It started like any other day.
Roseblood got out of bed to the insistent beeping of hir alarm, took a quick shower, dried off, and was groomed quickly and efficiently by an auto-groomer. Shi then rummaged through hir closet for a uniform, selecting one that looked just like any other, put it on, and hurried to hir quarter’s replicator and got hirself a light breakfast.
And, like any other day, after hir second cup of strong coffee, shi kissed the two pictures of hir lifemates goodbye, and leisurely strolled out of hir quarters and down the corridors and across the pavilions, smiling and waving to passing people, eventually arriving at hir office. Had shi been anything but a flag officer, Roseblood would have likely have been reprimanded by hir superior officer for being late, but as an Admiral, shi was hir own superior officer.
After greeting with a number of the junior officers assigned to hir (and noting whom was missing). And, after handing them their assignments and taking in their reports, shi retired to hir office to begin the long, tedious process of reading through said reports shi had just received, as well as any official memos from hir higher ups.
Not unlike any other day in the graying pink chakat’s long one hundred and ten year long career.
Then, it happened.
Casually, very casually, Roseblood happened to glance up from hir the PADD shi was reading, and across hir holographic calendar. At first it didn’t even register in hir mind what shi had just seen, which naturally caused hir to take a second look. Still, it took hir a moment to understand what shi was seeing.
The holographic cube, which held the time and date, was hovering about twelve centimeters about its emitter on hir desk, alternating between a bright mauve and violet, with the words ‘heat’ floating in front of the chronological values. Reaching over, shi tapped the base to stop the flashing and dismissed the note, while shi hirself frowned.
"It must be broken," Roseblood said out loud. Certainly, shi thought, shi wasn’t in heat. Shi’d have felt it if shi was, that much shi was sure of—and unlike some people, shi hadn’t actually had sex recently, and there was no chance that shi was pregnant. Shaking hir head shi hmm’d and went back to hir reports.
But hir mind kept drifting back towards the calendar and the date, making it impossible for hir to concentrate on reading. Sighing, shi put down the PADD and mentally added up the days since hir last heat. To hir surprise, the calendar’s date was correct.
Then, it hit hir. Menopause. Shi should have been in heat… but shi must have gone through menopause and… and hir heat cycle was over.
Roseblood began to tremble. Shi had had one or two hot flashes, but nothing really major… in fact shi had thought shi was just overly warm once or twice… but this… this was unexpected. Shi felt terrible, and after it had sunk in, shi began to cry, softly.
Shi was still crying, head buried in hir arms, when, half an hour later, shi heard a knock on hir door and heard someone enter.
"I’m sorry for being late Admiral, my youngest sister was—Admiral, are you alright?" It was Makrana, one of the newest additions to Roseblood’s command.
Roseblood tried to answer, but all shi managed to get out was a cross between a moan and a grunt. A moment later shi heard the door close. For a second shi thought the much younger chakat had left hir in peace, until shi felt a hand come to rest slowly on hir back, then slowly rub back and forth.
"Roseblood, what’s wrong? What’s happened?" Makrana said.
Sighing shi lifted hir head to look at the marbled chakat. Shi, like Roseblood, was dressed in a red command uniform. Hir face, however, held an expression of extreme worry. Roseblood knew how shi must have looked, and tried to assure the lieutenant that everything was alright, but even to hir ears hir excuses sounded hollow.
Makrana hmm’d and sat down beside the admiral and kept up hir back rub. "I know everything’s not okay Roseblood, but I can understand if you don’t want to tell me."
"T—thank you, Mak," Roseblood croaked out, before leaning against the younger chakat and returning to sobbing.
Mak responded to that by wrapping hir arms around the older chakat and gently held hir, until Roseblood’s sobs subsided.
"Do you want to talk about it, Roseblood?" Makrana asked when the pinkish-red chakat lifted hir head up and dried hir eyes.
"No… no," Roseblood said, shaking hir head. "It’s fine, I’m not really sure what came over me… uh, you should probably… probably go back to your duties."
Makrana smiled crookedly. "Err, well, actually that’s why I was coming to see you—I was late for my shift because of Sugarback."
