A Different Plane of Existence K/U/S [PG]
Image courtesy of ME!
Disclaimer: The characters are Paramount's, their actions are mine
Summary: When all things come to and end. A fragment of a dream that would not go away until I put it to paper.
The gazelle was running for all it was worth but it knew it would not be enough. Separated from its herd, the hyenas were gaining, relentless in their pursuit of the nourishment it represented to them. The land was parched, drought was everywhere and blood was as good as water.
Lungs nearly bursting with effort, the doe changed course once again. It headed into the scrub-land, hoping the bramble and brush would slow its pursuers. As it reached the first of the bushes, a hard blow across its rear flank sent the doe reeling. At the same moment, a loud roar and a flash of tawny gold burst from cover in the brush and pounced on the lead hyena, killing it with a single snap of heavy jaws before it could do any further harm. The gazelle lay sprawled and mostly hidden in the high grass, unable to flee, its energy spent. Another blur, this time one of inky black, broke cover and attacked the next hyena in chase.
The doe could do nothing, frozen in instinctive paralysis, it watched the lion and black leopard slaughter the pack of hyenas that were too desperate to break off the hunt. As the last hyena fell from a powerful slap of its paw, the lion tilted back his massive head and gave a chilling roar. Their quarry defeated, the leopard sat down and calmly began to clean itself--as if it had not just helped in decimating a pack of ravenous hunters.
The young gazelle could not rise, could not gather its legs underneath itself even as the two felines turned their attention to its struggles. It watched in horrid fascination as the lion lazily approached. The beast was twice the size of the leopard, deeply muscled and sporting a full, brushy mane and ruff that covered its chest with rich reddish-brown fur. The leopard, deigning to take notice of the lion's movement, chose to follow in casual grace.
Panicking anew, the doe struggled to gain its feet, but found itself too debilitated to flee. Panting and trembling under the thunder of its own heart, the gazelle accepted that death was imminent. The lion could break its neck more easily than it had the hyena's, while the leopard could kill it with a snap of its jaws.
The lion neared and the doe felt its hot breath as the huge cat panted in the heat, taking its time with the kill. But the blow never came, the jaws never bit into fatigued flesh. Instead the beast chuffed softly, butting its head gently against the doe's while being mindful of the short horns that could still do damage. It then flopped itself down in a lazy sprawl next to the doe. The leopard moved in and loomed over the still terrified gazelle, its hard yellow eyes showing little interest in the doe other than idle curiosity. Once satisfied with whatever it sought, it too curled up beside the doe and promptly fell asleep. Although still unsure if it had gotten a reprieve or merely a postponement, the gazelle collapsed in nervous exhaustion.
The heat beat down on them mercilessly; no rain had fallen and the waterholes were now little more than damp earth. The doe did not understand how it had gained the companionship of the mismatched felines but accepted it with little choice. It was never alone, if one or the other vanished into the night--presumably to hunt--the other remained nearby, vigilant in a different sort of way. They followed the doe as it, in turn, followed the instinctive migration path of its kind. It never found its herd. In fact, they seldom saw any other animals, but those that saw them quickly took flight.
In the heat of the day they took whatever shelter that could be found from the hateful sun. Often, now far out on the scorched plain, the scant trees burnt and bare, the best they could find were low tumbles of rock. The lion would scrape out a hollow in the packed dirt and seek the meager shadow to be found at their base. Most of the time the doe took refuge in the shadow of the lion or the leopard rather than the rock.
Days moved into weeks and still the rains did not come. The last of the grass was sere and gone, the waterholes nothing more than cracked dirt harder than stone. The doe was exhausted, too weak to keep going its legs finally collapsed under its sparse weight. The lion moved in, attempting to nudge the gazelle back onto its hooves. The doe bleated plaintively, unable to rise. The lion sat down, exhausted in its own right. The drought had taken its toll on the big felines as well. The lion's mane was patchy and ribs could be plainly seen along its flank. The leopard's once sleek coat was now dull and lifeless, its tail furless in some places.
