*********Orrion Delta 2, June, 2671**********
The rain was coming down hard; the thunder and lightning were getting worse. It was definitely not safe to continue flying.
Venutian pilot Colonel Tamerok Barotqah landed the shuttle in a clearing not too far from a cave entrance, and collected his belongings.
He packed his blankets, rations, bottles of water, portable communicator, a charger, two cook pots and plates with utensils, putting everything in a large cloth tote.
After locking the shuttle, he ran across the clearing and into the cave, his phaser aimed just in case.
He heard the crackling of a fire and smelled something cooking. He was hungry, so he went deeper into the cave to investigate.
Eventually he saw a woman there sitting on the ground, cooking something over a fire. Her back was facing him.
Walking closer, he was intrigued by the aroma. He holstered his phaser, but kept his hand on it just in case.
“That smells delicious! What are you cooking?”, Tamerok asked softly, so as not to startle her.
“I'm cooking fish with sweet and spicy compote.”, the woman replied softly as well.
Walking over to her, he squatted down in front of her. When she looked up at him, they both gasped in shock.
He instinctively reached for his phaser and pointed it at her.
“You are Skikahren.”, Tamerok said, surprised. “I expected you to be human.”
“You're Venutian. I, too, thought you were human.”, she replied, obviously afraid, and with good reason.
For over 1500 years, Venutians and Skikahrens had been bitter enemies. The expression "They fought like Venutians and Skikahrens!“ grew out of the races' fierce hatred of each other.
“What are you doing here on Orrion Delta 2, Skikahren woman? Skikahrens aren't allies of Federation Directorate. They're certainly not allies of my people.”, he said, his phaser still aimed at her.
He was seriously considering killing her. The Venutian phrase, “The only good Skikahren is a dead Skikahren.”, immediately came to his mind.
“We're not. However, the Federation Directorate helped out on a humanitarian mission, transporting both Lambdans and Skikahrens to various planets after floods swept parts of Scikrar and Lambda.
”I'm called Nidiya. I was dropped off here, the only Skikahren on the shuttle. Others of my kind were sent elsewhere on two other shuttles. The Lambdans on the shuttle I was on were given food, shelter, and other things.
“I was given a small bag with two sandwiches, 2 bottles of water, something humans call cookies, cosmetics, perfume, toiletries, as well as something the humans told me were called houseslippers.
”I was told I couldn't stay at the shelter, that I made the humans nervous because I'm Skikahren. What about you? You're obviously a Venutian soldier. You're probably planning on killing me, even though I'm an unarmed civilian.”, Nidiya said as she turned the fish over.
“My name's Tamerok. I've been on a reconnaissance mission, but stopped due to the storm. I smelled your dinner cooking and thought I'd see what smelled so good.”, he replied, smiling ever-so-slightly.
“What are you reconnaissance-ing on?”, Nidiya asked, showing slight problems with certain Terran words and phrases, a typical Skikahren trait.
“The Federation Directorate is our ally, and we were asked to fly patrols over the planet while the evacuations were going on. I'm supposed to be going back to my ship tomorrow.
”I was going to stay in my shuttle tonight but, with the storm so bad, I decided to camp out here in the cave. I had no idea anyone, much less a Skikahren was in here.”, he said.
“You're welcome to go deeper into the cave if you'd like. I know you probably don't want to stay here by my fire since our races aren't allies.”, she said.
“True. I'm most definitely not fond of your race.”, Tamerok replied, smiling ever-so-slightly once more.
“The feeling is definitely mutual. Well, Venutian soldier Tamerok, it looks like we're at an impasse.”, Nidiya said.
He nodded in agreement, his phaser still aimed at her, as he prepared to fire his weapon. A few seconds later, she said,
“The fish is ready. Here's a plate, some fruit juice and our Skikahren bread. Help yourself. I have plenty. We eat this fish with our fingers and bread.”, Nidiya said, smiling as she put a fish and extra compote on his plate.
Tamerok looked at her, shocked. He still had his phaser pointed at her, ready to kill her at any moment, yet she offered to share her meal with him, even filling a plate for him while he had a weapon trained on her!
