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A Moment to Themselves

Posted on Sun Jul 22nd, 2018 @ 2:51am by Lieutenant Commander Arturo S'Rohass & Lieutenant Xiulan Song

Mission: Stranded
Location: Mess Hall
Timeline: Current

There had been a lot of running around to do to fix the ship and get it operational again so the crew could get the Valiant back into space and out of orbit, especially for Engineering and Operations. Operations a small department and everyone in it had been scrambling, so he hadn't seen much of Xiulan, and they really hadn't had much time to sit and enjoy a meal together and just talk. So when he entered the Mess Hall and saw Xiulan alone there, getting herself a something to eat, he crept up behind her and slipped his arms around her waist.

"It's me!" he said softly but quickly in her ear so she wouldn't kung fu his furry ass into the middle of next week. Of course, it didn't help that she was preoccupied...

"FUCKING HELL!" Xiulan shouted in surprise as she dropped the tray she'd just pulled from the replicator. She quickly ripped her earpiece from her ear was was currently reading out progress reports on the repairs, then she turned to face Arturo. "Arturo, wha-" she stammered, her heart still racing from the sudden surprise. "New rule, no 'surprise, it's me' when I'm listening to stuff."

Arturo's ears went back and he looked like an apologetic tabby cat.

"Apologies, my love," he said, a bit sheepishly. "I didn't see the ear bud. It...probably won't happen again! Here, let me recycle your lunch and reorder it for you. Go. sit. I shall wait on you hand and foot...and hopefully join you for lunch?"

"Yeah yeah, that's fine," Xiulan said with a distracted wave of her hand; she didn't mean to be dismissive, but she had a lot on her mind. Arturo helped her step around the spilled meal so she could get to a table, and she found a seat. With a deep breath, she was feeling calmer, and she finally shut off her earpiece and put it in her pocket. Shit, what a day...

After a moment, Xiulan noticed the familiar heat signature of her love, then heard the tray sliding in front of her. "Thanks," she said once her fingers touched the tray. She felt a little embarrassed about the little mishap, but such was the way of life sometimes, she guessed.

"Bowl in the center," Arturo said. "Napkin on the left with the chopsticks. Drink at one o'clock with the rice below it. I'll be back in a moment."

Arturo quickly went back an ordered his only lunch. Turkey salad with cranberries in it, no celery, no bread. Arturo hated celery and grains weren't really his thing, so his turkey salad (turkey done up like chicken salad) was just served as a scoop in a bowl. He had some avocado slices on the side as well. He came back and sat across from Xiulan.

"I have returned!" he said as he sat down. He knew she could tell it was him from his heat signature by now, but he was always respectful of her blindness. "So, how are you? Other than sleep...and some other activities conducted hastily in the middle of the night due to time constraints, we have not had much time to catch up."

"Everything has been so crazy; I thought the amount of administrative work an XO does is crazy, but I had no idea how much worse it was for a department head. Not that I think being XO is by any means easier... but I feel like I'm getting snowed over here," Xiulan remarked as she started on her meal, some sort of mini hot-pot with rice and tea. "By the way, you don't have to tell me how my tray is arranged anymore; I know how the replicator presents my meals, and I've gotten used to how you put things together, and even if something's not in the right place, it doesn't bother me to search a little," she said around a mouthful of some kind of meat in a savory sauce.

"Of course," Arturo said, sticking a forkful of his turkey salad in his mouth and chewing. It was probably best that Xiulan couldn't see. Feline chewing was not very appetizing. "So, other than the workload, which won't always be overwhelming and which I am certain you will get used to, do you like it here? It's smaller than our last assignment, but...it almost reminds me of when we first met on the Beifong. When you rescued me from certain, if slow and agonizing, death."

When we first met, you thought I was an annoying weirdo. Then you thought I would be a good drive by nocturnal encounter. Then I suppose I grew on you.