For the first time in what felt like a long time, Roseblood found hirself laughing. "Oh yes, of course. Let’s see…" Shi rummaged through the various PADDs littering hir desk until shi found the one with Makrana’s assignment details on it, and handed it to the younger chakat. Drying hir eyes again, shi stood up, and waited for Makrana to do the same. "I think I’ll take the rest of the day off."
Makrana nodded, and turned to leave, before pausing at the door, and glancing over hir shoulder at the Admiral. "Um, Admiral, before I go."
Roseblood looked up from the PADDs shi was gathering up and placing in a tote bag for transport. "Yes Lieutenant?"
"I realize this will be taken as… somewhat forward, and possibly inappropriate, Admiral," Makrana said, hesitating. "But would you mind if I joined you for a meal such as lunch or supper today?"
"Oh." Roseblood was startled; it seemed out of character for the younger chakat to be so forward. "Why?"
Makrana shook hir head. "I don’t know, you just look like you could use someone to talk to, Admiral."
The graying pink chakat nodded slowly. "I see. Well, if you’re serious, come to my quarters around 16 o’clock for supper."
"Thank you, Admiral." Makrana smiled slightly. "Enjoy your day off."
"Well, your heat cycle is definitely over, Roseblood, but for a chakat your age you’re in magnificent health," the chakat doctor said, sitting back down behind hir desk. "but the question is… why are you here."
As an Admiral, Roseblood rarely felt afraid or vulnerable, yet there was something incredibly disarming about being stripped naked and poked and prodded seven ways to Sunday. Although shi was now fully dressed again, shi still felt rather vulnerable sitting in front of the doctor’s desk. The doctor was at least seventy years younger than Roseblood, yet shi seemed as imposing as a Longtail was to a cub.
"Well, that’s that I suppose," Roseblood sighed.
"I’d be happy to extract some of your ovum and bring them to maturity, if you’d like." The doctor frowned. "It’s not as if your life is over, Rose; you still have at least another decade before you start becoming infirm and needing any sort of live-in help."
"I know, I know."
"Well then, that leaves the question of why you’re here." The doctor tented hir fingers. "I do get a good number of panicked calls from people. Heavens know how many teenagers I’ve treated who’ve suddenly discovered that their fooling around has accidentally gotten one, or both, of them pregnant. But it’s rather rare to get a call from someone of your age and wisdom with the same tone of voice as they… so Rose, what’s up?"
Roseblood hung hir head in shame; shi really had acted like a child. "Nothing, it just… it just shocked me when it happened. I hadn’t really expected it so soon. I thought I had a few more years at least I suppose… and I always thought the hot-flashes and such would be more noticeable, more intense I suppose."
The doctor hmm’d, apparently more to hirself then anyone else, before speaking. "Well, it’s not as if your experience is all that uncommon I’m afraid. Far be it for me to criticize the Turners, but for all the good intentions they may have had with their design of our species… one has to wonder if the results are really as they planned them." The doctor sighed again. "Aging for chakats is very easy, but it unfortunately means that once a chakat really starts to show hir age near the end of hir lifespan… well let’s just say it can really hit hir like a brick wall."
Roseblood nodded, "I… can see that."
"However, it sounded to me that there may be more to it than just the sudden realization that you’re getting old," the doctor said keenly. "I know it was sudden for you, but the last time we talked you seemed to be more or less accepting of the fact that you’re getting old, Rose. What’s changed?"
"I… met someone," the aged chakat said slowly, "I just thought I had a few more years… is there any way to add them?"
"Add more years to your life?"
"Yes… I know chakats don’t normally take anti-aging treatments, but maybe…?"
The doctor shook hir head. "No, I’m afraid not. Even if there were such drugs designed for chakats, you’re far too old by now for them to have any effect."
Roseblood frowned. "What about cybernetics? We could start to replace some of my more likely-to-fail organs with cybernetics and—"
The doctor raised hir hand to cut the admiral off. "Am I hearing you right? Cybernetics? From a chakat? Besides the fact that it would be highly unethical, your quality of life would go down. Rapidly. Cybernetics aren’t nearly as fun or glamorous or even all that useful as fiction might suggest, Rose." The doctor paused for a moment, looking Roseblood directly in hir eyes with a stare that seemed like it ought to be able to kill. "Tell me more about this ‘someone’ you met."
