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Predator Or Prey?

Posted on Wed Sep 13th, 2017 @ 1:16am by Lieutenant Cailus Griffin & Lieutenant Kalin 'Shae' Brennan-Griffin PhD

Mission: Into The Wild
Location: Holodeck 1
Timeline: After "Gratitude and Magic Ears"

There were days when duty and the need to work long hours was a blessing. Everyone needed a distraction sometimes, and Starfleet officers had distraction aplenty when it came to the job. Cailus himself had often come to be grateful for such days, when he could bury himself in drills, paperwork and working with his Sec/Tac people. Such days reminded him why he loved being in Starfleet.

Today was not one of those days.

In his office, Cailus looked at the two crewmen across from him with undisguised irritation. His shift had ended thirty six minutes ago, which was a full thirty six minutes later than he'd wanted to stay in this blasted office. He desperately wanted to go see Shae, to explain, but for now, he had two spectacular idiots to deal with.

"Now, Crewman Scipio," he said with a quiet, threatening tone, "please explain, in detail, why I got a call forty minutes ago from Ensign T'Kemi reporting extensive damage to our training holosuite. Kindly explain the impact damage not only to the holosuite but also to the bulkhead behind it, which will apparently take at least a week to repair for our already overworked engineers."

The crewman in question glanced uncomfortably at his fellow felon, a tall Betazoid man who was sitting stock still and trying very hard not to be noticed. "Well, sir," Scipio said hesitantly when he realised that he was alone, "we were...uh...refining our targeting you showed us sir, using that Marine technique from the old days." The Italian man plainly hoped that this would ease Cailus' fury, but his words bounced off Cailus' scowl without making a dent. "Well...we were training, sir, and we were discussing how the holosuite safety protocols might affect the targeting on the heavy phaser cannon. So we...erm...we talked...and we decided...with proper safety precautions...well, we thought they were turn off the safety protocols."

There was a painful moment of silence before the storm, as the crewmen looked at Cailus and he looked back at them, unblinking. Then he let them have it with both barrels, a verbal onslaught that neither crewman would forgot for a long, long time.

Meanwhile, in one of the proper undamaged holodecks, Shae started up one of her archery programs. She had already contacted Rebekah saying that she would be a little late picking up Aoife, she just needed some time to herself to blow off some steam and the holodeck happened to be unoccupied. And boy, did she have a lot of steam to release! Between all the overtime and wrestling with bad memories dredged up by the hallucinations, Shae was beyond tense, and then with Cailus last night... Shae sighed; she didn't even know what was going on between her and Cailus! It wasn't like a spat, they hadn't argued, they simply weren't talking... again... But she just needed to stop thinking for a little while, she when she walked into the holodeck to see a lush, wild forest, she grinned; this was just what she needed!

Shae took off into the wild, running for the simple thrill of running; her run wasn't a proper 'run' once she got up to speed, it was more like a lope, but she was so fast and agile, leaping through the trees, letting the wild out as she breathed the forest in, it was so liberating and exhilarating! And so she continued to 'run', wild and untamed, her bow in hand and her quiver at her hip, just running and running until she felt breathless; Shae may have loved the stars and her life in Starfleet, but there was a part of her that was equally as happy in settings such as this, the primal instinct that yearned to do precisely what it was designed to do: survive and hunt.

After thoroughly scolding the two culprits, and ensuring that both men would be more careful in the future, Cailus finally strode out of his office. Impatient, he had asked the computer for Shae's location as he walked, and immediately made a beeline for the holodeck. It was a scarce couple of minutes, but he was still irritated at how it long it took. After spending a full day both anticipating and dreading the conversation, he was eager to just see her and make things right.

Indeed, Cailus very nearly made an egregious error of his own, but a moment of common sense stopped him from pressing the button to open the door, remembering vividly the time an arrow had flown quite close to his head. Taking a breath, he instead lowered his finger to another button, tapping the holodeck chime.

Shae had finally stopped running and was stalking a creature that had stopped for a drink of water from a nearby creek. It was hideous, it looked like a Nausicaan, if they were quadrupeds and twice as big... She was just drawing her bow when she heard the chime.

"Computer, allow entrance to guest with warning," Shae said softly as she took aim, waiting for the creature to turn just a little bit... a little bit more...