"Yeah, it does remind me of the Beifong," Xiulan replied with a grin. Even without sight, Xiulan deftly maneuvered her chopsticks through her rice to work it together so she get it to her mouth without a mess. "Our last assignment was nice, but I kinda missed the Beifong; there was something really... cozy about life there, so it's nice to be back on a Defiant-class. Although I don't miss being XO, I'm glad that's you and not me with that job now."

"Yes," Arturo said with a grin. "I suppose it is rather nice to be back in close quarters. Being XO...actually, on this ship, it's a lot like being Second Officer, since I'm doing two jobs here. Like you, I've got four people in my department, including me. I'm able to divide up the work enough to give me time to do my work as XO. I do wish I could have joined them for that rescue mission, but with Senior Chief Xan there, the mission was in good hands. Did I ever tell you I met him once before this assignment?"

"No, I don't think so," Xiulan replied, then took a sip of her tea. "When did you do work for Intel?" she asked.

"Colt was only ever really on detached duty to Intel," Arturo said. "He was a medic with the Marine Raider Regiment. Marine Corps Special Operations Command. MARSOC. They sometimes supply Marine Special Operations Teams to SFI for dark ops. But I didn't actually meet him professionally. Not really. I met him in a bar. I wasn't even in Starfleet at the time. I was with the Nyberite Alliance. This was after the Halsey Incident and before I was reinstated. I was drinking in a bar on a frontier world, wondering what I was doing with my life. It just so happened that the SpecOps ship that Colt was the CoB of had stopped in for leave there. Colt was in the same bar, trying to drink by himself. Only while the patrons of this despicable establishment were willing to ignore an angry looking Rigelian, they had no qualms about harassing me. Things got physical and Colt, being the gentleman he is, stepped into help. We emptied the bar, and then Shore Patrol came calling. We ran, of course. I didn't want to be picked up by Starfleet Security, especially since I'd cut several of my attackers and I wasn't sure they were going to make it, and Colt couldn't really afford to be, either. We were going to part ways, but Colt realized he'd lost his communicator in the scuffle. I was flying a courier run, so I had a small ship of my own in a nearby hanger. I sneaked him aboard and flew him into orbit where we beamed him over to his ship, and we went our separate ways. We've stayed in touch on and off over the years, but we haven't seen each other in person since that night."

"Oh wow, funny how you both ended up on the same ship years later," Xiulan remarked with a grin. "Did he know you were former Starfleet at that time or were you a complete stranger he just happened to help?"

"I'm pretty sure he knew exactly who I was," Arturo said. "My face was all over the newsvids when the Halsey Incident happened. But he was too polite to mention it. He never made a big deal out of it later, either, except to send me a message congratulating me on being reinstated. That was a bad time for me, and that was a particularly bad night. Not only was I looking for salvation at the bottom of a bottle of rotgut, I was also almost ready to just let the Nausicaans kill me. Once he jumped into the fight, I couldn't exactly let him fight them all by themselves, so I set aside my self-pity for the night and jumped in with both feet."

"Oh... I didn't know it had gotten that bad for you," Xiulan said sympathetically. But she could relate, she had hit some really low points before she accepted the way things were for her. "So, have you two had a chance to catch up since coming aboard?"

"Not really," Arturo said. "I am going to try to share some coffee with him later today or tomorrow. He's got another reunion happening at the moment. Speaking of which, have you had a chance to meet our hitchhiker, who is apparently now a member of the crew?"

"Hitchhiker? Funny I called him the same thing," Xiulan replied with a snicker. Her meal was finished, more or less, and so she started on her dessert, a steamed bun filled with a red bean paste. "I found him in the long range sensor suit capturing some footage of some kids; I took a gamble that he wasn't a pedophile and gave him full access to the sensors so he could get some mementos before we were out of range of Janos III. He's an interesting character."

