Graced by Claire Eyensworth & Hayes McQuarrie The trick of diversion was an easy one to learn, a simple flip of the mind from logic to the body, needs to desires. Everyone on the ship formerly known as Coldstream was surely trying it, to whatever degree. Some people took a moment from their duties, were they even at them in the first place, to sit and catch up on reading, speak with a friend injured in the attack about things back home, take a walk in a projected forest that surrounded a pool. Others just had lunch. Most importantly, the truly stressed members of the crew, the departments heads, sat in their corners to get watered and toweled. Those in the brig took naps. Claire Eyensworth began picking at her fingernails the moment Markstrom Benson obstinately admitted himself to the cells below. Varia was emotional, but all right, and Trilo had gone to the window, taciturn and impermeable. The commander, as she probably now wanted to be called in all respects and hours of the day, tried to salvage the cohesion of the gathering, but couldn?t, ?not without all of us here,? she?d said. How contradictory, Claire thought. ?All of us? would denote the captain?s presence. She agreed with Markstrom: something was most evidently wrong. The only difference between him and herself was that she had absolutely no clear idea what to do about it. So whilst the intellectuals read, the strollers did tread, and the hungry were fed, Claire sought out a familiar bed. Upon the ghost-town bridge she fell, having once found more welcoming air in a haunted house, and she asked the computer where Hayes McQuarrie was located. The voice of the computer was the only voice on the ship to accomplish a pleasant tone, no worried sighs or distracted pauses, and it informed her that he was in the ready room. Down the ramp and almost to the door she walked lightly, before she heard the other lift door open up for helmsman Ito N?Ges. ?Oh, hello Lieutenant Eyensworth.? ?Claire?s fine,? she replied kindly. ?Rank or no rank. My title and surname are a strenuous jumble. How are things with you, Mr. N?Ges? And what would you be called nowadays?? He chuckled twice. ?I?m doing okay. And you can call me whatever pleases you. I?ll answer. Tell me, Claire, I was just wandering the ship, doing laps, you know; nowhere to drive the ship. If you?re not busy, would you, perhaps, maybe, like to walk with me? No one seems to want a chat or anything?? ?Oh,? Claire apologized. ?I?ve so much to tend to. I don?t know if I?ll have time. Maybe if we get another chance.? ?Perhaps I can assist you down in Engineering?? The black-haired boy was cutely reaching, and she was flattered. But her heart seated one, and that seat was taken. ?I?m all right for now, but if I need you, I?ll call. Nice to know I have volunteers.? ?Of course, Claire,? he said, beginning another lap. Claire smiled. ?Have fun if you can.? The red alert lights did their spastic thing, and ceased it a second later. ?Any idea what that is?? N?Ges asked before he left. ?Some system bug or something. Science is working on the sensors.? ?Oh. Huh. Well, buh-bye Claire. Hope to run into you soon.? ?Cheers.? Resuming her previous path, Claire found it now to be a difficult task to reach out and press the chime. She feared that ding would be all that an overly cautious man would be waiting for in order to blast through the door with a phaser set on ?shake ?n? bake.? She feared that it would look suspicious or something if someone with a closed mind were to walk in and see her walking in without intent to kill. She feared that he?d be a different person, scared into being paranoid, angry, even murderous. But most of all, she feared that the door wouldn?t open at all. That nothing would happen. That a pause and a sinking feeling would inhabit her gut and make a stuttering and retreating fool out of her. She feared Nothing. No, she told herself, she feared nothing. Not Nothing, but nothing. It confused her too; don?t fret. The chime inside leaked, muffled, out into her ears. Following it was an oddly familiar, ?Come!? like it was the old days when the top mission of the day was to find lobsters for the Admiral?s dinner with an Andorian ambassador. When she came in, however, she was greeted, while still happily, by a rather dogged looking man with great black bags under the skin beneath his eyes. His hair was this salted brown cobweb atop his scalp, and his body seemed to tremor with the caffeine diet. ?Claire,? Hayes spurted, as excited as he could be for his overflow of fatigue. ?How good to see you! Come in, sit down, make yourself comfortable. Want anything? Some tea? Coffee?? Claire wanted to make the compulsory declination given the stressful situation, but a cup of Dadayama tea sounded refreshing. She requested it, and he got it for her. ?Thank you,? she said, taking the first careful sip. ?Have you been in your ready room all night?? ?No, just since 0600,? he said, smiling and sighing comfortably. ?Working hard.? ?Doing what? I can?t begin to imagine what a captain on a mutinied ship would be doing to take up so much time?? ?Claire, please don?t say it like that.? Hayes was tired, and he was tired of accusations. Though it wasn?t her intended connotation, she let him let loose. It was the least she could do. ?I was doing what should have been in the best interest of any good person on this ship. And now I have good people questioning me, constantly shouting at me, calling me a criminal and an outlaw?like Robin Hood or something?and all I?m trying to do is save lives. I didn?t want to hit the Admiral, I didn?t want to cause a struggle, I didn?t want the Lexington to be destroyed?And if you even think of saying that we were responsible for the deaths of those people, you?d better just stop thinking that right now. I had every intention of keeping them alive, but they blew themselves?? She stepped forward and looked down at his feet, watching as hers got closer and closer. He was wearing slippers, and her sleek black uniform boots were like ships about to pierce a blue cotton fog. What stopped his rant?something she deemed had gone far enough?was her left hand that she?d delicately placed on his shoulder, like they were preparing to bolero. One quick glance arched up at his eyes before she let her face sink into his T-shirt-clad chest, as her other hand wrapped around his waist. It took Hayes a moment before he realized exactly what was happening (thus far) and hugged her back. ?I?m sorry for this,? he said. ?Don?t