"Um… well," Roseblood gulped; shi’d have to be careful not to name any names. "Shi’s quite a bit younger then me, very beautiful and sexy and… I don’t know, when I saw hir I just liked hir—"
"How’d you meet?"
"Well, about five years ago shi was transferred into my command at the Gateway—"
"Admiral Roseblood!" the doctor exclaimed, the shock clearly evident on hir face. "You know full well dating an officer under your command is extremely unethical—not to mention frowned on. You could lose your command over this!"
Roseblood nodded bleakly, before smiling wily. "Technically… we’re not dating."
"So what? You’re already secretly mated to hir?" The doctor leaned backward and rubbed hir face with hir hands.
"Err… not exactly," Roseblood said. "I’ve technically never… actually told hir how I feel. I’ve tried hinting that I’m interested, but shi must have a really thick skull."
"Or shi’s scared as hell because you’re hir C.O."
"Or that, yeah."
"Look, Roseblood, have you ever heard of the expression, ‘any port in a storm?’" The doctor said gently, calming down both visibly and empathicly.
"Basically it means, if it’s raining, you won’t care where you take shelter." The doctor paused, and ran hir hand through hir hair. "Right now you’re scared, your body’s changing and you feel like you’re running out of time. This person, whoever shi is, is your port."
"Now wait just a minute there," Roseblood said angrily. "If you’re suggesting that shi’s nothing more then a security blanket to me you’re wrong. When I first met hir I thought shi was something special, and I still do. Maybe this menopause has forced me to rethink how I view myself, but it hasn’t—" Roseblood tried to think of a suitable analogy. "It hasn’t turned me into a freshly weaned kitten! How dare you even suggest such a thing! Do you really think I’m so weak? I survived the passing of both my mates without going out and getting some toy to comfort me. I’m a goddamn grown chakat, old enough to be your grandmother, not some child who doesn’t even know hir left from hir right!" Roseblood practically yelled the last sentence.
This time, the other chakat hung hir head, "You’re right Rose, I’m sorry. I should have known better, it’s true. But, in my defense, it is reasonably common among aging chakats. It’s not really a bad thing, it can help Longtails connect with the younger generations you know. Still, I’m sorry."
"It’s fine," Roseblood sighed. "I shouldn’t have snapped at you, it’s just been a long, stressful day. So there’s nothing you can do?"
"No, I’m afraid not," the doctor said softly. "Except… Roseblood, you still have a lot of time left. If you really like this person like you seem to… don’t… don’t wait the rest of your life not telling them."
Rose smiled. "Finally! Some good advice!"
Despite hir wisdom and maturity, Roseblood had never really been that great of a chef. Shi had, naturally, tried to learn. Hir mates had, in turn, tried to teach hir. Shi could command a fleet of ships into battle and come out with top marks, but shi couldn’t bake a cake to save hir life.
Thankfully, being an Admiral on a space station, shi was allowed to use the replicators for all hir food needs, and shi was just setting the table when a knock came at hir door. Normally, shi’d just call out to the computer to let whoever was at the door in, but this time shi decided to answer it hirself.
Roseblood was completely unsurprised when the door opened to reveal a finely dressed marbled chakat. "Hello Makrana, I’m glad you haven’t stood me up."
"Hello Admiral," the younger chakat said nervously, "I’m sorry I gave that impression."
The graying pinkish chakat laughed and ushered Makrana into hir quarters. "I was joking Mak, and call me Roseblood, or Rose if you prefer. You didn’t seem to have a hard time doing so this morning."
"I guess… I guess it was easier then, you seemed… I don’t know, like you needed it and— what’s all this?" Makrana said glancing at the dining setup, complete with fancy china plates, fine silver cutlery, wonderfully embroidered table cloth and candles.
"Oh you know, I just thought I’d go the whole nine yards." Roseblood waved hir hand dismissively. "It’s not every day that someone as shy as you comes out of hir shell."
"I’m not shy, I just… never mind." Makrana shook hir head. "Will the food be ready soon? I’m starving."
"It’s ready when you are," Roseblood gestured to the one of the taur-pillow seats bidding the younger chakat to sit. "Not much of a cook I’m afraid, I had to replicate everything but the wine."
