Eventually she made her way to the Pax Praetoria and stumbled inside. She held her hand against her mouth, trembling with terror. She could still feel him, the warmth of his body, his wandering hands, his mouth. His lies.
All she wanted to do was run. To retreat to the safety of her apartment...was it safe, even? Would he find her there? Was any place truely safe from him? How far would he go to have her?
She stumbled again, bumping into a chair, the screetching sound echoing throughout the room. She glanced around suddenly, seeing Aldrith by the waterfall, holding a snifter of brandy. His eyes were closed and he didn't appear to have noticed her.
Which suited her just fine.
"Aldrith." She tensed, then glanced over her shoulder, looking at the door. Wondering if Garst had followed.
Nervously she made her way to the mini bar to grab a bottle of whiskey, bumping into it, knocking a few glasses off by accident. As they shattered against the floor, she knelt down to pick up the bigger pieces, still trembling, though trying to play it off, trying to keep from falling apart.
"Goddammit," she muttered under her breath as she started to clean up the shards of glass.
"You seem preturbed," he said with a bland, overly-casual tone.
His face was a mask of indifference. He seemed to hesitate before asking, "Would you like to sit with me? Or... well, I understand if you would not."
"Good night, Lieu...Guardian." She said at the exact same time he asked her to sit. She hesitated, "I don't know." From where she stood, it was easy enough for him not to see, not to know. But there was this other part of her that was hysterical to tell someone.
"I know we haven't always gotten along... and after tonight... well..."
Her brows drew together as fear flashed across her face. After tonight? Did he already know? Panic bubbled inside of her at the thought of people knowing, and then it dawned on her. Tonight. Not with Garst, but before, much earlier, when she was at the Paradiso. Aldrith had been with Mitara when Mitara had pretty much made her leave the club.
She relaxed ever so slightly as she realized he couldn't know yet. It was still her secret. At least she had that much control. Grabbing a shot glass and the bottle of whiskey, she made her way to him and sat, eerily calmer than before, as if she were consciously making an effort to appear normal.
Her gaze locked onto his and she dared him to say something, to acknowlege her swollen bloodied lip, the marks around her throat. Notice it, Aldrith. Say it isn't my fault, that I have not lead him on. That I do not deserve this. Make me believe that 'love' doesn't come with violence because all I have ever known is misery at the hands of those who say they love me the most.
She waited, tensed, hoping for compassion, for some kind of insight on why.
Instead, his face flashed with disappointment and swelling worry. He quickly looked away.
A thousand things flashed through her mind at once. Accusation. He blamed her. Whatever happened to her, it must be her fault.
Forcing her hands steady, she poured herself a shot of the whiskey and downed it quickly, as if readying herself for whatever he had to say. "Well go on. Say it. I'm a whore. Is that what youre thinking? That Im a 'seductress' of men because I danced with him." Rage simmered through her.
Before he could answer, she continued, "But you don't have to. Mitara already beat you to it."
He was silent.
"Say it goddamn you!"
"Say whatever it is you're thinking. Say it."
His face flashed with mild suprise. After a moment of silence he said, "I am thinking that your lip looks bad. I'm thinking I should get you some ice for it..."
It was her turn to look away, embarassed by her little outburst.
"Would you like some?"
She shrugged, "Okay."
He sat down his glass and rose, all of his movments slow and careful, almost like he was an old man. He walked over to the minibar and wrapped a handful of ice into a cloth, hardly any noise coming from his actions. He placed the wrapped ice upon the table in front of her to use at her own will and sat, the soft creaking of the leather chair the only sound made as he returned to nursing his own drink.
"Thank you" said upon his return, wincing slightly after holding the icepack to her mouth.
He stared past her at the waterfall, sad and serene as he was before. After another long silence he at last said, "No. I do not think you are a whore." He let that linger in the air for a moment before looking at her. "But unwise to the point it chokes me with strain every time I see you... yes."
"Unwise? Because I danced with him? Because he is a friend to me?"
He winced, a hint of desperation leaking into his voice. "It's not just that... bartender, Shalee. It's everything you do. It's how you told me about your past without knowing what I'd do. It's about how you goad and shirk our superiors sometimes...it's about how you pay no attention to how others might see you and take yourself as granted to be seen as how you are. Especially with us, hard-headed Amarrians. And it's about how you seem to have completely forgotten about Raphael already."
He added in a low voice, "Which in some ways I cannot blame you for... but you said yes to him."
She could only hear 'everything you do'. Everything. Nothing was right. She was an utter failure. Everything she did was wrong. As a pilot. As an officer. As a Praetorian. As an Amarrian. As a fiance. As a woman. Everything. "Right. Of course." She stood quickly and knocked over the bottle of whiskey by accident but this time she didn't care. She left it. "I bid you goodnight." She started towards the back.
He sighed, closing his eyes again. "Wait Shalee. I do not even know why I care enough to tell you this... but I do. We fly together for the same ideals, for the same people. We depend on each other. I just want... I want you to be alright."
"I'll be fine. Once we are on patrols again, I'll be fine," she lied.
