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Tonight is the Night!

Posted on Wed Aug 15th, 2018 @ 10:24pm by Lieutenant Commander Arturo S'Rohass & Lieutenant Xiulan Song

Mission: Repairs and Reprimands
Location: SB239, The Imperial
Timeline: Shore Leave

Today was the day! Arturo had arranged for he and Xiulan to stay in a nice ‘hotel’ on SB239 so they could have some time together in a suite with room to move. He was dressed in his best suit of clothes, the finest velvets and silks, rich and soft to the touch for Xiulan’s benefit as much as his own vanity. He had plans to take her to dinner and maybe dance with her a bit...but today was the day...tonight was the night! Tonight, Arturo would make an honest woman out of his Graceful Orchid...that is...if she said yes....

Arturo reached for a box on the dresser. It was a lacquered box, black, green, and white, with a raised carving of an orchid on it, raised so that Xiulan could ‘see’ it with her fingers. Song Xiulan meant ‘Graceful Orchid” in Federation Standard and ‘Graceful Orchid’ was what Arturo called Xiulan in private, mostly, though occasionally in public. Xiulan made a big deal about how she was making a huge concession by ‘allowing’ Arturo to call her ‘Graceful Orchid’ but he always caught her smiling when he said it. Even when she wasn’t, he’d learned to read her mood and he could tell the difference between when Xiulan was grumping because she was really grumpy and when she was actually happy with him but didn’t want to get caught being ‘too soft’. When they first got together, Xiulan used to cover her emotions often. Less so now that years had passed. A ruby was set into the lid of the box as well, ruby being the gemstone for those born in the Chinese Year of the Dog.

Arturo opened the box. Inside was an ornately carved hair comb resting on the silk lining of the inside of the box. The carving was of a dragon and a phoenix centered around another orchid. The carvings were raised enough and clear enough that, like the carving on the box, Xiulan would be able to ‘see’ it with her hands and fingers. The material was white jade. Normally, for what Arturo intended, there would be two bracelets, one with a dragon, the other with a phoenix, but Xiulan hated jewelry.

Arturo and Xiulan had been together a while now, years. One of the ways he showed his love for her was to comb out her hair. Xiulan had been dubious about that at first. She just hadn’t been used to being with a guy like Arturo. But it had grown on her and now, if he neglected to offer quickly enough, she’d ask, or just hold out her comb, sensing that he was watching her. He’d chosen the comb because, if she said yes, every time he combed out her hair, and even when she did it by herself if he was tied up somewhere, she’d be reminded that he loved and cherished her above all others. Arturo set the comb back in the box and picked up the other item in the box.

After combing her hair, Xiulan usually put hair sticks or a hair fork in her hair. Arturo had thought about a set of hair sticks, one dragon, one phoenix, but then if she lost one, that would be a whole thing. So, Arturo settled on a hair fork, also of white jade, with the dragon and phoenix centered on an orchid, carved by the same crafter so that the carvings matched those on the comb. The comb was something to be shared in private between Arturo and his Graceful Orchid. The hair fork was something Xiulan could wear in public to show off to her friends and co-workers…which she’d likely never admit she was doing, but the thought of her trying to play it off as though it didn’t mean anything to her made Arturo smile. Arturo placed the hair fork back in the box and gently closed it.

The Imperial Hotel was Chinese theme to it, because it was owned and operated by a Chinese company. The hotel had a truly fine Chinese restaurant and Arturo had done some digging and the the head chef was even from the region of China that Xiulan was from, and promised to make her feel as if she was at home when he brought her for dinner. The reveal of the hair fork and comb...that was up in the air. Would he reveal it before hand or after? He really wanted to reveal it when he got the opportunity to comb out her hair...oh how he loved when she let him do that...even more so when she asked him to do it. But that might happen before dinner, or when they returned. He would have to play it by ear.

Xiulan was getting ready for their night out, so Arturo waited as patiently as possible.

Arturo wasn't giving her any clues about what he had planned for the night and it was killing Xiulan! She had taken notice of the fact that he had already taken his nicest clothing from the closet and then told her to dress nice; so she guess that meant no frumping about in a giant hoodie or one of his t-shirts... The closest thing to 'nice' that Xiulan even owned was her dress whites! Although, there was that one tunic she had picked up a few years back... she never wore the thing, she just liked how it felt. Being mostly blind, visual appeal meant little to her, but she loved exploring textiles with unique textures, and she picked up this one tunic made from a pulled silk; it lacked the ultra smooth sheen of its cousin, reeled silk, and it was so impossibly soft, truly a unique texture all its own. Maybe it was time to finally wear this tunic...