At the large holodeck doors, the Computer sounded off with its warning as the doors opened for Cailus: "Proceed with caution, holodeck safeties have been disabled."

As Cailus entered and the doors shut behind him, the quiet, beautiful serenity of the forest was interrupted as Shae shot through the forest, and the creature, with an arrow in his head, was hot on her heels! She had the biggest grin on her face as she reveled in the thrill of the chase and leapt straight up and into a tree. The creature, WITH AN ARROW STICKING OUT OF HIS SKULL, rammed into the tree trying to knock his prey to the ground. Shae held firm, then managed to fire down several arrows in rapid succession, puncturing the lungs and diaphragm, liver, and probably much more with her attempts to fell the beast, but it just wouldn't go down! It wasn't until one of her arrows hit the spine that the creature finally fell to the ground, and she dropped down from her perch with amazing grace. Even partially paralyzed, the creature was trying to get at her, swinging at her with its ferocious claws. Shae growled at the creature and hopped up into a crouch onto its back where it could not get to her, and she drew a hunting knife from her belt and quickly and efficiently jabbed the blade into the base of its skull, finally killing the beast, then she removed the blade and wiped the blood off on its hide to return the blade to its sheath. Then she looked up, her feral gaze falling upon Cailus who had seen the whole takedown. She did nothing, she said nothing, instead she simply observed him like the lethal predator that she was, a soft rumble vibrating in her chest.

Having watched the entire display, Cailus stayed perfectly still, staring right back at her. With the tangy smell of the creature's blood on the air, he felt that ancient, primal fight-or-flight response that was so deeply ingrained in his own species. Shae looked utterly wild and dangerous, her eyes lost in that predatory haze even as she growled, perfectly capable of tearing him to shreds if she so desired...and yet, weirdly, she looked all the more beautiful for it. Breathtakingly so.

Finally, he made a decision. Talking felt wrong. Instead he decided to just smile, but otherwise did nothing, waiting her out.

Shae offered a fanged grin in return, hopping down from the back of the creature and striding over to the nearby creek. As she knelt down, she set her bow aside, then cupped her hands in the water to bring it to her lips to drink.

Intrigued, Cailus nevertheless hesitated. He truly didn't have the faintest idea what was happening; indeed, it took a real force of will to connect this beautiful creature with the demure woman he'd woken up to that morning. He'd seen glimpses, certainly, but nothing quite like this. Still...

With careful slowness Cailus took off his boots and socks, setting them down on the grass before gradually approaching Shae as she drank from the creek. He crouched down next to her, watching silently, unwilling to snap Shae out of it by saying a word. Instead he simply drank in the sight of her, savouring the moment.

Shae's lips curled into the tiniest hint of another smile as he approached ever so cautiously and crouched next to her. "What's the matter? afraid I might bite?" she asked, just to tease him. No, she knew he wasn't afraid of her; she could smell adrenaline, but his heart rate wasn't fast enough, and his body language was wary but for the most part calm and relaxed, too relaxed to simply be self-discipline. She took one more drink from the creek. "I forgive you, by the way," she said, then splashed some water on her face. Her voice had a thick quality to it, this was clearly more than 'his' demure Shae, and yet she was still wholly Shae. "And I'm sorry if I was moody because of last night."

"It was my fault, after all," Cailus said gently. It felt strange to hear Shae talk like this, with such confidence and self-assurance, more bold than he was used to. "I really don't deserve you, do I? You forgive me without having even heard why I didn't tell you."

"It wasn't that you didn't tell me..." Shae said, then looked to the sky with a sigh. Sometimes when she was like this, things became... simpler. "I knew you would tell me when you were ready, and given what you told the Captain, I can understand why you wouldn't want to talk about it at all, but... it kind of stung that you talked to the Captain about it, and I even understand that his wife had been with you when it happened so he had some insight to offer, but I couldn't help how I felt in that moment." She turned her gaze to him, and her eyes still looked so wild, but his sweet and loving Shae was still within that feral gaze. "But at the end of the day, I'm your girlfriend, not your therapist, and I shouldn't expect you to talk to me like that, though I'll always be there for you when you do want to talk."