be,? she found herself saying. ?It was the only thing a noble person would have done. I think if I was in your shoes I might have done the same thing, were I only as brave. That?s one thing that you can?t let anybody demean: your courage. You had so much of it to do what you?ve done so far, and I personally believe you?re able to take this further, should the rest of this ship follow you. Which is another thing I must warn you about, Hayes: Narin is trying to gather people against you.? ?I know. I figured she would.? He sounded peaceful about it, surprisingly, as if it was a fate he?d prepared himself for following years of isolated meditation. ?She?s doing it fairly, I?ll say in her defense. If enough people will follow you she?ll abide. Which makes me a trifle suspicious?? ?Of course,? he said, as if she said that one should insulate water pipes in wintertime. ?Suspicion will become a common thread, and we?ll need to wear it. Just know that in the best interest of the ship, you can always trust me.? ?Of course,? she said, as if he had asked her to marry him. Claire still hadn?t pulled her head away from his chest; she was looking for his heartbeat, but was too wrapped in swirling thoughts to concentrate on it. The rhythm was too deep inside, the blood flowing not seeming as important as the arms around her. She didn?t know it then, and she would realize it approximately fifteen minutes later, but she was falling in love with him; and the predominant thought was a fright of losing him to ultimate persecution. The embrace was bracingly broken, and it was accompanied by the familiar flashing of red lights. His arms left her back, and his chest left her cheek, and he uttered a distressed, ?Shit!? Wheeling around the desk he nearly destroyed the perfect arrangement of pyramidal prisms he?d been given along with his captainship and a glass of champagne, and he launched himself into his chair. Three frantic taps of his personal computer brought about the immediate ceasing of the red alert. Claire, understandably, raised an eyebrow. Hayes sighed. ?You?ve probably been wondering why the red alert light has been going off. And now you?re adding the wonder as to why I?m manually deactivating it each time it flashes. I could explain; you have an open mind, don?t you?? ?Positively, Hayes,? she said, offering herself and taking the seat across the desk. ?You?ve nothing to rouse distrust for you in my heart.? He took an intermission from whatever was on his screen and leaned onto the edge of his desk like a kid at a glass case that contained copious amounts of his favorite delicacy. ?Just so you know, the way you say that gives me butterflies.? The adorable little moment caught Claire unawares, but her eyes batted and she expressed gratitude in some odd way. ?Anyway,? he said, going back to the screen. There was another one of those heavy breaths that he had to take before uttering something hard to say. ?We have a problem. And we?ve had it since 0600 this morning. Approximately. I have my theories, but I?m blank right now as to why; but?the?oh how do I put this? The?hmm. Okay. The ship that?s behind us right now with their weapons armed is waiting for more negotiations to start between myself and the other captain.? The alarming little moment caught Claire at a complete bodily pause as her heart jumped up in her throat, committed three somersaults, and plopped down in her stomach. ?Well?? she said breathlessly. ?That?s certainly not what I expected.? ?Now, as I said, I have my theories, but I think everything?s going to be all right. I hope. If this Captain Lebaron is the kind of woman I think she is, things will be all right. But for now, as per their understandable cautions, they have their weapons armed. And you know what happens when weapons are drawn on us.? Claire only thought for a second, her brightness beginning to glow a little in all this emotional jumble. ?With that system upgrade we had, right. The red alert system goes on automatically.? Realization befell her and her hands fell dead in her lap. ?You mean to tell me that for?? She glanced at the time. ??for sixteen hours you?ve been manually disabling the red alert because it keeps activating due to the ship behind us?? ?Without telling anybody, I know. It?s wrong of me. I should have been the first one out onto the bridge to make an escape. But when Captain Lebaron sent me a message asking for negotiations, I thought, ?We?ve been graced. Someone with sense.?? Hayes continued to speak as Claire slowly got up from her chair and went around to the other side of the desk. ?I?ve so far explained to her what happened, and she?s been listening. I?m imagining several department head meetings going on over there? What are you??? ?You don?t need to explain yourself, Hayes,? Claire said. ?First you protected us with defensive tactical skills that we didn?t know you possessed, and then you protected us by shutting down a potential mass murder. Now you?ve been protecting us with just the taps of your fingers. I?d be interested in knowing, Hayes McQuarrie, how little does it take for a man like you to protect several hundred people?? She was standing over him now, reaching delicately down to his hand to dust the top of it with her fingertips. ?My heart tells me that you could so much as blink and lives would be saved. I don?t care what you?ve named the ship, Hayes: you are Patronus.? ?So far, you?ve been the only one to actually think about the Latin meaning of the word.? ?I know another one. Amor. Take a wild guess at what that one means.? With that, Claire bent down and kissed Hayes deeply, gaining his lips and taking his tongue, giving her own in passionate exchange. His hands began to rove her ribs and her waist, her ass and her legs. ?Hayes, I need you. Now. Please.? She commanded him softly, in between almost forceful kisses. ?Just don?t be offended if I have to suddenly get up to, you know,? and he shook a hand at his computer screen. ?I?d rather do this in a more appropriate setting.? ?I can?t leave.? ?You can?t?? Claire said, provocatively. It was merely fifteen minutes later that Ito N?Ges was sworn to secrecy an given the rites to disabling the red alert. He was almost caught envying the captain?s hand on the small of Claire Eyensworth?s back, but he just nodded and complied. Not as if he had anything better to do. == --------------------------------- Now that's room service! Choose from over 150,000 hotels in 45,000 destinations on Yahoo! Travel to find your fit.