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Part of USS Aquarius: Gravitational Anomaly

What About Now?

USS Sheridan
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Ghant Xerix took a moment to consider his reflection in the small head of his quarters. The Betazoid had large, dark features handsomely arranged on his face. He was of middling height, but excellent posture and an air of self importance picked up where the tape measure left off. 

That self-important air was both bred and earned in Ghant’s mind. Bred because he was a Son of the Third House of Betazed, Custodian of the Mantle of Rixx and Steward of Durona. Earned because he was a Starfleet Commander, and after nearly two decades of work had recently been assigned to the coveted role of Executive Officer on an Admiral’s flagship. 

A rare and difficult-to-attain spot, this position would bring a multitude of advantages to the Betazoid. The day to day command of the ship would largely be left to him, and flagships were a revolving door of Starfleet’s top brass. The exposure to these high-ranking officers couldn’t be overvalued in his career. 

Ghant was roused from these musings by a familiar feeling brushing over his confidence. The sensation was so subtle he nearly missed it. Like just barely hearing a familiar song over the hum of a crowd.

He brushed the feeling aside and stepped out of his quarters, into one of the corridors of the USS Sheridan. The Reliant-class vessel was transporting dozens of officers, and supplies assigned to three ships in the area. 

A trip to the officer’s lounge for dinner and a few cocktails was in order. Perhaps there would be some pleasant scenery in the lounge, he mused.

“Hasperat,” said Raygi as he stepped closer to the replicator terminal. “And a small garden salad, no cucumber, with ranch dressing. And a large ice water.” The platter of consumables appeared in a swirling vortex of photonic energy in the replicator bay. Raygi removed the tray from the unit and turned around to scout a place to sit. 

The Bajoran could feel the eyes of the Sheridan crew on him, and his ears burned from the fact that he was a popular topic of conversation. Not really wanting to be bothered, Raygi found a seat in the far corner near a window. As he sat, he could not shake a feeling that the Terrans would call dejá vu.

Ghant spotted the Bajoran walking towards his seat. Recognized the brush of his consciousness against Ghant’s own just as much as he recognized the face. The Commander let a vulgarity escape his lips before heading to the replicator. He would need a moment to collect himself. 

A few moments later, armed with a tray of Ktarian canapés and a rather strong cocktail, the Betazoid approached Benyan’s table. “Is this seat taken?” He said in a humorous tone.

Without looking up from his tray, Raygi spoke. “No offense, but I would really prefer to dine alone. Whatever you have to say, I’m sure you can say it behind my back just as easily.”

Perplexed, Ghant actually felt a flush of embarrassment before he realized that the Bajoran hadn’t caught on yet. “I’ve never been one to…what’s the phrase? Kiss and tell.” He replied, still holding his tray a bit awkwardly. 

“Look, I…” Raygi began as he looked up. A knot caught in his throat and the Bajoran was paralyzed with shock and a touch of embarrassment. Standing next to his table was someone Raygi had never really expected to see again…his former flame. “Ghant,” he almost whispered. “My apologies, Commander. Of course you are welcome to join me, Sir.”

A smirk reached Ghant’s face as he sat down. “We can forgo the ranks, I think. I’m just a passenger here. Do you serve on this ship?” He asked, taking a sip of his drink. 

Raygi shook his head no as he chewed a bite of his salad. “I’m a passenger too. On my way to the Aquarius for my next assignment.” Raygi paused to take a drink of his water. “Considering what happened, I’m grateful to the Prophets to even have an assignment at all.”

The Betazoid set his delicious-looking canapé down. “I’m sorry I haven’t kept in touch, Bennie. Why don’t you help me understand what’s happened to you?” He asked. 

Raygi wiped his mouth with a napkin, placing it next to his plate. “I was stationed as Ops Chief on the Olympus; I had only made full Lieutenant less than a week prior. It was off-duty hours and a small group of us was in Ten Forward. A few tables away Commander Stovek, the XO, was saying very disrespectful things about Captain Takashima. I asked him to stop, but he wouldn’t…so I broke his nose.”

As the last of his ex’s words came out, Ghant choked down the urge to let a string of profanities out. “You…you broke a Commander’s nose. In public. For something less than mutiny…Benyan…So what, did they bust you down to ensign? Make you scrub the manifolds with a toothbrush?” 

“Nothing so simple,” said Raygi with a grimace. “Commander Stovek insisted on following protocol to the letter. I was court-martialed for striking a command level officer and conduct unbecoming.” Raygi put his hands palms down on the table. “I was demoted to Lieutenant JG and sentenced to ninety days at the Jaros II penal settlement.”

At that, Ghant did allow a few metaphors to escape. Incarceration wasn’t justified at all here. This Stovek person must have been very well-connected, or there was more to it. Either way, this event would be a blemish on Benyan’s career for a long time to come. “I’m so sorry, Bennie. I had no idea.” He said after a few moments. 