"Yeah, I definitely don't deserve you," Cailus said with a shake of his head. Feeling his knees start to ache from crouching, he simply sat on the grass. "Shae, you should expect it because I want that with us. I trust you. I just don't know how to say it."

Shae chuckled softly at his affirmation that he didn't deserve her. "Cailus, you are a wonderful, caring man, so kind and gentle, and you are amazing with Aoife, you've lost so much and ask for so little in return... You deserve to get exactly what you want," she said to him with her warm smile, pleased beyond measure that she was what he wanted because she was his, wholly and completely. "And I know you trust me; you are here now," she added, as if that was all the proof she needed.

"Then I should just be a man and say it." Cailus looked up at the sky, as if seeking solace, before finally, gradually moving his hand to his right pocket. "Shae, I lied to you once. I told you that my hand was the only thing I had left from the past. There was one other thing." He slowly pulled out a small, cube-shaped box, with elegant golden Romulan script flowing its green surface. The sunlight glinted off the green and gold, highlighting the colours with a sparkle. "I had this. The Romulans had to cut it off my finger when they were trying to resuscitate me, but their doctor restored it and gave it back to me. I haven't seen it since. Nobody else even knows about it. The counselors asked, but I just lied and said it was lost during the battle. It felt as if...hell. It's stupid. It's idiotic. It doesn't make any sense."

"It's not stupid at all," Shae said softly, the earlier change in tone finally fading from her voice. "There are things I have not told you, mainly because if I told you everything, I'd be talking for weeks, plus there's the issue of sensitive information I shouldn't talk about... But you don't pry, and you don't judge me for keeping it to myself, you trust me to tell you things when it's relevant and I do. Anyway, I believe we all deserve to have one secret, I don't think any less of you for keeping this one."

Silent for a moment in the face of Shae's compassion, Cailus finally said it. "It felt like if this stayed hidden, then my old life was still...with me. When I saw Harriet, hurt, Shae, but it didn't break me. I didn't tell you about Harriet because I missed that...being broken when I thought of her. It connected me to her. But without me even noticing, that passed. It still damn near killed me, and I was only able to get through that day by seeing you and Aoife, but it passed."

Gradually, he moved the box over to Shae, the motion hesitant. "Open it."

Shae smiled slightly as he relayed his feelings, proud that he was overcoming something so painful. But it didn't hurt her; obviously, she ached to take his pain away, but it didn't hurt her to hear that he was trying to hold onto this little piece of his past, she knew he had to get through this at his own pace. Anyway, this was one thing she didn't see a point in him giving up; Harriet and Victoire had been an important part of his life and she didn't want to disrespect that relationship. But then he offered her the little ring box and her heart skipped a beat; she knew it wasn't for her, but there was some part of her hoping that someday, maybe, there would be another little box that was meant to be hers. She took the box and opened it, gazing at the simple gold wedding band tucked within, gingerly tracing the shiny curve with a claw; even with her primal side riled up from her hunt, she was still so gentle.

"You must miss her so terribly," she said sympathetically.

Nodding silently, Cailus considered the ring as Shae's claw ran along its golden curve. "Strange. I was expecting something to happen when you opened that. I don't know what. Just something."

Shae offered a small huff of a laugh as she closed the box and returned the box to him. "Don't know what you were expecting, but I can look at it again to see if I produce a different reaction," she offered somewhat playfully.

Cailus grinned as he took the box back, putting it back in his pocket. "You can look at it anytime you want, love," he said, matching her tone for tone. Even as he said that though, he sight of Shae's claws (very dangerous-looking claws) stopped Cailus short, and he looked down at them curiously. They looked so different to normal fingers. He'd long since taken them for granted, treating Shae's claws much the same as her tail or her paws, but having just seen Shae so easily kill a great beast, those claws took on a whole new meaning.

"What's it like?" he asked idly. "When you're hunting?"

Shae noticed him looking at her claws; they clearly grew much thicker and harder than 'normal' nails and she typically kept them trimmed in an 'almond' style that was popular among human women, mainly because overly long and unruly claws just weren't practical in the lab (and she couldn't lie, it was her one guilty pleasure to go treat herself to a manicure every few weeks), and she didn't need to keep them sharp at all with as much force she could put behind her blows if she had to make use of them, making them no less lethal even though they were quite dull. She quickly looked down at her claws then back up at him as she considered the question.

