Same Difference

Stein Willard © 2015


The characters in the story are a product of my own imagination and hopefully have no resemblance to any living persons. But if it does it is entirely coincidental. Some of the places

Archiving : This work is copy written and should not be posted anywhere else without the writer's expressed permission.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks as always to my beta, Rose.

Feedback: Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated, so feel free to drop a line or two at or sent me a friend request on Facebook .


Go to Part 1


Chapter 15


Espert gently pushed a coppery lock behind Noor's ears. The woman has been unconscious for more than two hours. She didn't know anything about the Avian physiology, but she didn't feel comfortable with Noor's prolonged unconscious state. In the meantime, she had read as much as she could of the information they had downloaded from Noor's pod. Had she been proactive, she could've detected the signs and could've diagnosed Noor much earlier. She sighed softly. She hoped the Director wouldn't hold this against her in their future dealings.

The door opened behind her and she stepped away from the bed. It was time for her to log off duty. She turned towards the console, only to freeze in her tracks. Cilla stood a few feet away from her. Espert swallowed hard. They haven't seen each other again after their awkward meeting, if she could call it that, in her quarters. She was literally saved by the bell, when the Mercer had gone to red alert. Cilla had stormed out her Espert's quarters at the first sound of the klaxon, without a word. Espert cleared her throat softly.

“How can I assist you, adjutant?” For a long moment, they only stared at each other before Cilla's unblinking stare moved from Espert to the unconscious Noor.

“How's she doing?”

Espert blinked. Anyone with eyes in the head could see that there was no love lost between Cilla and Noor. Therefore it was strange to hear Cilla ask after Noor. Stranger, yet, to hear a sliver of concern in the adjutant's voice.

“She hasn't regained consciousness,” Espert said softly, stating the obvious.

“Is she comfortable?”

Espert cocked her head a little to the side. The adjutant had been present when the Queen spoke about her daughter's condition. “The Queen had her healer send over a herbal mixture to aid the process. With her indisposed state, it's difficult to assess its effectiveness.”

Cilla's eyes tracked back to her and Espert felt her body respond immediately to the cool gaze. She folded her hands behind her back to back to hide their slight trembling. Unfortunately, she couldn't do anything about the mad flutter of butterflies in her stomach.

“You're close, the two of you.”

It wasn't a question and Espert understood it as such. If only she knew why the adjutant would be interested in her association with Noor. Could it be…? No, not even Cilla, as callous as she comes across would dare to abuse this situation. But then, Cilla was the second most powerful person on the Mercer. She could do anything. Espert felt her pulse surge in terror as she looked at the foreboding woman. It all made sense now. The late inspection of her quarters, earlier.

The adjutant was spying on her. She wanted to see if she wasn't alone. If she was corrupting the young Mercer crew. She had, after all, threatened to throw Espert in the brig for her disgusting proclivities. And now she had caught her in an intimate moment with Noor. Taking a deep breath to suppress her anger, disappointment and fear, she stared back at Cilla.

“Is this part of my security interview, adjutant? Checking to see if I'm corrupting your crew?”


Cilla's jaw clenched as she looked at the woman. It was evident that the woman was not comfortable in her presence. Even feared her. The last made Cilla's stomach turn. She had no one else to blame for that but herself. Her eyes slowly tracked to the other woman's slender throat. She could still feel Espert's uneven pulse under her fingers. She recalled the fear and pain Espert's eyes.

She swallowed to stop the growing nausea at the memories. Blinking slowly, she turned on her heel, ready to flee those detestable memories and the shame. It's also clear that the woman misunderstood Cilla's attempt at small talk.

“We are friends.” The softly spoken words brought her to a stop. “We are both outcasts on the Mercer. It would make sense for us to stick together.”

Cilla turned to face Espert. The smaller woman stood with her shoulders straight and pulled back. But her posture was in total contrast with the anxious look in her eyes. At least something good came from this misunderstanding.

She now had an explanation for her unpremeditated visit to the doctor's quarters, if anyone were to ask. She nodded curtly.