Xiulan rustled about in her closet until she found the mauvy-pink fabric, not that she cared what color it was, and slipped it over her head and the tips of the long handkerchief hem fell past her knees, then she dug out some leggings and a pair slip on shoes, both in black. Now her hair... For some reason, she decided to wear it down, pinning back a few bits so her shaggy bangs weren't hanging in her eyes. She wasn't sure if this was what Arturo meant by 'nice', but she hoped she had achieved something at least kind of decent, but she was as done as she was going to be, so she grabbed her cane and went to go meet up with Arturo.

Arturo looked at his chronograph. Xiulan had told him that if she wasn't at the hotel by this time, she'd meet him at the restaurant.

So the reveal is to be after dinner and a little dancing...well, that would probably work out even better.

Arturo headed downstairs, went to the restaurant and got the the attention of the maitre'd. She immediately showed him to the table they'd set aside for Arturo and his (hopefully) fiancee to be.

"She doesn't know yet," he told the maitre'd, an attractive Chinese woman in her thirties. "So don't give me away!"

The maitre'd smiled.

"Of course not, Commander," she said. "We'll show her in immediately once she arrives!"

"Thank you!" Arturo said. He sat and struggled to resist the urge to pace, and waited for the maitre'd to show Xiulan to their table. There was music playing, and there were couples dancing, as hoped to do a little of later. It wasn't exactly Xiulan's kind of music, but she seemed to enjoy dancing with him to it anyway.

After a while of wandering the station, Xiulan was beginning to wonder if maybe she should have had Arturo meet her at the gangway, because she was fairly certain she was lost...

"Lieutenant Song, it's a pleasure to meet you!" someone said to her with an energetic excitement; okay, maybe she was in the right place! "Commander S'Rohass has been waiting for your arrival. Shall I take you to him now?"

"Uh, sure," Xiulan said awkwardly. "I'm in the right place, right? The Imperial Hotel?" she asked as she let this strange person lead her to Arturo.

"You certainly are, Lieutenant," the maitre'd said. "Please come with me!"

The maitre'd led Xiulan through the restaurant to Arturo. There was music playing and the smells of food from her childhood wafting through the air as steaming and even sizzling plates carried by waiters move swiftly around her as though their movement was choreographed.

"Commander S'Rohass," the maitre'd said. "May I present Lieutenant Song Xiulan."

Arturo looked at Xiulan and took in her appearance. He remembered when she bought that top, primarily because of the way it felt. He'd liked the feel of it on his fingers...when she was in it, of course, he enjoyed the feel of it sliding across her skin. He rose and walked over to her, slipped his arms around her and brought her close to him and kissed her.

"You look lovely," he said. "Thank you so much for letting me take you out this evening. I know you had a long day."

"Well, I smell pork buns and hotpots, so you definitely decided to take me to the right place," Xiulan replied with a smirk. Arturo definitely knew the way to Xiulan's heart, through the traditional food she had grown up with, and the spicier the better! And she was pretty tired, but even she knew she was overdue for some quality down time, and some good food that spoke to her soul sounded like just the thing she needed!

"Here, this way," Arturo said. Without 'overhelping', led Xiulan to her chair. Once she was seated, he took the seat across from her. "So, I picked this place not only for being probably the best accommodations to be found here, but also because, as you might be able to smell, the chef here is from the same region of China you are from, as is most of the food he prepares. He has told me that you may ask for anything you like, and he'll make it for you. As for spirits, I understand that they have both Huangjiu and the much stronger Baijiu available. We are here to celebrate...as to what we're celebrating...that will come out as the evening progresses."

Arturo reached across the table and held Xiulan's hand. She couldn't see him, not really. She could see his heat signature, but she couldn't look in his eyes. For that reason, especially when they were out together, he liked to hold her hand, so he could communicate to her by touch what he might otherwise communicate by a glance or a smile.

"You're seriously not going to tell me?" Xiulan asked. "Alright, whatever we're 'celebrating' better be worth it or I'm just gonna have to kick your ass," she added candidly, grinning wide. "Now let's get some food over here, I barely had time for lunch today!" she said with her usual tact and grace.

