Much thanks and tagging: @RX_Sith @earlybird-obi-wan @Mira_Jade @Hazel ---- Ny's Note: This wonderful ficlet is inspired by Mira's riveting AU. Mission details are as follos: The primary of Ennor system is a giant blue sun, and a massive red-violet gas planet twice the size of Jupiter holds the position of first orbit around the star. In secondary orbit is Ennor I. Ennor II had the unique path of sharing Ennor I's orbit – each planet set at opposite sides of the sun on the solar year to avoid collision. The societies are a collective/hive consciousness and communicate nonverbally. Ennor I is forward thinking; they have developed verbal language in the last two centuries and also want to enter trading agreements with those beyond their sector borders. Their position near the Neutral Zone and their mineral assets make them attractive. Ennor II is very resistant to this plan and staunchly refuse to embrace the new ways. A prominent leader has been assassinated. ~~ Nearer Than Her Heartbeat Nyota frowned as she perused the data-file. Jim noticed her expression. The only other give-away to her inner state was the way her right hand clenched the stylus tighter. They were seated at a table in the ready room. He reached across to clasp her hand. "I have the utmost confidence in you personally and professionally, and I'm not going to coddle you." He began. She grinned. "I wouldn't expect that, nor like it in the slightest." "On the other hand, I am not insensitive to the reasons why you would be leery of joining the landing team. That is why I am offering you the chance to accept or renege, without any negative repercussions or official sanctions or notations in your file." Nyota met his gaze squarely. It was a fair and also kind overture, and she appreciated it. "Thank you for that." She said, her tone warm. She took a deep breath before continuing. "I think I can handle it." He gave a nod of acceptance, his eyes proud. Her stomach clenched at the thought of the potential of being immersed in a collective consciousness again. She gave a defiant mental shrug. She was resolved that she would be able to forestall the threat. *** Audrey felt the intransigence and obstinacy of the Ennor II delegation. They barely wanted to listen, let alone reach an agreement or a satisfactory compromise. She could feel the equally formidable resolve of the Ennor I delegation. Finally, it was agreed that Ennor II's exports and access to aid would be curtailed, and their space-faring capability curtailed by a blockade, so they couldn't leave and strike out in retaliation against neighboring worlds or systems. Unless and until in good faith, they agreed to the bylaws Ennor I was willing to implement. She gazed at Nyota, who was acting as mediator/translator. She was so proud of the poise and professionalism Nyota exuded. The early apprehension had quickly faded to a background sussuration, rather like distant surf. During a break in the proceedings, she texted: "I am so proud of you, and honored to know and work with you!" Nyota's dark eyes filled with gratitude. Her reply: "Thank you! Our bond is serving as a protection, even more than prior. My sweet love is proving to be a strong fortress." Audrey smirked at that. The First Officer's empathic stance had telegraphed clearly that no one had better encroach on his lady, in any fashion, by word or gesture. In addition to Nyota's skills, Jim's forthright, tell-it-straight demeanor was crucial, Audrey reflected. He made it clear by words and otherwise that he would brook no deceit or underhanded maneuvering. ** When they were finally alone, and the talks concluded, Nyota sighed deeply. "I feel like I can breathe easily again." He scooped her up, and she clung fast, her entire length tightly pressed against him. They lay entwined, her hair falling around them in a curtain. "I needed you, oh how I needed you." She breathed. His kiss sizzled against her throat and up to her lips. "Yet darling, I was not truly afraid, just on ... edge, braced against something happening. It is such a relief not to have to feel that anymore!!" She continued. He was nearer than her heartbeat, in her mind and her arms, and that was just how she wanted it. His eyes held hers with such love that it made her heart flutter ... "I do love you." She murmured, clinging even tighter. "You loved me back to life, before, when you silenced the crazy clamor of Serillious and filled me with your love and light." "I was determined to do so again, if the need arose." He answered firmly. Nyota chuckled. "Don't I know it!" She, like Audrey, had missed none of the silent undertones. "I would stop at nothing to keep you safe and at my side, ashal-veh." Was his solemn promise, shining across their bond and in his eyes. +++++ Awww, nummy!