“Get her ready for a transfer to her guest quarters in the next hour.” She saw Espert's eyes widening in mute protest. “Director's orders.” She strode out of the medical bay, stopping outside to take a deep, calming breath. After a moment, when she became aware of the curious looks from passing crew members, she straightened her shoulders. She needed to keep her distance from the doctor. With that thought she stomped away.


“You like her.”

Espert spun around at the softly uttered words. Noor sat up in the bed, her eyes way too clear for someone who had been unconscious just a few minutes ago.

“You…you were listening?”

Noor shrugged. “I woke up while you were talking. I didn't want to interrupt your...” She waved her hand in the air. “…little interplay.”

Espert felt her face heating up. With her pale skin, blushing was like a red alert light. Noor noticed too, if the small smile she gave her was any indication. Noor was grossly mistaken. Cilla could barely tolerate Espert's presence. Look how quickly she had rushed from the medical bay just now.

“Adjutant Cilla is not in the least interested, Noor.” She reached for her medical scanner and ran a quick exam of Noor. “Your temperature is still elevated.”

“And it will remain so until I've…” The green eyes were suddenly infinitely sad. “It will pass soon.”

Espert nodded. “I read the logs we downloaded from your escape pod.”

Noor swung her legs off the cot. “You heard the Adjutant. We better get ready for my transfer.”

Espert placed her hand on Noor's shoulder, stilling the other woman. “I consider you to be a friend; my only friend.” She watched as Noor's eyes brightened slightly. “On this ship, I have none, but you. We need to look out for each other and to do that we need to trust each other.” She smiled into the green eyes. “I trust you completely. Do you trust me?”

Noor nodded. “I believe so.”

“Good. Then tell me what you're going through now.” Espert squeezed the strong shoulder. It was rather unsettling to see the normally strong, unflappable Noor appear so fragile. “I want to help.”

There a deep silence as they stared at each; Espert begging with her eyes for Noor to trust her. Noor looked away abruptly, but not before Espert had seen the sheen of tears in her eyes.

“I was to be mated to this man,” Noor began in a voice thick with emotion. “According to an alliance made decades ago, my union with Holfer, would seal the deal. Free trade, open borders, protection…” Noor exhaled loudly. “Avion couldn't have done better than that. We needed all those things for our survival.” Noor rose to her feet, towering over Espert and causing the other woman to tilt her head way back so she could see Noor's face.

“And what about you, Noor? What of your feelings?” Espert gently urged. She ached for her friend. That was too much responsibility for one person.

Noor gave a bitter laugh. “What feelings? When the existence of your race depends on you, you don't bother with something as trivial as feelings.” She lowered her head, her hair falling over her face, hiding her expression from Espert. “But I did. I wanted more that to be a peon in a political alliance. I wanted more than being the sex slave of another.”

Espert closed her eyes. She had read about the sexual prowess of Avians. She knew that they were hunted almost to extinction because of that. Some were used as sex slaves in brothels and in some cases for personal use; others were killed and their organs sold for the production of aphrodisiacs. She swallowed at the nausea that threatened to rise. She couldn't think of Noor being used like that.

“You ran away?”

“On my way, to what would've been my union ceremony, I stole an escaped pod.” She turned back to face Espert. “I know it was selfish to place my family name and my people in such a disgraceful position, but…” Noor swallowed hard, her eyes tearing up. “I wanted to be like my parents. I wanted to be happy. Why couldn't I have that?”

Espert's heart broke at Noor's shattered plea. She stepped closer and engulfed Noor in an embrace. She felt her own tears streaming down her cheeks.


The silence in the Day Room was heavy with tension. Yonne's knuckles were white where they clutched the arms of her chair. Her eyes were glittering as they stared at the small screen.

“I'll inform my security team to make arrangements immediately, your Highness.”

“Your assistance is greatly appreciated, Director Yonne.”

