Happy Birthday

“Of course. And any extra supplies?” Julianni paused in front of her studio’s doorway and chuckled softly. “More coffee? Alright. But you’re alright on the others?” After a brief moment of reply on her conversation partner’s part, she answered. “Very well, Doctor. Please stay safe. Know that you have my prayers.” A moment later, she cut the voice feed from her ear piece and pulled out her datapad, making a small note. After slipping it back away, she entered her code into the studio’s keypad and stepped inside.

The soft lights flickered into being at her arrival, revealing the place that she had called “home” for some time. Though the floors, counters, and other base parts of the place were Caldari in design, decorations and furnishings dotted it that gave it the feel of a well-furnished home in the Amarr Empire. She understood why it was done, and she had appreciated the sentiment when the place was arranged for her, but it was not much of a comfort.

She stepped further into the lifeless studio, carefully slipping out of her heels while making her way to the small kitchen. Once pouring a glass of red wine, she turned to face the place fully, thinking deeply. Despite how the reeducation program had “succeeded” and her continued, unfettered faith in God, she couldn’t help but feel torn. It was as if she was caught between two worlds, not fitting in fully in either.

An official Caldari citizen, sure; she knew the language, the customs, the history. While she may not have been perfect with it, she took efforts to gain more knowledge every day. She felt close to the others, and nothing would likely change that. But she didn’t belong, and she knew it. Julianni was, by all her belief, an outsider.

Her ties to the Amarr Empire still remained, as well. While no longer under the Degario family, she certainly kept a strong faith, and nothing could come in the way of that. She enjoyed keeping up with the relations between I-RED and its Amarr allies. It was a chance to join with others in Faith. But she didn’t feel as if she belonged there either. In her mind, she was just as much an outsider for not having chosen to return there when she had the chance.

Even with the various people she had met who weren’t even affiliated with I-RED, she felt distant. And the one time she felt herself growing closer, her self-doubt and fears only proved to confirm her perceived misplacement. A cup of tea, a garden visit, a simple bit of correspondence: all of these, while comforting and enjoyable at the time, felt strange to her. She knew she didn’t belong.

It was lonely.

With those thoughts running through her head, she’d hardly noticed that her glass of wine had since been drained. A small sigh escaped her lips and she set it to the counter and replaced her heels. While she’d felt exhausted from the numerous things she’d been understandably assigned to, she knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep. Besides, there were a number of projects she could be working on instead.

Once back in her small office, she strangely grew a bit comforted by the close quarters, simple furnishings, and lack of windows. It was unimpressive, sure, but it was all she really needed. After taking a seat at her desk, she pulled up her holo display and began sifting through the month’s finances. A rather boring task, to be sure, but she was happy to serve.

A small knock came at her open doorway, pulling her out of the depths of numerical hell, and she glanced up to see a strange sight. One of the members of the Internal Watch seemed to be there, a small vase of lavender in one of his hands. She almost did a double-take, recognizing the beautiful flowers from many, many years ago.

After a stiff bow, he spoke. “Apologies for the interruption, Avala-haani. These were sent to you by a Lord Degario for your birthday, it seems.” He smiled somewhat, then placed the vase on the small desk between the two guest chairs. “I was not aware it was your birthday, myself. Happy birthday.”

Julianni’s expression shifted to surprise and she blinked a few times. “What’s the date?”

“The nineteenth.”

“Oh…so it is.” There was a small bit of embarrassment on her part. A birthday, to her, was nothing to pay much attention to, nor had it been something celebrated while she was within the Degario manor. To say this had taken her by surprise would have been an understatement. “Thank you,” she finally said, slowly standing.

“He requested a video conference with you as well, if you’re accepting of it,” the guard continued.

Her further shock was apparent, and as she stood before the vase of lavender from the Degario garden, she felt a certain sense of happiness that she would get the chance to speak with her Holder once again. “Of course. Please, let the connection through. Thank you.”

The Internal Watch member gave another stiff bow, then left, the door shutting behind him. Julianni stooped slightly to smell the lavender, a small comforting memory gracing her with it’s arrival. She heard the connection of her video feed first, turning to immediately bow. Her hair fell past her shoulders and eyes closed for a brief moment. “Lord Degario.”

What was a comforting and anticipated moment soon turned to the exact opposite, however, when the voice that replied was not her Holder.

“The title still is rather new on me, but I must admit it sounds quite wonderful coming from you.”

It was enough to send chills down her spine, freezing her entirely in place.

“Ah, you must not have been aware of my father’s passing. I apologize for breaking it to you in such a way. Nevertheless, it is wonderful to see you again, Julianni. We have much to discuss,” Dominius said.

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