Arturo chuckled and motioned to the maitre'd with his free hand. The maitre'd sent over their waiter, and attractive young woman of Chinese descent.

"Good evening," their waiter said. "Lieutenant Song, Commander S'Rohass has requested that we prepare anything you ask for, so please, feel free to ask for anything you desire. The Commander mentioned some of the alcohol we have available, and we have more as well. Commander S'Rohass has already assured us that should you over indulge and begin dancing on the tables or swinging from the chandeliers...his words, not mine, that he will cover the damages. So, what can I get you to start?"

It was at this point that Xiulan began speaking Cantonese with the maitre'd, much faster than the Universal Translator could keep up with, at first talking about the food, but then they started laughing and their conversation became increasingly excited.

"Oh damn, this is so weird!" Xiulan said to Arturo. "Okay, back in the day, I used to sneak out of the temple at night to go do mixed martial arts brawls, and at the end of the night me and my friends- well, I say 'friends' in the loosest sense of the word; we would wail on each other all night, then winner would buy the first round of drinks. Anyway, Lien here-" Xiulan gestured to their server, "was a waitress at one of the bars we used to go to! Damn, the galaxy is a much smaller place than I thought it was! Uh, so, she says they have really good Dim Sum, I thought that might be a good start?" she said with a shrug.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Lien," Arturo said. "Dim Sum it is."

Lien bowed and left, returning briefly to bring them tea and pour each of them a cup, before leaving again.

"So," Arturo said, after taking a sip of his tea. "Can you believe we've been together almost three years?"

"Yeah, it's been a wild ride, hasn't it?" Xiulan replied with a nod. "'So, how do you feel about casual sex?'" Xiulan quoted from that really bad that had started it all; they had met on the Beifong and they were more or less fugitives at the time, and it had been one of those days where bad just kept getting worse and worse, until Xiulan had gone to his quarters to ask for casual sex. Xiulan never could have guessed that what started that night would last through three long years!

Arturo chuckled.

"Happy that I agreed to...service your needs that evening!" Arturo replied. He leaned in close so only she could hear him. "Very happy indeed. I already admired you, and not just for your beauty. You were and still are smart and funny, funny even when you don't intend to be. You make me smile and laugh, but I never do so to belittle you. You were driven to live up to responsibilities you didn't feel prepared for. You felt out of your depth, but you didn't let that stop you. You were...and are, the complete package. So when you showed up at my door wanting sex...well, I never could have turned you down in a thousand lifetimes."

Xiulan snorted with amusement. "And here I thought you were just grateful I didn't leave you in that escape pod," she teased. "I just went to your door because there was something about you, something undefinable..." For a moment, it almost looked like she was going to say something sweet and heartfelt, but then the moment was gone. "I just knew you'd be good in bed," she said bluntly.

Arturo grinned. Trust Xiulan to stick to her baser instincts. Arturo wasn't troubled by her response. Xiulan had only been interested in his body when they met. It took time to help her realize there could be more between them than that, and that that more was worth the effort.

"Funny," Arturo said. "I had the same thought about you. Xiulan..."

Arturo was interrupted when Lien appeared pushing a cart with their Dim Sum on it. She placed several steamer baskets and other covered dishes on the table.

"Is there anything else I can get you right now?" Lien asked.

How about the moment you just barreled through? Arturo thought. Okay. It's okay. I have all evening. I knew the food was coming. It was a bad moment. The right time will come...

"I'm good," Arturo said. "Xiulan?"

"Oh yeah, can I get some Shacha, some chili oil, and Sriracha," Xiulan rattled off, all very spicy sauces. "Oh! And some sesame sauce with garlic and chives!" she added with glee as she reached for a steamer basket to figure out what was in it. "Oh damn, that smells good, maybe lamb? But where are the pork buns, I know I can smell pork buns somewhere."

Despite himself, Arturo smiled, but bit back an actual laugh, both because Xiulan like a kid in a candy store, and because she seemed totally oblivious to what he was building up to. On the other hand, he really hadn't gotten that far before Lien, may she be cursed to the Hell of the Horny Dragon, had interrupted them. Arturo quietly enjoyed Xiulan's glee as she poked around in the different baskets and dishes, and let her determine what was what by smell. Xiulan's cute little nose was almost as sensitive as his, so he had no doubt she could find everything without his help. Lien returned with the sauces and oils Xiulan asked for. Arturo didn't even bother to try and get between Xiulan and her dinner. Lesser men had died for such a crime...well...probably not, but it was possible. Besides, the food really did look and smell wonderful. Arturo took up his chopsticks and picked up a pork bun before Xiulan could grab them all and took a bite.