The image on the screen flickered before it disappeared. Yonne surged to her feet, putting as much distance between her and her desk. She needed to keep her cool and execute her duty as the Commander of the Mercer to the best of her ability. Even when she felt like breaking something, anything. She had spent the previous night tossing and turning until, after a few hours, she'd given up the fight. Donning her workout suit and grabbing her bellaçs, intending to work off some of her frustrations, her treacherous feet had other ideas. Instead she found herself outside the guest quarters, two doors down from hers. Like an automaton, she stood there, her body and mind assaulted by a myriad of alien emotions. Too many of them, she was terrified to identify. She didn't know how long she remained there. In the quiet hallway, with the most alluring being, she had ever met, the most alarming scenes had played through her mind.




They flooded her senses. Leaving her short of breath. Torching her body. Making her knees tremble. Reluctantly, she had dragged herself away from the bittersweet temptation. The night was spent sitting ramrod straight on her couch, her body aching for something she feared more than anything.

Passion .

She had left her quarters a few hours later to log on for duty. Strange enough, except for the dull ache in the lower extremities, she didn't feel the effects of the lack of sleep. That was until Queen Asmara's transmission.

The Queen had made her selection. Twelve potential mates will be beamed over to the Mercer in an hour.

Suddenly feeling bone tired, Yonne pinched the bridge of her nose. It was going to be a very long and trying day for her. She touched her earpiece.

“Adjutant. Come in.”

“I'm here, Director.”

“The Queen is sending over twelve crew members. I believe you've mentioned earlier that you would like to review your security measures.”

“Yes, director. We're almost down with our assessment. You should receive a report with our proposed setup within the next ten minutes.”


Avoiding her desk, she walked over to the processor. She'll need something strong to help her through the day. She opted for a strong non-alcoholic beverage with a high energy content.

She was sipping on the drink when the report from Cilla came through. Happy with the suggested security setup. She decided to review the reports of the other departments. She hadn't had the time to call for a sections meeting in the past week. Too keep her in the loop, she had asked for daily reports to be sent to her for evaluation at the end of the day. Considering the previous night's emotional strain, she had failed to read the reports, thus giving her something to do now to keep her mind off what was happening a two decks below her Day Room.






Chapter 16


Noor sighed softly as she heard the doorbell chime, inwardly steeling herself. She had been informed of what to expect. He mother, in her infinite albeit illogical wisdom, had sent over a group of potential mates for her to choose from.

What was her mother thinking? She had never thought her mother capable of such unsound reasoning. She wondered what her father reaction had been to this. If there had been any. Her father was not Avian, nor did he seem to be overly interested in the sexual affairs of his only child and daughter. He probably just ducked and hid when her mother came up with this ridiculous plan.

The chime sounded again. Turning away from the window, she called out an invitation. Her eyes widened slightly when she saw who her visitor was.

“Adjutant. To what do I owe the pleasure?” They hadn't interacted much since their little misunderstanding that first day. The other woman nodded curtly.

“I'm here to inform you that the entourage has arrived.” Noor could hear the discomfort in the woman's tone. She wouldn't put it past her mother not to have included a few females. That was probably what had the woman so ruffled. She was Borquois after all and they abhorred same-sex relations.

What a waste, she thought as she studied the other woman. The Borquois were gorgeous and strong. They would make excellent mates. In her case, one specific Borquois would make the perfect partner for her. The Adjutant reminded her too much of Yonne. With a soft sigh she turned away from the Adjutant.

“How are we going to go about this?”

There was an awkward silence and she threw a glance over her shoulder. The woman looked delightfully embarrassed.

“I'm not familiar with mating rituals,” came the quiet response.

Noor kept herself from reacting to the news. It would seem the Borquois were also sexually repressed. Ooh, Espert was going to have so much fun with this one. Her body throbbed to life as another person crossed her mind.

Yonne .

Would the woman also suffer from the same naivety about sex? She slowly blew out a hot breath. How she would dream to be the first one to unlock Yonne's passion. There was a soft clearing of the throat and Noor quickly suppressed her rising desire, knowing that she was unconsciously pumping the air in the quarters with pheromones. Turning back at Cilla, she saw that the woman's eyes were dilated and her chest was rising faster as she stared intently at Noor.

“I'm sorry,” she whispered softly as she clamped down even harder on her desire. Cilla was still staring at her with a deeply focused gaze. Noor walked over to the small cabinet on her right and took out a small ampule. “Here, this will help.”