"I'm... I'm not sure if I could explain it in any way that would make sense," she said with uncertainty, then cast her gaze over to the beast she had killed to try to recapture that moment and analyze the feelings so she could fit them into words. But why use words, they were in the holodeck, she could just show him!

"Computer, increase the volume of ambient sounds by... 75% and the intensity of all scents by 82%. Monitor vitals and olfactory indicators from myself and Lieutenant Griffin and simulate an increase in the intensity of those levels as well," Shae ordered, and the computer chirped in confirmation of those orders. Immediately, everything was louder, everything from the rustle of the leaves, to the wind over the grass, the water rushing in the creek, even the sounds of creature going about their business unseen in the forests. And the smells! The blood from the creature was the most pervasive smell, and it was almost overwhelming for Shae at this level, but she was used to tolerating unpleasant odors, and she wondered how Cailus would handle it. There was a slight delay in the simulation of the louder heart rates and respiration, but soon he would hear his own heart beat as well as Shae's hammering in his ears, and Cailus could now clearly smell the sweat Shae had worked up even though there was a bit of distance between them.

The experience was a brutal assault on the senses, and within seconds Cailus felt a mighty headache forming. The human brain simply wasn't built to handle such hypersensitivity; he could smell the blood as if it was right in front of his nose on top of a seeming infinity of other scents, all on top of another infinity of sounds. The forest was blessedly quiet, but he could hear the wind rustling through the leaves, the babbling of the water as it passed through the creek, his and Shae's heartbeats and countless other things.

Cailus closed his eyes and found to his relief that it helped. As the seconds passed he even started to discern more subtle scents, from Shae's sweat to the faint tang of something on her breath that he couldn't identify. It was a wonderful experience...but it also hurt as if a gorilla was drumming on his skull.

"Computer," he murmured, reaching blindly for Shae's hand, "revert to previous settings."

His reaction was not at all unexpected, and as he reached for her, Shae moved closer and put her arms around him. "It's alright, just breathe," she said softly as she held him tenderly, then checking that his eyes were still closed, she spoke again. "Now, hold onto the memory of what you've just experienced and how it made you feel, the rush of it... And imagine that I am your prey," she whispered into his ear. "You must kill to survive in the wild; you are hungry and your prey will sustain you for many days, but you must be quick and decisive or your prey may escape! Or perhaps..." Shae trailed off as she ran her claws ever so gently down his neck, tracing his carotid artery, and she knew she was getting to him because his heart was racing! "Perhaps I will turn the tables on you and hunt you instead... You must be stronger, faster, smarter; the better hunter is the one who survives."

Even amidst the intoxicating feeling of danger with his neck so vulnerable to her, Cailus realised that he did know what she was talking about. He knew full well what it was like to be prey...and what it was to be the hunter. He could feel the points of her claws against his skin, could feel Shae's heart beating against his own within her protective embrace. It was an addictive sensation to feel such a powerful predator so close to him. Physically he was much larger than her, but even so, he could feel his blood quickening at the perceived threat, sensing the coiled lethality within her.

Opening his eyes to look into hers, Cailus smiled, but it was nothing like his usual, gentle amusement. There was a hungry look to the way he moved his lips, an arrogance in how slowly the corners of his smile grew.

"So I'm your prey, am I?" he whispered in playful challenge.

"No, today I am your prey," Shae said with a coy smile, then rose to her paws. "Computer, remove all wildlife deemed dangerous and lock the doors," she said, and the computer chirped in confirmation as the door locked and the carcass of the creature she killed disappeared. Then without another word, she unbelted her quiver and dropped it, then darted into the trees.

Grinning, Cailus stood up, but Shae was already long gone with that astonishing speed of hers. Sensing that the chase would be a marathon rather than a sprint, he took out the ring box and set it on the ground before casually taking off his uniform jacket and shirt, placing both neatly on the grass besides the little green box. He knew that his slowness to set off would torture Shae just a little, and he relished the feeling.

Then, now bare-chested and feeling the thrum of anticipation in his stomach, he set off into the forest after her.

The hunt was on.


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