Description: Adrian needs to forget. More Bryce and Kerril.
Adrian charged into his cabin - which was very untypical of him - and quickly stripped, almost tearing his lab coat off in his haste to undress. He threw the clothes on the floor, not caring where they landed, and stepped into the shower. All he could feel was Boudreaux's hands on his body, everywhere. Even though she had only touched him in a few select places.
It had been terrible and enticing, overwhelming. His body warmed in memory and his pulse quickened.
No! He pounded his fist on the tiled wall.
Her seductive voice whispered in his mind. But I am never far, not for you. You will never be able to escape me.
Adrian twisted the temperature controls to the coldest setting, choosing the strongest jet spray, and slapped the ON switch. He gasped and every muscle tightened as cold water blasted his body, strangling any hint of warmth. His body shuddered violently and desire waned. He plunged his head into the cold streams; his mouth opening in shock as his brain seemed to freeze, driving out all thoughts of the woman who would haunt his life. His whole body was tight against the onslaught of cold driving against his skin.
It was good. Cleansing. Numbing cold. Washing away all traces of weakness. Of Boudreaux.
He could almost forget her name, but not quite. Not yet.
Adrian ordered himself to relax and braced his hands flat against the wall, forcing himself to stay. He needed the cold to touch his core, seeking to numb himself to everything, losing everything except the one person who meant the most to him.
Kali was tired but happy when she returned to her cabin after the post-diplomatic briefing. The negotiations had been a great success and she had impressed the Admiral and his staff with her competence and psi abilities.
A soft smile spread across her face when she heard the strong splashes of water in the bathroom. Adrian must be washing up for the evening.
The Admiral had been bombarded with news about the Neutron Wave tests the moment he stepped off the teleport platform. It was almost as good news as the success of the Verindi negotiations, at least for the people on the ship. She knew it wouldn't be for Adrian.
Kali sighed and loosened her uniform collar. She shrugged off the stiff formal jacket with a sigh of relief. It was only then she noticed Adrian's clothes lying in a messy heap on the floor. This was unusual for a man who was organized to the point of fastidiousness. He must be extremely troubled about the progress of the Neutron Wave Project, enough to change his normal patterns. Or Kegan and Boudreaux had broken through his barriers, shattering his cool and control. Damn them.
She opened up her perceptions and reached towards the bathroom, and gasped at the cold nothingness from his mind. "Adrian!" Kali rushed into the shower. Adrian was standing as water splashed down over him. He was a hunched over statue with his arms and legs spread, and his hands flat on the wall. Just like someone bowing to the authority of a Security officer who was about to search him. His body shook like a leaf fluttering in the wind.
It was freezing. Kali hugged her arms around herself and a quick glance revealed the water temperature. She hit the OFF button and the water cut out immediately.
"Adrian, why?" She touched his arm gently. For a moment, he stayed in the same position, as if the water was still pouring over his body. He didn’t seem to hear or feel her.
There was an agonized exhalation of breath and his head moved slowly, looking up at the nozzle. With a shaky hand he reached for the ON switch
"No!" Kali pushed his hand away but he reached for it again. They wrestled as she stepped into the shower but his limbs were heavy, sluggish. She held him as he struggled, trying to push her away. There was nothing in his eyes, only a dead cold that chilled her even more than the water that soaked her shirt from holding him.
She didn't like to use her psi abilities without his permission but Kali reached into his mind, pushing, trying to find the places he left open for her. * Adrian, don't do this. Tell me what's wrong. *
The cold turned to pain as his eyes focused on her face. "K-K-ali?" He stopped struggling and sagged against her. Kali grabbed a large blue towel from the rack and wrapped it around his shivering body. His legs were unsteady and he leaned heavily against her as she led him back into the cabin.
He stared blankly and was unresisting as she lay him down on the bed and covered him with a heavy blanket. His eyes closed and he fell into an exhausted sleep. Kali brushed her fingers across his face, waiting for it to relax and lose its harsh lines, but it never did. Somewhere inside he could not sleep, he could not rest.
She slipped under the covers beside him and hugged him, pressing her body to his as her mind sent him as much calm and warmth as she could.
“You know, it wouldn’t hurt to say something nice once in a while,” grumbled Bryce as he and Kerril lined up to watch the latest action holovid. A guaranteed heart thumper. At least that was the buzz going around the ship. Bryce was looking forward to this. In the lower level grids where he grew up, they had holovids but only the barest minimum in sensory inputs. He tried not to let his enthusiasm show too much. It would ruin the cool, experienced, man-about-the-galaxy image he was keeping with Kerril.
“By which you mean, nice to you I presume?” asked Kerril.
“Well, you know, I wouldn’t mind if some of it accidentally came my way. I wouldn’t want you to strain yourself.”
She stared at him, studying his face as if he were something under a microscope. “You have nice teeth,” she said seriously.