It didn’t take long for the two chakats to consume almost all of the replicated chicken and veggies, and soon they were both leisurely sipping their glasses of wine over light conversation."
"You look good, Roseblood." Makrana commented, "And I don’t just mean what you’re wearing—you look, I don’t know, feel like someone who’s been completely revitalized."
Roseblood grinned, "Like I got laid?"
Makrana avoided answering the question by asking one of hir own. "Are you going to tell me what happened this morning, Roseblood? I’d like to help if I can."
Roseblood mused thoughtfully for a moment, before explaining. "Well, unless you have a time machine I don’t know about, Mak, there’s nothing you can do. I’m just getting old, you see, hun. This morning I should have gone into heat, but I didn’t because… because I guess I’ve just grown too old to have a heat cycle."
"Oh," Makrana said, clearly unsure of what to say. "I’m sorry…"
The older chakat waved hir hand dismissively. "There’s no need to apologize; it’s not like you did it." Roseblood paused for a moment. "How about we retire to the den? I’ve got more comfortable seating there."
Entering the den, Makrana took one of the seats rather quickly, while Roseblood picked up a picture from the coffee table and showed it to the younger chakat; it featured Roseblood sandwiched between two other chakats, seemingly at some sort of party or such. "These are my two lifemates, Moonsinger and Dusksands."
"Oh? Are they serving on elsewhere? Or are they here?" Makrana asked, peering at the door ways as if worried one of them might come and catch hir interloping.
"Nope, dead," Roseblood replied, perhaps a tad too cheerfully.
"Oh, I’m sorry Shir," Mak apologized with a look of abject horror on hir face. "I didn’t know. When did they pass?"
Roseblood sighed. "Twenty years ago for Moon, thirty-five years for Dusksands."
"And you’ve been alone all this time?" Mak asked softly, before leaning over and giving the older chakat a hug.
"I wouldn’t say I was completely alone, I have friends and co-workers and such. No other mates though." Roseblood gently wrapped hir arm around the younger chakat and gave hir a squeeze in return.
Makrana sighed, before realizing what shi was doing and pulling away. "Oh, I’m sorry Admiral; I didn’t mean to… it was just instinct, you know."
It was Roseblood’s turn to sigh. "Makrana, are you afraid of me?"
"What… what do you mean?" the marbled chakat asked.
"I show you a bit of affection, and you shy away," Roseblood explained, pouring hirself another glass of wine. "Even when it’s you who initiates it, you always seem to shy away."
"Well, it just wouldn’t be appropriate, shir." Makrana shook hir head. "You’re my CO."
"And a CO can’t also be your friend off duty?" the older chakat asked rhetorically, as shi took a big drink of hir wine.
"How would you feel if I wasn’t your CO anymore?"
"Wha—I’m being transferred? To where?" Why?" Makrana sputtered.
"No, no." Roseblood shook hir head. "I was thinking about retiring."
"Why? You love your job—I see it every time you walk into your office."
"I’m also getting old Makrana!" Roseblood exclaimed. "I can’t be wasting myself behind an Admiral’s desk. Any other chakat my age would have a number of mates to support hir emotionally, but I have no-one because I’ve spent so much time wrapped up in my job. I… I need to break free, spend sometime with my grandchildren, with friends, with you—I mean… uh…" The older chakat looked utterly petrified at having let hir tongue slip like that.
"With…me?" Judging by the look on hir face, Makrana was utterly bewildered. "Wait a minute… are you telling me you’re in love with me?"
"I don’t know," the aged chakat finally managed to get out. "I’ve fallen in love five times over my life, each time was different. This could be love, or maybe I’ve just got a school-girl crush on you. I don’t know but I’m willing to gamble on it."
"I suppose that’s true," The marbled chakat said, "wait a minute—five times? But…"
Roseblood smiled sadly. "Being in Star Fleet means meeting a lot of interesting and new people, but it also makes forming relationships very difficult. Three of those times, it simply didn’t work out."
"Oh." Makrana licked hir lips thoughtfully. "I should have known by the way you acted towards me. I suppose I just thought you were trying to be friendly… I couldn’t see past your rank, I guess."