"That really is excellent," he said.

"Hey, gimme one!" Xiulan reached over with a pair of chopsticks to grab a steaming dumpling and dipped it into the spicy concoction she had mixed up. "Damn, that's some kind of good right there," she said around a mouthful of succulent pork. After a few bites, Xiulan grew thoughtful, and finally she tilted her head curiously. "So, three years," she started, pausing just long enough to sip at her tea. "I don't think I've ever been with anyone for that long," she admitted; then again, not many people could put up with her for too long... "Back then when we were just messing around, did you ever think we'd still be together this long?" she asked.

Arturo swallowed and washed down the last of that particular dumpling and grabbed another one from a steam basket. He wasn't sure what it was, but it smelled delicious.

"I had hoped," he said. "But I was not sure. I was prepared to patiently while you made up your mind. I enjoyed being with you, and we spent time together even when we weren't tearing each other's clothes off which gave me reason to believe that you might come around. And then there is the fact that I am brave and true of heart and so must always win!"

Arturo used to speak in exclamation points all the time, but he had mellowed just a little over the years, and besides, this was an occasion for intimacy. Acting like Don Quixote might ruin the moment he was looking for. That said, he was still himself. Arturo must be Arturo.

"Well, you are that," Xiulan answered with a chuckle. "I decided to keep you around when you brought me fresh coffee.... and you give the best hair combings," she added, offering a sly grin.

Arturo chuckled.

If you only knew...well, you will know. Just not...yet. The moment will come. Patience. Patience. Slow and steady wins the hand of the lady...HA! Xiulan is many things, but most people wouldn't consider her a 'lady'...but I do...she's my lady.

"I do enjoy that you let me do that," Arturo said. He grinned. "You are a artist with a furminator yourself!"

Arturo ate more of his dinner, but ate lightly. He was nervous, but he felt he was hiding it well...hopefully. He drank some more tea. He rather wanted something stronger, but he was already feeling slightly giddy and lightheaded. The two ate in companionable silence for a little bit. Arturo watched Xiulan as she ate and drank and chatted with him. One of the advantages of having a blind lover was that Arturo could usually watch and admire Xiulan without making her too uncomfortable.

"Do you remember," Arturo said. "Very early in our relationship...I do not think you were even thinking of what we had as a relationship at the time...you announced to Nerys that we were having sex in an attempt to shock her? And then she turned the tables on you and offered us help in conceiving a child? The look on your face was priceless!"

A piece of spicy lamb got caught in her throat and she was able to quickly dislodge with a good cough. "Oh fuck," Xiulan blurted out as she quickly grabbed for her drink to wash everything down. Then she managed to laugh "Damn, you just had to remember that while I was eating, didn't you," Xiulan said with a dry smirk. then her smirk faded. "Alright, what's up with you? This is more than just 'celebrating' 3 years, it's got to be! You're heart is racing faster than when we have sex, so what's the deal?"

Arturo took a deep breath. He reached into his large belt pouch and pulled out The Box, AKA THE BOX THAT WOULD HELP DECIDE THE FUTURE OF ARTURO S'ROHASS. Arturo pulled out the box and held it for a moment.

"Xiulan, my love," Arturo said. "I have somethings I'd like to give you. I had everything, including the box their in, specially made for just for you."

Arturo rose and walked over next to Xiulan's chair. He turned Xiulan's chair so that she was now facing him. Getting down on bended knee, he placed the box in her hands.

"Look at it, with your fingers," he said. "It was designed for that. You should be able to tell what's on the box, except for the stone from the year of your birth, a ruby. When you're ready to open it, let me know. I want to guide you to both items. They each require just a short explanation."

Xiulan's brow furrowed when he came around and turned her chair, then her breath caught in her throat when he knelt before her. "What are y-" but then the box was in her hands, and curiosity drove her to explore its carved surface. She could feel the stone and the signature facet cut that was usually reserved for rubies, then she could feel the subtle curves and shapes of the orchid surrounding the ruby.

