(( Five days later - Xerix Estate, Rixx, Betazed ))
The pair beamed into the lush courtyard of Ghant’s childhood home. A large, gnarly tree with drooping branches held court in the center of a pond, in which swam elegant, colorful waterfowl. The courtyard stood in the center of a collection of pale green, dome shaped buildings of mixed heights.
One Terran architect’s wife had remarked that Betazoid buildings of this style were “mushroom-like” and while Betazed had no fungi which grew in that style, Ghant could see the similarities. The shape was born of necessity, needing a deep foundation in the soft, muddy ground of the swamp that was Betazed, while also needing a smooth shape for the winter winds which could be quite formidable.
Xerix: Welcome to Betazed, Sami.
The first thing she noticed was the rather warm temperature and she removed her leather jacket, while she took in the beautiful courtyard, the pond, the tree and its surroundings. Following the ducks, diving in the water, and resurfacing half a meter further away, drops of water flowing off their feathers. She stood there quiet for a moment, her dark eyes taking everything in. Spending most of her life on starships she never had the pleasure of living in a real house, or in Ghant’s case an estate, and for the first time she wondered if she had missed something in her life.
Neathler: It’s a lovely place, Ghant.
At that moment, a small squeal of delight sounded and Ghant was assaulted by a whirl of bows and ruffles. Samira turned around and saw a little girl jumping in Ghant’s arms almost throwing him on the ground in all her enthusiasm and this was the first time during their voyage she actually saw something of an emotion in Ghant’s eyes.
Marchionne: Ghant! Ghant! You’re home!
Xerix: :: Eyes watering.:: Hello, little one. I missed you too.
At the same time, a middle-aged man with Snow White hair and elegant robes emerged from the main structure, flashing Ghant a smile and then clasping Samira on the elbow.
Jovari: Samira Neathler, welcome to our home. My name is Jovari, please accept my thanks for all you’ve done for us. I’m grateful Ghant is surrounded by such wonderful people aboard the Gorkon.
Neathler: Thank you for your hospitality Mister Xerix. ::She grinned.:: And to be honest, he managed to stay out of trouble so far.
Of course she meant the time of their trip, not what he had been up to on the Gorkon, it wasn’t her place to tell.
Marchionne: Coucou. Bonjour, Madam! ::Beat.:: Excuse me. Hello. I’m Victoire, and that’s Ciel!
She pointed a tiny finger towards Sami’s foot, around which an extremely fluffy white cat was wrapping itself. It looked up at Sami and meowed softly. With a raised eyebrow Samira followed the little finger, looking at the plushy animal and she kneeled down to be on eyelevel with Victoire instead.
Neathler: It’s a pleasure to meet you miss Marchionne and Ciel. Ghant has told me lots of things about you and he couldn’t wait to see you.
Marchionne: He did?
Neathler: ::Smiling.:: Nothing but good things miss Marchionne.
Jovari: ::Offering his arm to Sami.:: Come now, Ghant. You have our guest standing outside, instead of at the table where I need you all to be.
Samira stood up, smiling softly, as she linked her arm in Jovari’s.
Neathler: Thank you again mister Xerix. I can see who Ghant got his manners from.
((A few hours later))
Ghant sat on a cushion at the low table of the family dining room. It was hand painted with frescos of local flora and fauna, and brilliant flowers sat in equally brilliant vases and urns around the room. A large, ornate gong sat in one corner, used to give thanks to the Four during meals, such as the massive one they had just concluded. Jovari had prepared a variety of Human and betazoid dishes and Ghant felt his breathing labor as he finally relented.
Victoire, refusing to part company with him, was now soundly asleep next to him. Across the table, Sami sat with a deck of Thaxan playing cards, one in her hand. Ciel had taken to the woman, rubbing herself against the woman’s dark clothing until a fair amount of shed fur coated it. Ghant was attempting to teach the Terran how to shield her mind from telepathic prying. So he would try to look into her mind, and she would attempt to block him.
Xerix: The white matron.
Samira was about to toss the deck of cards on the table and wanted to shove the cat away, couldn’t it have been a black cat, instead of a white one? Yet that would be totally unfair to the animal that had no idea what was going on, and she didn’t want to wake up Victoire who was asleep. She took a deep breath instead, trying to calm herself somewhat and placed the deck of cards in a pile back on the low table, muttering softly.
Neathler: This is hopeless.
Xerix: Don’t get frustrated, this takes quite some time. You’re making progress, every time it’s a bit more hazy, a little longer to decipher. Now just remember, it’s easier to obscure thoughts than feelings. I find the best way is to pick one emotion, usually a strong one like anger or sadness. And then let that emotion run wild. You might not actually feel that sad or angry, but you can trick yourself. Which means you can trick others.
She had plenty of anger, that was certain. Anger that this wasn’t working, anger that a being like Q had read her mind without her even noticing it. Right now she wanted to get up and leave, but that wasn’t an option. She swallowed hard when she looked at Ghant.
Neathler: That’s the same thing as telling a lie isn’t it?
Xerix: That’s the funny thing about our people. You couldn’t lie in one of our courts, there are too many high-level telepaths who would know instantly. But if you believe a lie, in your heart, that’s a dangerous thing indeed. Throughout our history, some of the worst moments were due to people believing strongly enough in a lie that others believed it too.
Neathler: Maybe we should just stop this. I don’t even know why I asked for your help to keep people out of my mind in the first place.
Ghant arched an eyebrow at the human as he sipped from a goblet of blond-colored Sadi wine, waiting for her to continue.
Neathler: It’s not like I have big secrets to hide.
Xerix: The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged. There is a massive difference between your right to privacy and the need to hide secrets. If my time in Starfleet has taught me anything, it’s that. Now, forgive me but stop sulking and start blocking your thoughts.
Neathler: ::Muttering.:: I ain’t sulking, mister Xerix.
Reluctantly she picked up the deck of cards again and shuffled them. What would her brothers think of her if they knew what she was up to. She picked the bottom card and looked at it.
Xerix: …The Chalice?
Grinning she looked at the symbol on the card which was anything but a chalice and shook her head, her hand unknowingly reaching down to pet the furry white animal that was purring beside her.
Lieutenant JG Ghant Xerix
Lieutenant Samira Neathler
Assistant Chief of Security&Tactical