He blinked open his eyes and stared off at the waterfall once more, his concerns shriveling into a dull, empty ache that gnawed at him. His voice was dead. "Very well, Lieutenant. See you then."
She made her way into the apartment and slammed the door, her anger rolling through her like a tidal wave.
How dare he judge her? How dare he...
She was trembling from a myriad of emotions, fear, rage, guilt.
Making her way into the bathroom, she turned on the shower then stepped into it, as if she could wash it all away. Water splashed against the back of her head and streamed down her dress. She held her hands to her mouth, shaking violently.
She slid down with the water running and pulled her knees to her chest and stayed that way long after the water turned cold.
The camera drone followed her around the bedroom the next morning as she dressed for patrols. She'd managed to cover the bruising along her throat easily enough with makeup. The swelling of her lip had practically disappeared by the next morning.
From a casual glance she looked unaffected, normal even.But of course, she was used to playing these games. She had spent her childhood putting on a mask to the rest of the world. This was nothing new to her, she was good at pretending.
She trailed her hands through her long red hair, fussing with it, attempting to pull it into some kind of order when her comm unit chimmed with an incoming call.
She opened up the communication with Invelious, CEO of Deus Imperiosus Acies.
"Mister Invelious..." she glanced to the digital readout of his location. Ashab. Her brow arched with curosity.
"Lieutenant Lianne. How goes it?"
"Guardian." She managed to get her hair clipped into place. "Fine. Yourself?"
"Guardian? PIE changed the ranks?"
"Yes, they have streamlined things." She gave a shrug, "Doesn't really change what I do."Invelious gave a dismissive glance. "Either way...Guardian." He smiled, "I'm in lock down at an office meeting, nothing special. Bored. Very bored. I yearn for open space."
She sat on the edge of her bed to lace up her boots, "Office meeting? Why aren't you in space?"
"I work for the Empire adminstratively also my dear. Even combat pilots, especially a leader of an order..." His gaze seemed to look beyond her, distant, as he shook his head. "...pushes paper."
Something seemed off with him, but at the moment she wasn't about to pry. She had her own worries. "Yes of course. I have my own fair share of paper work with recruitment. So I know how it goes."
As she waited for his response, she moved over to pick up her datapad. The mail program was flashing. Hmmm. Letters from the Corp, recruitment applications, Eido, and Davlos.
She clicked on Davlo's letter as Invelious responded in the background. "Only a couple of people know this, a lot will know it soon enough, but I have stepped down as CEO of DIA."
Her eyes widened, the mail from Davlos forgotten for the moment. "But why?"
"I'm going on a pilgrimage."
"What sort of pilgrimage? To where? For what purpose?"
"Everywhere loyal to the Empire and beyond. For the purpose of strengthening our numbers in this war, my dear." He hesitated for a second, "...and to search my soul."
"And you had to quit DIA to do this? What will happen to your pilots?"
"Graelyn has taken over. I always intended on passing the helm to him...and yes, I had to drop the Order to achieve what I must."
She frowned, "Will you come back?"
"In time, I will always be with DIA, that much is certain. Unfortunately many members have been lost, and only the truely strong and loyal remain. Theology Council has tasked me to find more potential agents."
She nodded solemnly, "I wish you sucess...and if you need me in any way, you know I will do all that I can, Invelious."
Static hummed across the transmission, the holo flickered a few times and his face faded. She glanced at it, waiting for the signal to pick back up. While she waited, she glanced down to read the letter from Davlos.
My Favorite Ni-Kunni,How have you been, Shalee? I'm sorry that I wouldn't be able to comm you today, because I just got podded some two hours ago and the medical staff insisted that I must burn yet another day for a full checkup.
I saw that you were really under the weather yesterday, and the Captain Newelle harsh on you as usual. I'd be damned, I had to politely drag her away before she could continue her public humiliation on you.
What happened, though? I'm probably not the most qualified Deteis in the cluster to have a shoulder to cry on, but just as much as you were there for me, I will do what I can to do likewise for you.
Maybe you just need time off. For all of your notable contributions to the fight out there, I'm sure your superiors will think you deserve some well-earned rest. Despite our implants and what not, we are human after all. During the time off, I could also put you through some stress-free simulations to help you get better with flying in space.
Regardless of what you think of how I don't love you, and maybe I still need to sort my emotions out, but yesterday had me decide that I didn't wish to see your face like that again. I must admit, it broke my heart. I hope to see you again, and maybe you could tell me all about it.
The transmission regained signal and Invelious's face popped back onto the holo. She smiled as she lowered the datapad, thinking perhaps she should ask to join him on this 'pilgrimage'. Perhaps it would do her a world of good to get away for a while.
Before she could ask if she could go with him, he started to speak, cutting her off, "Well my dear, than..." Suddenly a black bag wrapped around Invelious's head. Voices were muffled and she watched in horror as Invelious struggled, elbowing his assailant in the ribs. A stun baton flashed across her view as they dropped him easily to the ground with it then, then drug him from the room.
Seconds later the connection was killed.