Cilla blinked at her, suddenly suspicious. “What is it?”

“It will neutralize the effects.” She uncorked the bottle and dripped some of the contents in the palm of her hand. “It's not poisonous, see. Now take some. I can't have you leave my quarters in this state.” She held the bottle out to Cilla, slightly tilted. She smiled encouragingly when Cilla stepped closer. “I promise its safe.” It was an irresponsible thought, but for a brief moment, she considered sending the woman away without the antidote. Espert would be eternally grateful for such a passionate gift. Cilla held out her hand and Noor placed a drop in her palm. She watched as the woman licked it up, the action so innocently sensual. Noor swallowed hard. Wrong Borquois, she reminded herself.

It took a few moments for Cilla's pupils to shrink and her breathing to return to normal. She gave the woman an apologetic smile. “It was totally unintentional.”

Cilla blinked at her. “Was that you? How?”

“During my heating stage, I emit strong pheromones. Especially when I become aroused and…” She saw the panic in the blue eyes. “No…oh…no need to be alarmed. I was thinking of someone else,” she hastily reassured the other woman.

A sudden silence followed. They both avoided looking at each other. It was only when Cilla spoke again that Noor looked at her.

Cilla looked shell-shocked. She turned on her heel and walked to the door. “We will be stationed outside your door.” The door slid closed behind her.

Noor exhaled loudly.


Cilla pushed passed the row of suitors, not making eye contact, until she was safely inside her quarters. She leaned against the door, her mind racing, trying to process what had just transpired.


That was what that strong, paralyzing emotion was. She lifted her hands. They were shaking. The only time she had felt anything close to this, was when she let herself into Espert's quarters. That night she had feared for the doctor because she didn't know what it was that had prompted her override the Espert's security codes and enter her quarters. All she knew was that her body had felt like it was being incinerated from the inside out. Her hands aching to touch.

She had the red alert to thank for stopping her from…from…what? What would have happened? Cilla pushed away from the door and made her way over to the processor. She ordered a tall glass of water, downing it in one swallow. She didn't have time to analyze her emotions right now, but she'll surely make time for it later.

She was needed out there.

Yonne needed her.


“Come in!”

Yonne sat back, relieved for the break. She had been engrossed in the departmental reports. Amidst all this upheaval thanks to Queen Asmara, the Engineering team had managed to enhance their long range scanning competences, ensuring the Mercer will be able to detect vessels far quicker and over farther distances than before. With its cloaking ability and know with the skill to detect the presence of other ships over long distances, the Mercer is probably the stealthiest ship Yonne knew.

The door slid open, admitting Espert. Since their ordeal on Pandi , she had grown quite fond of the petite woman. Nothing like a near death experience to bring people closer. She smiled warmly when the woman came to stop at her desk.

“How can I be of assistance, Doctor?”

“I'm sorry to barge in on you like this, Director, but even at the risk of damaging a friendship beyond repair, I…” Espert wrung her hands, causing Yonne to sit up straighter.

“Yes,” she urged softly. She wasn't entirely sure, but she had a strong suspicion that whatever was weighing on Espert's heart, concerned Noor.

“She doesn't want this.”

Yonne refused to play dumb and asked who the ‘she' was. “How did you come to that conclusion, Doctor?”

“Because she told me so herself.” Espert's eyes were dark with anguish. “I know we probably have no right to tell you all this, but in doing so I am hoping that we…you…could find a way to help her.”

Nodding slowly, Yonne rose and skirted her desk. She waved at the round table. “I can't promise anything right now, but I'm willing to hear you out. Would you like something to drink?”


Espert sighed deeply when the door hissed closed behind her. She was exhausted, more so emotionally than physically. With slightly drooping shoulders she made it over to processor. She didn't favor alcohol much, but after a day like today, she could make an exception. For a moment she studied the list of options. The berry wine sounds good. She punched in her order and wait for it to materialize, before carrying it with her through to her bedroom. She took a sip as she used her other hand to loosen the buttons on her tunic. If only she could discard the happening of the day like a used tunic. She took an even longer sip. Her visit with the Director had left her quite raw in the end.

