Original Draft Revision-0 Jul27/99
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"Ah!" Nersal exclaimed suddenly causing Grey to swerve slightly. "This is where you met your friend. The last place on Earth anyone would expect to find you."
"Correct," Grey replied as he pulled up to the LPOE tavern.
"It doesn't look like much," commented Nicia.
"Solitude has its price. It's the only place of entertainment for miles." Grey grinned. "Still, the food is good and the people are friendly. I think you'll enjoy yourselves." Grey turned to Nersal. "Except you, Nersal." Grey teased.
Nersal huffed as he opened the door and got out of the SUV.
Sheral smiled at Grey's taunting and chuckled softly as Grey gave her a knowing wink.
Everyone followed Grey into the LPOE. He noticed Sheral seemed a little tense, as she looked nervously around the tavern.
The owner behind the bar recognized Grey as soon as he entered.
"Mr. Sanborne! Welcome! I see you've brought some new faces."
"Yep," Grey smiled at the plump little woman. "I promised them a good old fashioned night out."
"Well, tonight is the night! We've got new selections in the jukebox and the grill is all fired up," she said cheerfully. "Let's get you folks a booth."
Everyone followed the owner over to a booth in the corner. Nicia and Sheral smiled pleasantly as they looked around at the unusual decor while Nersal maintained a cautions eye on the other patrons.
After an hour, Nersal started to relax and join in the casual chat with Nicia, Grey and Sheral as they ate and drank.
"Nersal, why did you join the SDF," asked Grey before taking a sip from his beer.
"I wanted to fly. I've always wanted to fly. Joining the SDF allowed me to do that," Nersal replied before sipping his drink through a straw.
"Ok, but why the SDF and not commercial? You strike me as someone who would rather be their own boss. I'd figure you'd want your own private ship."
Nersal's broke from his normal straight-faced expression with a wide grin. "Because the SDF lets me pilot the newest, fastest, and most powerful fliers and ships. I'm certified in more classifications that I ever could have been if I became a commercial pilot."
"That sounds like you, Grey," Nicia said as she gently nudged Grey's arm.
Grey smiled as he reflected on the days of his youth. "Yeah. While other kids my age were just getting their driver's licenses, I already had my private pilot's license and was working towards multi-engine and instrument ratings. When I joind our military, my first dogfight was a thrill I'll never forget."
Grey put his arm around Nicia, giving her a little hug. "Maybe I'll take you for a flight one day. A real flight, without antigravity or inertia dampeners to spoil the fun."
A soft smile formed on Sheral's muzzle as she watched Grey and Nicia together.
"I wish Geheran was here with us. It's been so long since we've all been together." Sheral said somewhat distanced from the conversation.
"That would have been nice," Nicia agreed, looking at her mother with concern.
"I've been sitting too long," Sheral said as she stood. "Nersal, why don't you come and dance with me while we leave these two to themselves for a bit."
"It would be an honor, Emissary," Nersal said as he stood to join Sheral.
"He can dance?" Grey asked jokingly.
Nersal shot Grey a dirty look before following Sheral.
Nicia slapped playfully Grey. "You're such a tease."
Grey gave a short chuckle.
"If I didn't like him, I wouldn't tease him. He's a good guy, despite that gruff exterior he puts up."
Nicia smiled for a moment before her expression changed to a more serious one.
"I never apologized to him. I probably should."
"For what, knocking him out and taking command of his ship?" Grey grinned. "I wouldn't. You made a decision, albeit an emotional one. I would have reacted the same way if someone under my command disobeyed an order in a combat situation."
Nicia looked at Grey, her serious expression softened slightly as she stared at the table in thought.
Grey reached over and tilted her muzzle up to look at him.
"Nicia, I'm sure he's already over it. Though, if you really feel you need to say something, thank him for helping rescue Sheral."
Nicia reached for her drink, sipping the remainder of the daiquiri through a straw. She set the empty glass back on the table.
"You're right," Nicia said as she leaned forward and kissed him.
"You like those, don't you?" Grey asked.
"Want another?" Grey asked.
"Yes," Nicia purred as she leaned closer to Grey.
"I meant the drink." Grey said with a smile.
Nicia paused to replay the last bit of their conversation over in her head.
Grey could tell Nicia was beginning to blush beneath her fur as she tried to cover her eagerness.
"I know. Those frozen drinks help keeping me cool. It's warm in here with all these bodies."
"I'll get us some refills." Grey said as he stood.
He picked up his own glass and moved around behind Nicia. He reached down over her shoulder, taking her glass.
"You are too good for my ego, -che" Grey whispered in her ear before giving her a kiss. He smiled to himself as he headed to the bar.
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Nersal danced with Sheral as they both imitated the way everyone else was dancing. He kept a watchful eye on the other dancers, making sure none got too close.
At first, Sheral refused a few offers for dance partners, moving nervously away and closer to Nersal.
Nersal dutifully placed himself between anyone who neared, but then Sheral seemed to change, seeking out contact with the men that approached. Sheral moved in time to the music, dancing with anyone who would come near.
Every time Nersal attempted to get between Sheral and one of the humans, Sheral would stop him. She would dance her way around him and back into position near the human.
