied us on the mission to Sol II before getting reassigned. We stayed in touch, and then surprisingly she was summoned here to testify at the inquest against Memory Theta. After helping retake the station, she departed onto her next classified assignment. I don't ever expect to see her again. And, so, right before she left...we...kissed." Akiva dry-gulped so hard he nearly choked. "I don't know who started it. It just happened. I think it was only platonic, but given what happened between us last night, I...I needed to tell you everything. So, that's everything."

“Oh.” The thoughts in Laena’s head began to swirl as they attempted to put the new information together. “I wasn’t expecting that…” She leaned back on her legs, giving the man some space as he continued to lay there on the floor. “This was after we were together in the holosuite?”

Akiva grimaced as he said, "Yes... just this morning, before my meeting with the Admiral." He sighed and put his head back on the ground. "I suppose that's what I get for assuming infidelity between you and Apaxi..."

“I don’t understand. We spoke about that already. We…” The corners of her eyes became wet with tears. “We made love on the beach. I can’t believe you did this to me…” The hurt and pain she was feeling quickly turned to anger. “You told me you loved me!” She didn’t realize that she has started to yell. You told me that you wanted to try and make this work!”

Without thinking, she pulled her hand back and struck the man across the face. “You don’t love me. You only love yourself. That’s what this is. It’s what it’s always been. What you want, on your timetable, under your conditions, with no regard to anyone else or their feelings.”

Being on his back, the slap rung Akiva's bell harder than was intended. It took several blinking seconds to clear his head. When he finally spoke, it was with a calm tone. "No." He turned away from her onto his side before getting back to his feet.

"No, you don't get to do this. You don't get to come back into my life after turning your back on me only to do this again. You are not the arbiter of anything, Laena. I am not the weak man you knew. I am not perfect but nor am I selfish. If I were, then I would not have acted in good faith as I did just now." He narrowed his eyes into accusatory squints that cast his head askew. "Do you think it was easy for me to be honest with you? Do you think it will be easier for me to continue to be honest, knowing you might strike me again? Yet I shall because that is who I am, and no one can say otherwise. Not you, not my father, not anybody!"

After he had finished, Akiva realized he had turned to shouting. He unclenched his hands from the fists they'd become at his sides. "I shared a parting kiss with a friend I will never see again. You struck me. I think we are more than even. Shall we start anew, or did you not mean what you said last night?"

Laena sat there for a moment, trying to understand what had happened. She'd never hit anyone before and it almost frightened her that she had just then. Shame took hold and she couldn't look up at him. "I'm sorry I struck you," she said, quietly.

"We have many regrets between us," Akiva said with more leniency. "But there has also been happiness. Do you still want to begin anew?"

"Do you plan to be kissing anyone else?" Laena asked, before immediately regretting that she did. She was upset, that was true, but he was right. There were wrongs between them and if they had any chance of a future, they would need to work through them together. "Please ignore that," she said, finally looking up at him from where she still sat on the floor. "I did think of you every day at the Academy."

Akiva laughed at the question. When she apologized, he covered his mouth like a boy but the stifling motion only made it worse. "I'm sorry," he said through his fingers. "The irony is killing me. When I saw you kiss Apaxi on the cheek, I... I got drunk and became abducted by a domestic terrorist." His giggling began to subside somewhat as he grew more pensive. "Even though kisses are given freely between friends and loved ones on my homeworld, I had not kissed anyone before you, Laena. You know more than anyone I do not pledge myself unless I can do so honestly and truly."

"And that's all she was?" she asked. "Just a friend?"

"She helped me through a dark time," Akiva said. "And for that she will always have my gratitude." Anything more was a foolish idea. Ari was gone and Laena had returned to him. Akiva refused to even entertain such ideas. "If you are jealous, then let us see what we can rebuild between us."

Laena shook her head. "I'm not jealous," she said. "It was merely a question." She stood, slowly, taking Akiva's hand gently. "I truly am sorry for slapping you. It' unlike me."

"It is a strange time for us both," Akiva said, squeezing the hand which held his. "We should be forgiven for behaving a little...strangely." A nervous chuckle accompanied the last word, but he stepped closer all the same, cupping Laena's face in both his hands. "I was so angry with you, and while I still do not know what to think, I know that I have always loved you and that I always will." He stared into her eyes with a gaze that darted back and forth between those dark pools of captivating mystery. "I will reinstate your clearance immediately if you still wish to return."

With a nod, Laena leaned into the feeling of his hand. "I would really appreciate that," she said.

Akiva embraced her fully, wrapping one arm against her back and one hand against her head. Memories of his frustrating meeting with Admiral Tau and their new Federation diplomatic representative came back to his mind as persistent problems that could not be resolved with an apology and embrace. If nothing else, regardless of what the future held for either of them, it was good to be with someone who cared for him. "Thank you for welcoming me," he whispered into her hair. "You wouldn't believe the day I've had..."

"Other than kissing an old friend?" she asked, forcing a smile at her own joke. She looked up at him. "Is it too soon to laugh about it?" she asked, realizing that it might have hurt his feelings.

Rather than reply, Akiva thrust his lips against Laena's in a swift stolen kiss. "There," he said, pulling free. "Now that I'm a proper scoundrel, maybe we can move forward."

Laena rested her head into his chest again, taking a deep breath. She had missed this embrace and it just felt right. She smiled. "We can indeed."

Not exactly what he'd meant, but Akiva realized that maybe he just wasn't ready to talk anyway. He needed a personal connection right now. Maybe words would only get in the way. He let Laena melt into him, perhaps guiltily enjoying it despite his apprehensions, and let the moment simply be.


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