"Interesting," Arturo said. "Yes. He is definitely interesting! I wish we knew why he was sent to Janos III and abandoned! He's got that in common with Colt and in a way, with me. Colt was left behind with some Raiders, Andorian Defense Force, Klingon Defense Force, and Romulan forces at the Second Battle of Chintoka. Worse, it was done purposefully. The Marine officer in charge of the bug out from the planet abandoned them to save his own skin. It could be argued that he was saving those he could save, but then he lied and told Allied Command that Colt and all of the others had been overrun and killed, and then doctored comm records."

Arturo chuckled.

"You shall like this part," he said. "I've had enough of a conversation with Colt to know that he ran into that Marine officer recently and broke the man's jaw. That is what earned him the demotion to Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman."

"That's what the asshat gets for abandoning his men," Xiulan remarked with a sharp nod. "What's the marine thing, 'Leave no man behind'? After all that, I'da done worse to him!"

Arturo smiled.

"Yes, I know you would, and that's one of the things I love about you," he said. Then he chuckled. "Did you know that he refers to us as The Blind Lieutenant and her Seeing Eye Cat?"

Xiulan laughed. "Get out of here! Really?" she replied, still laughing. She finished with her dessert, then pushed the plate towards Arturo, offering him the leftovers; she knew he couldn't eat bread, but sometimes he indulged, and if nothing else she knew he liked the red bean paste. "It does seem rather appropriate, don'tcha think? Especially the way you tell me how my meal trays are laid out," she teased.

"I would put myself between you and any danger!" Arturo said. "Even if that danger is only you sticking your hand in the mashed potatoes!"

Arturo had some of the bean paste. When he was finished, he put down his spoon and washed everything down with the last of his iced tea. Then he took both of Xiulan's hands in his.

"So," he said. "I think I can get done with work in time to have dinner and actually make it back to our quarters well before I'm dead on my feet. How about you? Feel like taking advantage of your 'Seeing Eye Cat' while we're both more than half awake? Or...if you're in a hurry, we do have the mess hall to ourselves..."

"Yeah, you remember the last time we took advantage of an empty mess hall? Did not end well," Xiulan replied with a laugh and a shake of her head. "Don't worry, things are crazy for now, but they won't be forever. Maybe we can schedule some R&R once we're docked at Starbase 239," she suggested in return.

Arturo sighed.

"Alright," he said. "But once we get to SB239 you're mine. I'll see you tonight. If I get there first and fall asleep, please wake me up when you get in."

"Will do," Xiulan replied with a grin. "Just make sure you wake me if I'm the one that falls asleep first. Either way, you're cooking."

"Your wish, my command," Arturo said. "Can I escort you to wherever you're going next?"

"I'm headed back to Engineering, so knock yourself out, boss," Xiulan replied teasingly, then let go of his hands so she could pick up her tray to run it back through the replicator.

Arturo disposed of his tray and then offered her his left arm.

"On your right...which of course you know from the Caitian-shaped green blob you see there," he said. "Sorry, I know that my attempts to be...chivalrous sometimes annoy you. In my defense, I have only the best of intentions."

"I know, but I've adapted without that kind of help and... I dunno, sometimes it makes me feel like you don't think I can handle doing things on my own, which I know you don't think that way, but that's just how I feel," Xiulan confessed as she held his arm and walked with him. "I know when I need help and when I don't; think you can trust that I'll ask for help when I need it?"

Arturo nodded.

"Absolutely," he said. "For example, I have no intention of warning you about that banana peel you're about to step on...MEOOW! I was just kidding! That hurt!"

Arturo grinned and turned to Xiulan and kissed her on the cheek.

"Just for that," he said. "I might just have to call you Graceful Orchid in front of your subordinates!"

"Do that and I might just have to tell everyone that you like being the Damsel in Distress during our little games," Xiulan countered.

Arturo laughed.

"Only when I am extremely intoxicated even then only when you offer to do that thing with your..."

 

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