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Grey settled into an opening at the bar, and slid the empty glasses to the bartender.
"Two more of the same, please."
Grey looked toward the woman seated beside him. She had long brunette curls reaching past her shoulders.
The woman smiled briefly. "Hi," she said confidently.
"Hello," Grey replied with a friendly nod.
He looked toward the bartender to check for his drinks. When he glanced back at the woman, he had the thought that he had seen her somewhere before.
"So, do you come here often?" she smiled.
"Not too often. Have we met before?"
"I don't think so. I'm Vanessa," she said offering her hand.
"Grey Sanborne. Nice to meet you," Grey replied, shaking her hand.
"So, Mr. Sanborne, what kind of work do you do?"
"Unemployed at present. Retired military. What about yourself?"
"Retired? What did you do in the service?" Vanessa asked, quickly directing the topic back to Grey.
Grey looked at her warily, aware at her attempt at manipulating the direction of their conversation.
"Well, you know, it's that old line. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." Grey said with a smile as the bartender set his drinks in front of him. "If you'll excuse me, I have friends waiting. It was nice meeting you, Vanessa."
"Damn," she said softly to herself as Grey walked away.
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Nersal tried again to distance Sheral from a human that she was dancing with. The man drew closer to Sheral, spurred on by her attention.
Nersal started to move when Sheral held her hand up, her palm facing Nersal, commanding him to stand his ground.
"I'm fine. Go back with the others," Sheral said, her tone hinting of an order.
Nersal reluctantly left Sheral and returned to the table.
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"Thank you," Nicia said with a smile as Grey set her drink on the table.
Grey sat down heavily and took a sip of his beer.
"What's wrong, Grey-che?" Nicia asked, placing her hand gently on his arm.
Grey snapped his attention to Nicia and smiled.
"Nothing. I just met someone I'm sure I had seen before."
Grey and Nicia turned their attention to Nersal as he approached the table, his worried expression clear even through the holosuit.
"I think something is wrong," Nersal said as he watched Sheral dancing with the human.
Grey turned to see what Sheral was doing. He was surprised to see the way she was dancing with the other humans. She was almost seductive in the way she drew them close before moving away.
"I think your right. Let me go talk to her," Grey said, getting up and heading toward the floor.
Grey approached Sheral through the crowd as the jukebox switched to a slow tune.
"Excuse me," Grey said as he attempted to cut between Sheral and the human.
"Hey, buddy, find you own girl."
"Greyson." Sheral smiled widely.
Grey turned and locked eyes with the man. If there was one thing he learned dealing with Trephi, it was how to stare someone down.
"Greyson, no fighting," Sheral said as she reached to make him look at her.
The man turned away as Sheral seemed to loose interest in him. He mumbled some insult and headed off toward the bar.
Sheral placed her hands on Grey's shoulder as she began to move in time to the music.
"What's wrong, Sheral? You're not acting like yourself."
"I'm having fun," she said, her voice faltering slightly.
Grey couldn't tell through the holosuit's projection, but her voice hinted she was not having fun. He reached for her wrist and turned off the sensory distortion field. He felt her quiver as his hand moved to her face, resting on her cheek. He could feel a slight dampness in the fur below her eyes.
"Really?" Grey replied, unconvinced.
Sheral reached up, pulling his hand away from her face and glaring at him.
"Who do you turn to?" Grey asked softly.
"What?" Sheral asked, caught off guard by Grey's question.
"You've always been open to your students problems, and especially my own. You were always there for advice. Who do you turn to when you need help?"
Sheral looked into Grey's eyes for a moment before diverting her gaze down.
"Greyson," she said woefully as she rested her forehead against his chest.
Grey could feel her trembling slightly.
"I need. I can't," she began, struggling for the right words.
"Let's sit," Grey suggested as he guided her to a private booth.
Sheral took a seat and rested her head in her hands. Grey sat beside her and placed his hand on her shoulder.
Grey let her sit in silence for a moment before asking, "Sheral, are you ok?"
"I don't want to feel this way," she sobbed. "I know all humans are not like the ones who held me."
"So you're forcing yourself to get as much contact with us as possible. It makes sense, but it's only been a week since your rescue. Don't you think you should give yourself more time."
Sheral nodded in agreement. "You're right. I'm just afraid, if I don't keep myself in the presence of humans, these feelings I have will grow and prevent me from properly acting as an emissary."
"Well, I don't know much about psychology and even less about Trephi psychology." Grey grinned has he put his arm around Sheral and hugged her to him. "But, I do know my friends. You're definitely the strongest Trephyn I know."
Sheral smiled as she tilted her head to rest on Grey's shoulder.
"Sheral, we all have faith in you. You'll get over your fears. Just take things slow. You don't need to prove yourself to anyone. Give yourself time to heal"
"You're a good friend," Sheral said as she kissed Grey's cheek.
"Hey, we're family." Grey smiled. "You feeling a little better?"
Sheral's smile widened. "Yes, a little better, sempatu."
Grey pulled back to look at her. "Sempatu? That's a word I don't know."
Sheral's eyes squinted in amusement. "It means: family through mating."
Grey chuckled at being called the Trephi word for son-in-law.
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On to chapter 4
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