"Arturo... is... is this what I think it is?" Xiulan asked, her hands beginning to tremble ever so slightly.

Arturo smiled and kissed Xiulan on the forehead.

"That all depends, my love, on what you think it is," he said. "Patience. I've worked the whole thing out. Patience, my love. If I am correct, you will not regret waiting. Now, the traditional gift for this occasion is a pair of bracelets, one with a dragon on it and the other with a phoenix. However, I have been your lover, companion, and true friend for three years now and I am well aware of how much you despise jewelry and I have come up with what I think is an elegant solution."

Arturo took the box from Xiulan's trembling hands and opened it. He guided her finger first to the comb of carved white jade, with the dragon and the phoenix centered on an orchid.

"Look at this with your fingers," he said. "Like the box, this was designed especially for you. Can you tell what it is and what the carvings are?"

Xiulan nodded as her fingers explored the exquisitely designed comb; it was the most beautiful thing she had ever 'seen'. But she knew what a 'traditional gift' of a dragon and phoenix bracelet meant. "Are you asking me to marry you?" she asked with an uncharacteristic softness.

Arturo smiled and squeezed Xiulan's hands.

"I will be, yes," Arturo said. "Patience, love of my life. The comb is for you, but also us. When we share the intimacy of combing out your wild, but truly beautiful hair, at night before you go to bed, when you come out of the shower, or just when you want me to comb out your hair, but also for the times I will not be able to be there, so that in that moment you can be reminded of my love for you and of the love we share. It's made of white jade. As is the next item in the box..."

Arturo placed the comb back in the box and guided Xiulan's hands to the hair fork.

"While you don't wear jewelry in public," he said. "You do use hair forks. This one is also made of white jade and the carving matches the comb. This is for you to wear in public, to show off, if you're so inclined, or simply to have with you as a reminder of our partnership."

Artruo gave Xiulan's hands a squeeze, then with his right hand he gently caressed her cheek.

"Song Xiulan," Arturo said, using the formal, Chinese way of saying his lover's name. "My Graceful Orchid. You are the love of my life and if you will have me, I will spend the rest of my days loving and cherishing you above all others. Xiulan...will you do me the great honor of marrying me?"

For a long while, she sat there simply holding the hair fork, her eyes staring blindly into nothingness, unblinking; well, this was the next step for them, right? After all, he made her happy, and she didn't see herself wanting to be with anyone else, so this was the next logical step. Right?

"Okay," Xiulan finally said after a disconcertingly long silence. Wait, that wasn't right, she was supposed to be excited! But he had so thoroughly short-circuited her brain, it was taking a moment for the excitement to catch up.

Arturo looked at Xiulan, a little taken aback. Honestly, he had been expecting a little more enthusiasm. Maybe she was in shock? Arturo knew she was probably feeling things she wasn't used to feeling, or at least not used to feeling those feelings so intensely...at least he hoped that was it. Did he break her? She seemed almost as if she was disassociating.

"Um...Xiulan...dear Graceful Orchid," Arturo said. "Are you...alright? I was expecting a bit more of an enthusiastic response..."

It was time to get creative. Arturo was an avid fan of old Earth stories. Of knights rescuing princesses and living happily ever after. There was one story, one about a beautiful sleeping woman, under a spell that won't allow her to wake unless she receives true love's kiss.

Well, it couldn't hurt!

Arturo leaned in a gave Xiulan a kiss that was truly 'true love's kiss', a kiss into which he put every ounce of the love he felt for Xiulan.

That succeeded in snapping her out of her fugue, but it didn't exactly get the result he was looking for.

"What are you doing?" Xiulan asked when she pulled away from him. "You know the rules, I don't do PDA's," she reminded him. "You save it for the bedroom where I can jump your bones," she said very matter-of-factly as she reached behind her and twisted her hair up and put the hair fork in place as a sign of acceptance of his offer.

Arturo frowned, then looked at the fork and smiled.

"I'll take that as a yes," he said. "As for jumping my bones, I've arranged the perfect place for both of us to do that to each other whenever you're ready. Big bed, whirlpool tub with plenty of room for two, and plenty of other surfaces, to lay on or lean on. I love you Xiulan song...fiancee...wife to be. Shall we go?"

"But.... food..." Xiulan said, looking downright confused; because you don't get between a Chinese person and food, especially if it's 'all you can eat'. "And we haven't even broken out the booze yet! This is a moment that requires booze, we should be celebrating!" Then she called out to Lien in Cantonese, telling her to bring a bottle of Baijiu.