After a few seconds, he holstered his weapon and sat down to eat, realizing she was harmless, even though she was Skikahren.
“Humans call this salsa. We call it sweet and spicy compote.”, she told him.
He took a bite of his meal. The compote was fruity and had a kick to it, and the fish was flaky and tender, seasoned with the compote. He'd never tasted fish cooked that way before. Despite the kick the fish and compote had, he thoroughly enjoyed it.
“This is absolutely delicious, and definitely has a kick to it! You're a wonderful cook!”, Tamerok said as he took a drink of the fruit juice.
“Thank you. I am glad you like it!”, Nidiya replied, having a drink of the fruit juice as well.
After they finished eating dinner, Tamerok radioed his ship to tell them where he was staying for the night, and said he'd be back in the morning, or as soon as the storm had passed and it was safe to fly. He didn't tell them he was in the company of a Skikahren.
He considered going deeper into the cave so that he wouldn't have to be so close to her all night. Despite their mutual distrust of each other because of their races, they decided to camp together by her fire so they'd both be warm.
Tamerok thought that, since she'd shared her meal with him, the least he could do was to offer her some protection in case anyone came into the cave and tried to hurt her.
As they talked during the evening, they found themselves actually enjoying each other's company. Despite being raised with centuries-old hatred for each other's race, they actually found common ground and chatted for several hours.
While they politely disagreed on long-held points of dissension between the two races, they nevertheless had a very respectful and productive chat about those same points of dissension.
They both actually listened to each other's viewpoints, never once attacking the other for their viewpoints or opinions.
They were just simply a soldier and a cleaning lady, nothing special in the eyes of most people. Yet their conversation brought more understanding between the two races than diplomats had done for centuries.
While still technically enemies, the two had found common ground, even on their races' longest-held sticking points.
When it came time to get some sleep, he suggested they lie close together by the fire in order to stay warm. She was unsure. Deep down she was concerned he'd kill her while she slept. He promised her he had no intention of killing her.
He then covered them both up with his blankets. Within five minutes they were asleep.
The next morning the storm was still raging. He contacted the ship to tell them he'd be delayed in returning due to the storm.
He asked to speak to the ship's commander, Admiral Luxhu. Tamerok told him he had a request.
He explained that he was in the company of a Skikahren woman. Tamerok explained her situation, then asked Admiral Luxhu for permission to bring her aboard as his guest.
He made sure the Admiral knew she was not his prisoner, nor was she to be considered a prisoner.
Although skeptical about the whole situation, Admiral Luxhu respected Tamerok and his judgment on things, so he approved the request.
He told Tamerok that he'd put the word out that Nidiya was not to be bothered on the ship, and that she should be treated with kindness and respect.
Tamerok thanked him, then told Nidiya she was welcome to join him on his ship, and that he'd been given assurances she wouldn't be hurt.
Despite her initial nervousness and reservations about living among Venutians, Nidiya trusted Tamerok, and decided to trust him on this as well.
For breakfast they ate some of his rations. Later that morning the storm was still raging. He contacted Admiral Luxhu and told him the situation.
The Admiral looked at the weather report for the area where Tamerok was. He said it appeared the storm would be over later that night or sometime the next day. Tamerok told him he'd check back in later that evening.
Later the next afternoon, the storm had finally passed through and it was safe to fly back to the ship. Tamerok helped Nidiya bring her belongings to his shuttle. He brought his belongings back there as well.
After putting out their fire, they then walked to his shuttle. Tamerok strapped her into the copilot's seat, then strapped himself into the pilot's seat before turning on the shuttle's engines.
Within five minutes they were out of the planet's atmosphere. Twenty minutes later they were on final approach to the Venutian vessel.
“Any chance I could change my mind and we can go back?”, Nidiya asked, suddenly having second thoughts.
“Not exactly. You'll be alright. I was given Admiral Luxhu's word that you won't be bothered by anyone.“, Tamerok said as he guided the shuttle into the hangar bay.
After exiting the craft, they carried Nidiya's belongings. Crewmembers watched Nidiya with intense suspicion.