The graying pinkish-red chakat just nodded and sipped hir wine a bit more.
"I…" Makrana began, before stopping hirself with a very thoughtful look on hir face. "Would you like to be my companion, Roseblood?"
Despite hirself, Roseblood’s jaw dropped in shock. Shi hadn’t actually planned on telling the younger chakat of hir feelings that night—shi was just going to tell hir about hir plans to retire. When shi had accidentally let it slip… well shi had thought that shi had pretty much blown it. "Why? I—I mean yes! Of course! But why?"
Makrana laughed and gave the startled chakat another hug—but this time included a nuzzling. "Because you look like you need a friend, a good friend. I don’t know if it’ll grow to love, but I think it will."
"What makes you think that?"
Makrana shrugged, "I was always a bit put off by your casualness, but I really do like you. And… uh." The insides of Makrana’s ears turned a bright red as shi blushed. "Once or twice I may have had some… erotic dreams about you."
Roseblood leaned down to lick-kiss hir new companion on the cheek. "I’m flattered for sure, but such things don’t always indicate anything."
Makrana shook hir head, "I know I know, I’m not a teenager after all. It’s just that after the dreams, when I woke up, I’d lie there replaying the dream as best I could, and they always made me feel warm and content. Of course reality would set in, and I’d tell myself it’d never happen and…"
"Well, would you like to make one of those dreams a reality?" Roseblood grinned. "I may be post-menopausal now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have urges."
The marbled chakat giggled. "Alright. I’ll call my folks and tell them I probably won’t be home tonight."
Roseblood nodded. "Good idea, it’ll let me finish up some paperwork."
"Paperwork? At a time like this?"
"Remember how I said I was thinking about retiring? I kind of lied… I am definitely retiring," Roseblood explained, getting to hir feet. "I just need to send off the first bit of paperwork to get the process rolling."
"Oh." Mak hopped to hir feet. "Don’t do it on my account."
"Nah, it was time anyway."
"Well, I suppose my only question is—who’s going to be replacing you?"
"I’m not sure. However…" Roseblood paused, debating whether to tell hir, before deciding it would be cruel not to. "It’s likely they’ll bring in another Admiral, but I’ve recommended you for the position"
"What? But that’s an Admiral’s job." Makrana protested as shi followed the older chakat out of the den into Roseblood’s study where hir computer was. "And won’t it be misconstrued if I’m recommended the same night as I asked you to be my companion?"
"Nonsense!" the elder chakat waved hir hand dismissively. "The job’s authority comes from the position, not the rank of the officer holding it." Shi shrugged. "Although I should warn you accepting the position would put you on a fast track of command, I’m not sure if that’s something you want."
Makrana frowned and thumbed hir earring. "Well, I dunno. I can’t say I dislike moving up higher, but it’s been nice being back home with family."
"That’s true, but you’ve been stationed here too long as is," Roseblood said gently. "You’re probably going to get transferred in a few weeks anyway. If you do get selected you’ll have more time, but you’ll eventually be expected to go elsewhere."
The marbled chakat nodded glumly.
"As for the other question…well, it’ll certainly be looked into very closely," the soon-to-be-retired admiral admitted as shi tapped a few buttons to send the files on their way. "But all this is time stamped, I wrote it all before you arrived and the logs will show as such. And… well Star Fleet tends to be a bit more lenient with chakat couples anyway."
As Makrana checked in with hir family, Roseblood retired to hir bedroom and stripped out of hir uniform, and waited for Makrana to join hir. Shi didn’t have to wait long before hir new Companion did so.
Makrana grinned at the sight, and leaned in to give the older chakat a kiss. "You know Rose, for someone who’s one hundred and twenty-seven years old, you look damn fine."
"You sweet talker you." Roseblood leaned back into the pile of pillows that served as a bed, pulling hir lover along with hir. "Should have been a diplomat."
"Shhh." Makrana replied, silencing the elder chakat with hir index finger. "Less talk about the job, and more loving!"
Roseblood was only too happy to oblige!
To be continued in For Better Or For Worse.
Chakats and other concepts © 2010 Bernard Doove
Roseblood and Makrana are copyright me, Honeymane
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