Arturo laughed.

"There you are," he said. Arturo let Xiulan straighten her chair up and took his seat again. "I was worried for a moment. My desire for food is sated, but I will gladly drink with you."

She really is happy. She's having them break out the strong stuff. She's a bottomless pit when it comes to good food. Where does she put it all?

"I don't understand how you can survive on how little you eat," Xiulan said bluntly as she dug into another steamer basket. Lien came around with a bottle and extra glasses, pouring a glass of the potent wine for Xiulan and Arturo, then left the bottle behind. Xiulan raised her glass, then quickly took a drink. "Ah, that's some good shit right there," Xiulan said with a pleased grin. But then something occurred to her, and she tilted her head curiously. "So, you've clearly done a lot of research about traditional Chinese customs to make this gift for me, but I don't know much about Caitian traditions," she pointed out, clearly interested in what marriage would be like on the Caitian side.

"Well," Arturo said. "Usually there are displays of physical prowess, where the male shows off how strong and skilled he is, and shows off his skill as a hunter, bringing the female a deceased animal they killed for her. There are mental tests to prove how smart the male is, and social tests to prove that the male can provide a good home for kittens. Some of the larger breeds of Caitian will hunt down and kill a Nundo, which is a large, primitive feline quadruped native to Cait."

"Yeah, no offense, but if you start leaving dead carcasses for me to find, you can have your comb back," Xiulan said bluntly, then took another drink of her wine. "But other than that, if you feel the need to show off your 'prowess' then go ahead, but really you've got nothing to prove to me; I've already seen enough to know that most people are dumb as a box of rocks compared to you, and I've grappled with you enough times to know how strong you are."

Arturo grinned and then drank some of his wine.

"Whew," he said. "I was not looking forward to trying to take down a Nundu. Most Caitians resemble Earths 'Big Cats'. I am more like an Earth domestic cat. So imagine a house can from your world trying to take on a giant leopard. For you, I would do anything, but...if we can skip the Nundu, that would be for the best. And...thank you for the compliments. I also know you to be smart, funny, strong, and brave."

"I guess I should start brushing up on Caitian culture so I don't offend your clan," Xiulan remarked in between gnawing bites on something that required a bit of work to chew through. "I mean, I knew enough to get by when you took me to meet your parents, and I'm fairly certain I impressed them being able to speak a bit of Caitian," or as much as human vocal chords were able to produce, "but getting married is different, I feel like I should know more about your clan by now..." And she sounded vaguely regretful about this fact.

"My parents love you," Arturo said reassuringly. "They want you to be you. We grew up on Alpha Centauri. AC is a melting pot of many cultures and peoples. Anyway, they are happy I found some who I love and who loves me. They are unconcerned about whether or not you have fur and speak our language. But you can always ask if something doesn't quite make sense to you. Everyone in my immediate family has been given strict instructions to be helpful to you without treating you as though you are helpless."

Arturo took another sip of his wine. It was strong and he didn't want to get too drunk just yet.

"As for knowing more about my clan..." he said. "Well, as you may have noticed when you met some of them, we've blended in with the community on Alpha Centauri and picked up customs from various cultures. My clan came to Alpha Centauri shortly after Cait joined the Federation, to get away from Cait. On Cait, the 'Big Cats' rule. There's a hierarchy and we small cats fall below the lowest of the big cats. But on Alpha Centauri, members of my clan were equal citizens. The hierarchy is less important these days, but still plays a significant role in Caitian society. I occasionally catch back talk and resistance to my authority when faced with 'Big Cats' that I outrank in Starfleet, but most Caitians who join Starfleet follow Starfleet's chain of command."

"Guess I never realized..." Xiulan said as she finally realized the significance. "I mean, I knew you where short, and on an intellectual level I knew there was a hierarchy in Caitian society in which size was a factor, but because appearance is something that's so unimportant to me, I guess I never made the connection." Although, now that she knew this, she could understand why his clan immigrated to Alpha Centauri. "Well, as you may have noticed, I don't really stand on ceremony or care for tradition; I'm touched that you did so much research to get me a meaningful engagement gift and I do love it, but when it comes to the wedding and stuff, I'm really not too particular. Hell, we could go get our dress whites now and go see the Captain if you wanted to." Although she suspected he wouldn't, that he would want their families present, and she could respect that.