“I...what?” he asked, mystified.
“You wanted me to say something nice.”
“But...but...,” he sputtered, “That was it? I have nice teeth? Who says that?”
“But...” He was at a complete loss for words.
“You don’t like it?” She seemed hurt and that completely deflated any outrage Bryce was feeling.
“No. I mean, yes. Uh. I’ll take whatever I can get.”
Kerril flashed him a smile. “And you’re great fun to tease.”
“You mean...” Bryce sighed and returned a wry smile of his own. “Don’t forget fun to insult at parties too.”
The line began moving. “How did I ever get along without you?”
“Luck?” They passed through the doors into the theatre hall. Bryce suppressed a rush of excitement. The walls had a brilliant sheen that reflected the best in holovid technology. It was going to be out of this world. They found their seats and sat down. "This must be really good. The place is packed."
“That's what they say." She leaned back and adjusted the sensory inputs. Her eyes glanced over at him. "I heard about the success of the Neutron Wave Project. It’s all over the ship. Congratulations.”
Bryce stared at her, not expecting the change in topic, and even more surprised that she was making the effort to be nice twice in a row.
“I didn’t have anything to do with it. It was the Lieutenant. He’s brilliant.” He copied her movements and marvelled at the plush comfort of the couch-like chairs and the sophistication of the sensory technology. There was nothing like this on the Sedener and definitely not in the lower grids where he grew up. This was going to be good.
“You help him.”
“Well, barely.” He flipped up the menu screen and scrolled through the options. “Which POV are you choosing?”
“I usually pick all of them.”
“But that’s no fun. Where’s the mystery?”
“This is an action vid.” Her eyes narrowed. “What’s the intimacy rating on this?”
The next morning, Adrian shuddered and his eyes opened. Kali was snuggled up against him, her body warm and comforting. He felt... Adrian lifted the blanket. He was naked.
Memories returned. He remembered standing in the shower as frigid water rushed over his body, chilling him to the bone. Kali had been there. It was a vague memory but she must have helped him.
She was always helping him. Adrian’s eyes closed, shutting out her image and hating himself for not being able to handle things on his own.
“Adrian? Are you awake?” Kali stirred beside him, her clothed body rubbing lightly along his. She felt good.
His eyes opened. “Yes.”
“How do you feel?”
“Fine.” The curtness of his answers was not a good sign. Kali’s eyes searched his. Adrian’s walls were firmly in place this morning. “I don’t suppose you want to talk about what happened in the shower last night?”
“Not particularly.” He rolled away from her and contemplated the bare white ceiling.
Kali sighed loudly. “We’re headed to Serias 4 next to pick up some supplies. The Admiral is going to allow some R&R. Do you want to come to town with me?”
“I can’t.” Adrian didn’t want to explain that he couldn’t leave the ship because of the implant in his head. “I have work to do.”
“You need a break, Adrian.”
He turned to face her. “I will rest after the Project is finished.” Adrian drew his thumb along the curve of her jaw. For now, the shower had achieved its purpose. Boudreaux was a fading presence, held back by memories of the numbing cold.
He felt clean and secure with Kali. There were no pressures to perform or people to push him down. She was a safe haven and he treasured her for that. He wished he could be the same for her but he knew it wasn’t possible. Adrian drew her to him, allowing the warmth of her body to touch him, and kissed her.
Chell poured himself a cup of coffee from a container in the side table. He dropped in a cream cube and stirred the murky depths with a spoon. The heady aroma of smoked vanilla tickled his nostrils. Just the scent of it made him more alert. “You were saying, sir?”
They were in the Admiral’s office discussing the impromptu trip to Serias 4. “We’re picking up a psychostrategist for Stannis.”
Chell came over and sank into the comfortable couch across from him. “That’s not good.”
“He is taking authority over Stannis’s case.”
As the Admiral drank his coffee, Chell shook his head. “Case? That makes him sound like a project.”
“He is someone’s.”
“Does that mean we won’t be able to help him anymore?”
Verel sighed as he put his cup down on the table. The gold fist emblem of the Empire glinted on its side, reminding him of his allegiance and that he was only an instrument for someone else's policy. “We’ll do what we can.”
“I’ve had a report from Security Section. Seems Kegan told them Stannis is political. They want to remind you that this is a serious matter and they should be allowed to handle it.”
“They do, do they?” The knife-edge in Verel’s tone could have cut through Herculaneum plating. “Tell them they do not have the security clearance to handle Stannis. And...” His smile was humourless and his eyes were dark, unforgiving pools. “If they do not back down, demote the whole section one pay grade.”
“With pleasure, sir.” Chell grinned. Security Section tended to think they were above everyone else and could do anything they wanted. The fear they inspired in others made them bolder than they should be. It was time to remind them who had the real power on this ship.