The Bajoran shrugged. “It is what it is, Ghant. This is going to color the remainder of my career in Starfleet…but I just want to move forward and continue serving.” He looked the Betazoid in the eyes. “My crew mates are all I have left.”

The Commander nodded, letting a silence settle between them for a moment. The Bajoran had been been his lover, his Imazadi for nearly a year when the two had served together on Starbase 332. They had only ended things because of the impracticality after Ghant had been transferred. 

“Well your situation aside, it’s great to see that handsome mug of yours again. I’ve missed you, Bennie.” Ghant admitted.

Raygi felt the ridges of his nose get warm as they flushed beet red. “I’ve missed you too…Sobaru.” It was an unusual pet name to call someone, for sure. Sobaru was a star-shaped blue flower native to Bajor…and it was one of the most beautiful things Raygi had ever seen. That’s why it suited Ghant so well. 

The Betazoid thought for a moment and then, emboldened by synthehol and Bennie’s company, took a risk. “I’d like to keep catching up, perhaps you’d join me in my quarters for another drink?” He asked. 

Ghant made a very tempting offer. Knowing the Betazoid as he did Raygi knew that drinks would likely lead to other, more intimate moments. And Raygi wanted that. But not from just any random stranger…only from Ghant.   

“I would love to,” said Raygi softly. 

A few minutes later, the pair entered the Commander’s quarters. He eyed the Bajoran with a mischievous look. “What’ll it be, Bennie?” 

Raygi stopped and thought for a moment. He decided to choose one of his favorites…a classic Terran cocktail, with a twist. “Martini. Extra dry. With two olives.”

Ghant was just about to retrieve the drink plus another for himself, when the computer interjected in her smooth monotone voice. “Priority Two Message for Commander Ghant Xerix” 

The Betazoid sighed and then glanced back over his shoulder. “Excuse me a moment, please.” He said as he made his way to his desk. 

Leave it to the Computer to cramp my style, thought Raygi with a smirk. Truthfully, his mind was still swimming. It was like The Prophets were attempting to speak to him, but less than a pagh’tem fah. Something was happening, and Raygi would play a part. Of this he was certain. 

Ghant identified himself to the terminal, and then opened the message. He read it quickly, shook his head and re-read it. The words made sense, but the plan behind them made none. 

“I…I’ve been reassigned. How could this be?!” His voice was an odd mixture of confusion, alarm and growing anger. 

“…and I’m guessing you’re not happy about this?” asked Raygi pointedly. “Or are we just being a little extra?

Ghant took a breath, pinching the bridge of his nose to try and calm himself. “I had been assigned to the USS Lexington, Admiral Vael’s flagship. Apparently there’s been some sort of shortage on the Aquarius and now I’m reassigned to her.” He said in clipped tones. 

“Personally, I fail to see the downside to that,” said the Bajoran with a wry smile. “But why are you upset?”

The Commander let his frustration show in his face. “My career has a plan…a trajectory. I turned down captaining my own ship to XO for an Admiral. It was the next step in a meticulously planned path. This assignment does nothing to further that plan. It just puts me out in a contentious, dangerous part of space, to be forgotten about.” He explained. 

Raygi’s smile fell flat. It was time for a little tough love. “With all due respect, Ghant…snap out of it. The Prophets have given you a gift, and They always do so for a reason. You may not believe in Them, but I do. There are always positives , you just need to find them and be grateful for them. Some of us had to fight just to have the assignments we do.”

Bennie’s words had a sobering effect on the Betazoid. Here he was, having a melt down over which prestigious vessel he would get to XO and trying to comfort him was an officer fresh from a penal colony. 

“Forgive me. You’re right of course. I am grateful for the assignment. Perhaps I don’t understand the reasoning, but I’m glad at least that you and I have an opportunity to reconnect.” Ghant said as he sat on the couch next to the Bajoran. 

“You know, they say that prison changes a man,” said Raygi, inching a little closer to Ghant. “It certainly…deprives you of things that you don’t know you miss.”

The Betazoid’s mind was filled with a million questions, but in the middle of that chaos, Bennie was something familiar. Something good. Someone he had hungered for, for so long he had gotten used to the pangs. “Like what, exactly?” He asked.

“Simple things that most of us take for granted,” said Raygi, looking directly at Ghant. “A handshake. A hug. A kiss.”

The Commander’s face took a slightly more serious expression. “Bennie, the way things are shaping up you and I have an opportunity. I never stopped caring for you. Is this something you still want?” He asked. 

Raygi reached over tentatively and picked up Ghant’s hand, interlacing their fingers together and squeezing lightly. “It’s something I’ll never stop wanting, Sobaru. Come back home…please.”

The two embraced, and all of Ghant’s concerns became an afterthought. Bennie was worth missing out on a flagship for. “Imzadi” he whispered into the Bajoran’s ear, and let thoughts of all else go.