Changes...

Poison Toocool left Idrissa to her cleaning up and began to walk towards her cottage. The women had overstepped the bounds, of course. Driss had been given a place to stay in the House of Healing after her ordeal with the slavers, residing there for some days under the watchful eye of Nurse Kat Anjar and Dr Sheldon Whitewitch; while her brother, Souleymane, came aboard ship with Po to seek out the other civilian captives and rescue them. Left behind on a strange world, it seemed Driss needed something to do, and that was cook. The word from Po’s staff was that Idrissa had cornered the market on home cooking, at least as far as the Colony was concerned, the past couple of weeks.

In some ways Po envied Driss. The girl was.. extroverted. She’d been through a harrowing ordeal, but after a couple of days, she set up a cafe and welcomed people to it, like there was nothing to fear, like it was easy to talk to anyone. Po stepped onto the patio at the front of the cottage, but instead of going in, walked around to the side, where there was some furniture sitting in the westering sun. This area was hidden from sight by trees and bushes.  It was her private place. Few came here. Hars was one, and he was there now.  She knew he would be, although she had not asked him to be.

“Give me a moment to change,” she said by way of greeting, stepping into the nook that held her bed. She took off the Mess Dress uniform, carefully folding it and placing it on the armoire for cleaning. Pulling out a yellow jumper and slacks, she slipped them on, the material soft against her skin. Looking i the mirror, she pulled the pins from her hair and shook it out from the bun, just clasping it behind her head in a loose ponytail. She looked tired. She made a face in the mirror and stepped back outside, sitting down across from Hars in her usual chair, the table between them.  Piping hot tea, her favourite buns, a vegetable dish of some kind, a fruit salad and a bowl of nuts.  “This looks great,” she said with a sigh.

Hars Darax puts the final touches on the meal. Carries the casserole from the kitchen out to the patio, where he’s got a few things set out for them.  He’d bowed out of the reception after the remember ceremony for Spock. Headed home, tossed off the mess dress he hardly wore these days. Drew on his gardening clothes. Then over to Po’s, the back way, avoiding Driss, her brother, the child and anyone else who might be hanging about. Needed some quiet time. Needed to look after Po, who’d looked pale this morning. Up all night, she was, making that speech. And even then, said to him, just before it started, “It’s not very good at all. But it’s all I have.” He watched her like a hawk during the thing, saw the tears leave her eyes at the end. Rare for her, that. Rare to cry at all. And never knew her to cry in public.

Sits at the table. It’s all ready. He’ll just wait. Good at that, waiting. Waiting to hear if he’d walk again. Waiting to get well. Waiting for Po, often, almost always. Comfortable, they were. They’d call it ‘companion’ in Federation. Shrugs, dunno if it’s that. Both Starfleet, both work up from nothing, both end up with their own command. Lot in common. And more. Something deeper. A... knowing. A place of no words. Like now. Without a word to each other, she knew he’d be waiting. Just like he knew, she had something to say. “Eat, mo chridhe,” winks to her, “tell me about your mission.”

Poison Toocool obediently eats. Between bites, tells the story of the mission. The Argonaut, needing to urgently travel to a location over 40 light years away, and no time to do it. How she broke her own rule and used transwarp within the forbidden area, risking spatial rupture and instability in Astraios Sector, while following exactly the route mapped out by science to avoid the areas deemed fragile. The Klingon, M’Reh, had left them this legacy; attacking the colony with an illegal Isolytic subspace weapon, causing a rift, being inexorably drawn into a subsequent rip in space that was closed by the Argonaut, after an attempt to save their enemy... thus the rule to avoid transwarp in the sector, as science deemed the area fragile after this event.

Hars knew all this, but the fact that she broke her own rule had him raising an eyebrow. “You felt the risk was minimal after receiving the science report, I take it?”