"Well," Arturo said. "I would be willing to just have the Captain officiate. We could throw a sort of 'after party' next shore leave and invite family and friends. Or we could combine those two ideas. We could get married next shore leave, which would give us time to invite a few family and close friends, and the Captain could officiate."

"Whatever works for you," Xiulan said casually around a mouthful of food. "You sure you don't want anymore of this?" she asked, pointing her chopsticks at another basket of goodies. Yeah, not like she was talking about anything important like marriage...

"Alright," Arturo said. "Enough planning. We can do that tomorrow. Tonight, we celebrate!"

Arturo picked up a bit size dumpling with his chopsticks and held it out in front of him.

"Now," he said. "I know I usually say this in the bedroom when we're alone, but please open your mouth and hold still!"

"And I'll tell you what I say in the bedroom, 'I'll do what I want'," Xiulan declared, then leaned forward to gobble up the the small heat signature floating before her. Mmmm, that one had some kick to it!

Arturo laughed.

"And that right there is your usual response," he said. He picked up another. "This is rather fun. Here, have another one!"

Arturo sort of waved the dumpling around a bit, but then held it absolutely still. Stabbing your lover...fiancee (was that really true?) in the eye would not lead to a satisfying evening. Was it really true? Had Xiulan agreed to marry him? Arturo looked at the top of Xiulan's beautiful head, saw the white jade hair fork with the dragon and phoenix and orchid on it poking out from the top of her hair, and was reassured. He smiled like the cat that ate the canary.

She did actually say that she would marry me! She did! She did!

It took Xiulan a moment to 'see' it after he'd been waving the dumpling around, there was so much steam coming off the table, but she managed to find and eat the dumpling without any risk of bodily harm. "Ok, I think I might be getting full," she said as she munched, then washed the dumpling down with some wine. "Damn, that's good. I hope we can stop by here often while we're stationed out here, this place is great." She let Arturo feed her once more before she had to call it quits, then she waved to Lien to pack up the leftovers, because there was no way she wasn't going to finish all this good stuff later!

"So, what's the verdict?" Xiulan asked as she leaned back in her chair to sip on some more wine. "You sounded really interested in the idea of just going to the Captain now."

Arturo smiled at Xiulan's enthusiasm. It was one of the aspects of her personality that made them perfect for each other.

"Yes," Arturo said. "Let us go to the Captain! Though I think we should ask her tomorrow. Tonight, I want you to myself. Would you like any of the command crew to attend? Or just you, me, and Captain?"

Arturo motioned Lien over and whispered to her to have a jug of the wine sent to their suite. Xiulan might have heard, she might not have, but either way he didn't think she'd mind. Arturo could handle his liquor much better than most Caitians, and it seemed to have the opposite affect on his...performance, than it had on most males.

"You know, I'm not really into voyeurism, but if you want the command crew in the bedroom, I guess we could give that a try," Xiulan said with a shrug, but she knew full well what he meant, she was just messing with him.

Arturo roared (okay, he meowed) with laughter.

"Very amusing, Graceful Orchid," Arturo said. "But I wouldn't want us to give anyone an inferiority complex! So, do you want to have some of our new colleagues and hopefully soon to be friends at our little ceremony?"

"Yeah, sure, why not," Xiulan said with a shrug. And that was that? Apparently they were getting married tomorrow, cool! "So, back to the ship?" she asked as she found her cane.

"No," Arturo said as he rose and gathered up the food. "Upstairs. I was not jesting when I said I arranged a place for us to stay. This is our night to enjoy ourselves and I have secured the perfect place to do that! Shall we?"

'Shall we' was code between them for Arturo to stand on Xiulan's right side and hold out his left arm for her to hold onto as they walked. She could find him by heat signature and by the sound of his voice...or by whacking him in the legs or poking him with her cane when she was either in a playful mood or, less frequently, annoyed with him.

Xiulan found the engagement box, making sure not to accidentally leaving it behind, then found Arturo's heat signature and took his arm. "This better not be some sleazy 'pay by the hour' holosuite thing, because you know I need a lot more liquor before I'm willing to stoop that low."

Arturo sort of kitty snorted.

"I assure you," he said. "Everything will meet and exceed your highest standards. And if not, well, I asked Lien to send a jug of Baijiu to our suite."

 

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