The doe looked up into the lion's eyes, recognizing a sense of death in them--not its, but theirs. Even if the rains came now, the gazelle knew it would be too late to sustain it. The water would be welcome but there was no grass on which to graze. The days it would take for the land to bloom again were days the doe no longer had. It would die regardless, but in doing so it could sustain the lion and the leopard. Its flesh could give them strength; its blood could keep them alive until the basins refilled.
The doe forced itself up and bumped its neck against the massive muzzle of the lion--urging it to bite and drink its blood. The lion growled in annoyance and painfully pushed away, leaving the gazelle swaying on trembling legs. Seeking another target, the doe took faltering steps toward the leopard. It rubbed its neck along the black cat's jaws and tempted instinct to render a deadly bite. The
leopard moved its head, looking to the lion as it faltered and sat down hard. The doe bleated again, turning its neck upward and offering the more vulnerable underside to the smaller feline. The leopard moved its hard eyes back from the lion to stare into the doe's for a fleeting moment before clamping down on the exposed throat. The hardness in its eyes went away as the leopard acknowledged the sacrifice the gazelle made. The doe heard a rumble in its ears and fleetingly wondered if it was the sound of far off thunder or its own heartbeat. In a second it did not matter.
Nyota woke with a start, her heart pounding from the vividness of the dream. It had seemed so real. Her movement caused Jim's eyes to open sleepily, his face mere inches from hers. She reached up and soothed his brow, whispering soft nothings to urge his lids to once again close, to cover the now all too familiar tawny eyes trying to focus. Here, curled up once again at her side, was her lion, her protector from danger. A tender smile crept over his face as he drifted back into sleep.
Turning her attention to the warmth snuggled against her back, Ny gently nudged Spock in the ribs to turn him just enough so his exhalations would not blow across her neck. His warm, steady breath was tickling her skin, making Ny squirm as it assaulted her vulnerable nape. Much nicer than the leopard, but the imagery was still there--his power over her still evident. Refusing to focus on any more of the dream now, Ny contented herself with the fact that she was safe and secure between her two men as she drifted back to sleep.
The computer quietly warned her it was 0600--time to wake and get ready for duty. Ny awoke with a start and immediately sat up, looking to the left and right of herself. She was alone in her own bunk, a bunk certainly not large enough for three. It had to all be a dream--the surreal gazelle, lion and leopard nightmare as well as the more realistic, or at least desirable, slumber party.
What had caused her to dream such fantasies? They were mere weeks away from Earth now, their mission all but done. Scores of crew were transferring out, eager to stay in space but leaving them very short-handed. Kirk and Spock were rotating through the other shifts, attempting to oversee the countless tasks to be done in preparation of a prolonged dry-dock. It was unsettling to have routine disrupted, and more still to realize it was all coming to an end.
Nyota guessed she was feeling a bit lost and exposed. Her subconscious was obviously seeking to make sense of it all. Old relationships, or the idea of new ones becoming a reality, were apparently trying to establish themselves in her brain. That they would sacrifice themselves for each other was a given, that was not an epiphany in and of itself, but what else was her mind trying to tell her? That she loved them both more than professionally? That she felt inter-connected in their relationship, but secondary at best in the layering of loyalties between them? Scary thoughts, and ones Ny was not sure she wanted to look at too deeply. She did not have time for a major freak-out session now--too much was at stake. Her career path for years to come would be decided in a few short weeks. Would it bring success or failure--figurative life or death?
But the last dream--the last dream--why did her subconscious place Nyota so intimately between the two men she trusted and respected most? Security? Lust? Both? The psychological implications of that image--a bed big enough to accommodate all three of them--was more than a little overwhelming in scope. Or was she just making something out of nothing? Was her over-tired mind just playing with tidbits it found attractive? Maybe it was safer to consider that concept. Yes--much safer.
"Computer, chime at 0645," Ny ordered as she scooted back under the covers. Maybe, if she tried hard, she could pick that last dream back up where she had left off... .