Poison Toocool nods. “They felt confident the risk had abated in certain areas, and provided a chart of exactly where we might chart a course without causing damage.” She reached for a long green stem with a bulb at the end, somewhat similar to a Terran green onion, and bit into it. “When we arrived, at the asteroid belt we were seeking, Sou... Mr Senghor strongly recommended we attack the space dock and shuttle bay of the slavers. He felt they had too many fighters for us to deal with effectively. We would potentially have to deal with our own damaged vessel while the ship with the captives escaped.”

She hesitates, taking a drink of water, and smoothing out the napkin on her lap. “So we did. We attacked their bay, damaging most of their fleet, leaving only a few free to either attack us or escape. We were able to locate the civilians, but only because the cloaked ship they were on had been damaged in the attack. It was appearing and disappearing on our sensors, we managed to pinpoint where to transport, I took a team, and we extracted those women and children left alive. Not many,” she says soberly, “only a few, and those few... in bad shape.  The child we brought with us? Shenshi? She was one of them. She... lost her parents after they were all kidnapped.  We found her on the Klingon vessel, and she seemed to latch onto myself and Mr Senghor.” She takes her cup of Earl Grey, and sits back, drinking slowly.

Hars Darax looks to her. Broke the rules of engagement, eh? Wouldn’t do that without cause. Especially Po. By the book, all the way, she was. “You were kidnapped yourself once. You know what it’s like. You felt justified in taking offensive action in order to save the civilians you went to rescue.”

Poison Toocool nodded. “There’s more though, Hars.”

“I know, Lass,” Hars replies. He leans forward, “We’ve been.. broadsided, by twins.” Smiles to her, “While you were off saving the Earthlings, Idrissa and I, we got to know each other.” Studies her face. Hopes she isn’t too hurt by what he’s going to say. He’ll say it first though, take the pressure from her. “She’s beautiful, and ordinary in an extraordinary way. She doesna think of missions, crews, aliens, diplomacy, or politics. Just what she’ll make for the next meal, or what to do when it’s rainy out. I helped her set up that.. temporary cafe, brought her herbs, spent time talking. I don’t know what will happen next. I’d like to find out though.” He leans forward, reaching to take a hand, “Wouldna hurt you, mo chridhe, ever. We’ve been such great companions. Tell me what you feel.” His eyes study her face.

Poison swiveled her head to look at him when he begins to speak of Driss. As he says the words, she feels her heart fall. She allows him to take her hand, and then sits back, closing her eyes. Being with the feelings. “How do I feel?” she says slowly, after a minute. The sun has set, the moon is shining down on them, around them all is quiet. “I am filled with grief, for the loss of Ambassodor Spock. I am exhausted by the lack of sleep.” She looks down at his hand, entwining her fingers with his, holding tight. “I am very angry at you for caring for someone else. Illogically, I am also relieved you are caring for someone else. I want to be happy you have found someone, more like you than I could ever be. It had to happen one day. Why not now, when you are still young enough to enjoy a long life with them.”  She looks up into the sky. She will not speak of Souleymane now. It is enough to let Hars go.

Hars leans forward to brush his lips along her cheek. “That’s an honest reply,” sitting back, he eyes her face in the flicker of the lamps. “I’m not going anywhere,” he adds. “I’ll be a thorn in your side for many years to come,” he jokes, hoping for a smile. “But I’d like your permission to help Driss get a real cafe going. I’ve found a building in Pebble for rent, at the base of the hill, near their wee city hall. It would be perfect."

Po rose, letting go of his hand, “That’s fine, please do. And thank you for the meal. I really need to rest now.” She was tired, and on the verge of tears. She reached fingers to touch his cheek, then turned to go inside.

“Sleep well, mo chridhe.” After she is gone, he tidies the dishes and food onto a tray, takes it inside to the kitchen, closes up the rest of the house. Steps out onto the lawn. Wonders if it’s too late to catch Driss? Probably. He smiles to himself as he walks along the path to his cottage. He’ll surprise her tomorrow.

=^=