Yonne was the consummate professional and had listened with experienced detachment to Espert. There were minute responses. A slight tick around the eye, the jump of a muscle in the jaw, the hard sheen that came in her eyes…

The director, it seems, was not completely unaffected where Noor was concerned. Even then, the director didn't strike her as someone who would sacrifice prestige and position for an uncertain attraction. It was there in her profile in the database, in the spaces between the words. Yonne, daughter of Elina, had clawed her way from the lowest dregs to the status of Director 1 st Level. The youngest Borquois to ever assume such a position.

Espert drained the glass. She will need at least one more to put this wretched day to rest. But first, a bath.


She knew him, quite well, in fact. As kids they used to swim together in the heated pools of her mother's palace. She had always liked him. Found him to be gentle and witty. But not today.

Today, however, her hormones were not so kind to his gentleness and wittiness.

Frankly, it was humiliating having all these men and women slavering over her. She knew it was the natural pheromones she was discharging that had them staring at her glazy eyed, barely able to keep their hands to themselves. She already had to toss a few touch-feely ones out of her quarters. She should remember not to tell her father of the liberties they've tried to take. Londo would slaughter them all without a second thought. She inhaled deeply. She didn't want to think about her father right now. If he was so concerned about her wellbeing he wouldn't have allowed her mother to go through with this madness. It was her first heating, but everyone, even the younglings on Avian, know that for an unattached female, the attraction needs to be mutual and the timing perfect. Parading would-be suitors through her quarters was fruitless. She heard a shuddering breath and turned back to her guest.

“Please, leave, Poron.”

She watched as he left the quarters with drooping shoulders. As the door glided closed behind him, her own shoulders sagged. Why was she doing this? Why was she allowing this?

The door chime sounded again, the sound grating on her nerves. She wasn't in the mood for anyone, but she probably still had a few suitors awaiting an audience with her. Better get it done with.


The door closed behind her and she took a few moments to compose herself.

“I wanted to see how you're faring?”

Noor spun around, her eyes wide as they took in her visitor. “Yonne.” She found herself crossing the distance between them. Her hands ached to touch the other woman, grab her close and hold on. Instead, she locked her shaking hands behind her back. “It is not a good time for you to be here.”

The ice blue eyes hardened fractionally. “It is my ship. I go where I want.”

Noor smiled. “I meant to say, that it is not advisable to be around me when I'm in this stage.” Even as she said it, she felt her body growing hot with desire as her eyes hungrily took in the powerful Borquois. She could smell the musky scent of her desire in the air. “Thank you for checking in on me, but you are not…” She swallowed hard. It was already too late. She could see the telltale signs of want taking effect on Yonne. “You should leave, Yonne.” She walked over to the cabinet to retrieve the suppressant, only to find a hand shackle her wrist. She turned wide eyes on Yonne. The other woman's pupils were dilated and a fine sheen of sweat was forming on her upper lip. Yonne was fighting back valiantly.

“Before I leave,” Yonne shut her eyes tightly and when she opened them again, they burned hotly. A corresponding heat flickered to life between Noor's legs, causing her to gasp softly. “No one tried to take advantage?”

“No one dared try,” she said softly and reached inside the drawer for the suppressant. When she turned back to Yonne, it was to find the light eyes roaming hungrily on her chest. The gaze, like a physical touch, she could feel searing through her clothing. She needed to get Yonne out of here. She gently cupped Yonne chin, her fingers feeling the heat of her skin as she gently stroked the beautiful face, her thumb crazing over the full lower lip. She needed the woman more than air at that moment. She wanted to drag her down to the deck with her and drown her with her passion. She shuddered. A slight pressure of her fingertips and Yonne's jaw opened the other woman's mouth slightly. Noor tipped the bottle and placed a few drops on Yonne's tongue. “This will make you feel better.” She didn't wait to see if the antidote had taken effect, but pushed Yonne toward the door. “Good night, Yonne.”

When the door closed behind Yonne, Noor leaned against it. After a moment, she calmly walked over to the bedroom and close the door behind her.

To be continued...


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