Distrust of the Skikahren woman Tamerok had brought back with him was high.
Nidiya had similar thoughts that were combined with an intense fear of the Venutians.
He held her gently by her arm, and guided her to the lift that would take them to the floor where his cabin was located.
Tamerok had chosen to ignore the suspicious looks she was given, and had told her to ignore them as well as much as possible.
Eventually they arrived at his cabin. He told her she'd have her own cabin when the crew had accepted her. For now though, they would share his cabin.
They'd share the bed since it was a king-size bed with plenty of room. Tamerok assured Nidiya he'd be a perfect gentleman, just as he'd been the nights before.
After getting her settled in, it was time for dinner. He escorted her to the dining hall. Once again Nidiya received numerous looks of distrust, but she ignored them.
They made their food selections from the vending replicators, then sat down at a nearby table. Admiral Luxhu stopped by and Tamerok introduced Nidiya to him.
Seeing him shake her hand seemed to put the crewmembers there at ease abit.
Over the next five months she led a very quiet life of relative isolation with him.
Nidiya was practically invisible, staying out of the way. The only people she saw with any regularity were Tamerok and his friend Rakhjah, and that was only in their cabin.
For the first couple weeks, she kept her distance, never sitting next to him on the sofa, accepting hugs, or having physical contact of any kind.
He wasn't sure if it was a Skikahren thing about being in proximity to Venutians, their age-old enemies, that was ingrained in her, or if it was something else altogether.
Whenever he'd put an arm around her, she'd pull away. Nidiya couldn't stop thinking of him, or looking at him, as being anything other than Venutian.
She never saw him as Tamerok, only as the Venutian she lived with who was also her good friend. When she was honest with herself, she thought of him as her dearest friend. The feeling on his part seemed to be mutual.
Two weeks after her arrival, she was looking out the cabin window. Nidiya was wearing a blue tank top and shorts.
He took off his shirt and walked over to her.
“The stars sure are beautiful, aren't they?”, he said. She nodded, smiling.
“They're not nearly as beautiful as you, though.”, he continued. She smiled and blushed as she looked at him shirtless.
Tamerok took her chin in his hand and leaned forward to give her a kiss. She backed away, trembling.
“I'm not going to hurt you, Nidiya.”, he said.
“Tamerok...”, she replied.
“It's alright, Nidiya.”, he said.
Taking her chin in his hand, he kissed her tenderly. She returned the kiss, to the surprise of them both. He kissed her tenderly several more times. Nidiya returned each kiss.
Try as they might, they couldn't resist each other that night. They were each like a dried-up flower finally being watered, clinging to the watering can, drinking in every drop of water they could get.
For the first time, Nidiya didn't see Tamerok as a Venutian, but as a man. For the first time, he saw her not as a Skikahren, but as a woman; a woman he desired and needed that night.
Tamerok took her into his arms and kissed her passionately. Once more, Nidiya returned his kiss. They kissed passionately for several minutes, each kiss growing more and more passionate, before finally losing control of themselves in passion-filled intimacy.
They married the next morning in a private marriage ceremony in their cabin. The ceremony was known as a Life Binding.
The marriage was a strategic move on his part to provide her with some extra protection. Tamerok had become aware of undercurrents regarding Nidiya's presence there on the ship.
In the ensuing weeks and months, what had started out as simply a marriage of convenience became a real marriage.
The feelings they'd been developing grew stronger, and they fell deeply in love.
The only person he told of their marriage was his dearest friend, Duke, a human pilot he'd attended the academy with fifteen years earlier.
Using some connections he'd made over the years, Tamerok privately arranged for her to be granted Venutian citizenship for her safety.
Whenever he was on a video or live stream with his family, she stayed in their bedroom or Gathering Room just out of view. Sometimes she was in the kitchen cooking quietly.
The closest he ever let on about her was on rare occasions when they saw him rub her feet or, occasionally, her lower legs from her calves down.
He never said a word to them, and they never asked, deciding to respect his privacy. They knew Tamerok well enough to know he'd tell them about his ”friend“ when he was good and ready to.
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