Crash and Burn

“Sean, you ever spot this place before?” Amelia grabbed her taller friend by the elbow and turned on a dime to duck down the alleyway toward the unassuming door and the simple wooden sign. It was all he could do to keep up with her as she drug him.

“What place?” He extracted himself from her grip as she reached the door and grabbed the handle. Inside the place was dark, everything was made of wood, and a live band was in the far corner — a few people danced to the lively reel that was playing. It was all he could do to keep up with her as she made a beeline for the bar. “They ain’t gonna serve the likes of you here, this ain’t like those dance clubs you usually drag us to, they actually mind the local laws a place like this.”

“Or they won’t care because letting me drink keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.” Amelia perched on a stool and looked around. “Besides, it’ll be just a pint with some good pub grub or whatever, before we move onto a place that I’m better dressed to blend in. I know the Lighthouse certainly doesn’t mind, and this looks more of the same here. Though I gotta say, I am digging the music.” Her high heeled boot bounced in time on the foot bar of her stool, and she finally caught the eye of a bartender. Sean sighed deeply as he settled on the stool next to hers.

“What can I get ya?” The bartender looked from Amelia to Sean.

“A pint of whatever you recommend on tap, and a menu, please.” Amelia grinned wide as the bar tender looked her over. Her bright neon green cropped top under a black leather jacket, paired with a matching mini skirt and calf high boots, stood out like a sore thumb among the more conservatively dressed patrons that filled the rest of the bar.

“And how old are you?” A pair of menus were set in front of them, but no move was made to pour any beer.

Amelia smiled wide at him. “You see this forehead? I’ve been drinking blood wine since I was knee high to a grasshopper. A pint with a meal is nothing.”

The bar tender looked to Sean, and Sean quickly held his hands up as he shook his head. “Don’t look at me, I’ve long since given up trying to talk sense into her. The best I can hope is damage control as I follow in her wake. At least she hasn’t gotten me any reprimands yet.”

“She your girlfriend?”

“I’m his classmate at Starfleet Academy, and if you don’t want to serve us, we can leave.” Amelia leaned forward on the bar, and the bar tender looked at her a long moment.

“One pint. With your meal. I’ll give you a minute to look over the menu.” He shook his head as he walked away, and Amelia shoved one menu towards Sean as she picked up the other.

“Colcannon, Boxty, Irish Stew, Coddle… I think there’s a theme here.” Amelia elbowed Sean.

“Probably all replicated.”

“What is a Coddle anyway?”

“It’s what we’re ordering, and if their pattern is good, you’ll do your famous sweet talkin’ and get it for me.”

Amelia laughed. “Okay.”

Cillian was just sat in a booth with a couple of the locals he knew pretty well, he liked this place, the atmosphere was just like the local back home, he came here most times he wanted a chill evening with good company and more often than not, some music. His fingers were drumming along the side of his pint glass in time with the music, he glanced up at Cole, and grinned, then laughed. He shook his head. “Yeh’re unbelievable,” he told him. The bassist was good, and yes she had been giving him the eye when he came back from the bathroom, but he wasn’t going to assume anything, not until his silver tongue had a chance to work it’s magic.

He sighed as several glasses were pushed towards him, “Alright, alright I get it, I’ve got the youngest legs,” he rolled his eyes, drained his own pint and stood, collecting up all the glasses before heading through the light crowd to the bar.

“Two coddles, coming up,” The bartender collected the menus from Amelia and Sean, and spotted Cillian headed towards the bar. He nodded to the half-Denobulan to acknowledge he spotted him, then turned towards the replicator behind the bar.

Cillian set the glasses on the bartop, having nodded back at the bartender and leaned sideways on the bar, partly so that the bassist could get a look at his ass and partly because he didn’t want to seem too eager. He wasn’t a fanboy after all. He smiled at a couple of younger looking patrons a couple of bar stools over, and pretty soon found his fingers drumming on the wooden surface in time to the music again.

Amelia smiled back immediately when the stranger—half denobulan by the looks of him—offered the polite smile in greeting to her and Sean. Her eyes moved up and down him quickly, and Sean sat up straighter on his stool as he realized what was rolling through that head of hers.

“Oh no, Pond, let’s just eat and you can do your fishin’ at the club like normal,” Sean protested, laying a hand on her arm. She laughed as she shifted on her stool and held her hand out to the stranger.

“Hi.”

Cillian, who hadn’t been expecting more than a smile in return, was surprised by the comment from the guy, and that the girl turned to face him and held her hand out. “Hey,” he replied and grasped her hand for a moment before pulling it back. She was clearly part Klingon, and were those trill spots?

“I’m Pond,” Amelia told him, making a point of crossing her long legs and leaning in just a little closer.

“Pond?” he queried, that was an interesting name, a nickname maybe? “Nice to meet you, I’m Cillian,” he said with a smile. She was obviously making an effort to keep his attention, and for now he was happy to give it. If only until the drinks for his table were poured.

“It’s a reference to an old earth show, you wouldn’t get it.” She grinned wide, and behind her, Sean was rolling his eyes and shaking head apologetically. “So, Sean and I were going to this club, down near Fisherman’s Wharf, after we finish our–” She looked over her shoulder at Sean. “What was it you made me order, cuddle?”

“Coddle.”

“After we finish our coddle and a pint. This place has the best sound system, utterly caroming DJs, even a noise room—hella good for making out—and the bars are heavy handed if you actually carry currency to tip with.”

“I’m not a club kinda guy normally, actually managed te ingratiate meself with the locals so, don’t wanna blow that without a good reason…” they would of course forgive him one night, and he had just collected this round so it wasn’t like he was in alcohol debt right now. There was nothing wrong with the hot redhead, but he preferred to have to actually make his silver tongue work a little, rather than have someone throw themselves at him like this. Because that was what this was, the comment about making out was definitely the thing that hinted the heaviest at that out of everything, on top of her friends earlier comment about fishing. Also, the insistence that he wouldn’t understand something just because it was an old earth show smarted of someone naïve enough to be convinced that only their parents had dived into the archives. His mother was a little obsessed with an old earth writer called Jane Austen, and liked to watch the show they made of it with some guy called Colin Firth in it. But he supposed that if she came up with a good reason he might be persuaded…

“Oh, well, we don’t have to go to the club.” Amelia pursed her lips. She wasn’t used to anyone other than fellow cadets not taking the rather blatant bait when she expressed interest.

“Weren’t we meeting Jane there in an hour?” Sean knew very well the answer to the question — they were, but she and Amelia had been starting to drift apart so it wouldn’t surprise him if Amelia was already calculating her excuses to call Jane with.

“So yeh’re telling me, that you want te sit an’ drink Guinness with a load o’ grumpy Irishmen, one o’ em with an accent so thick I can barely understand him, and watch as I make eyes at the gorgeous bassist and how good she is with her fingers…?” he teased, and maybe there was more than a hint of flirtatiousness about the way he did it. Honestly it was in his nature and he just couldn’t help himself. She was part Klingon, which meant she was likely younger than she looked, and with him being older than he looked by deference of his own genetics… Well. Then it clicked, if she was a cadet he didn’t know her name but he had heard about her, and what he’d heard would fit. Young, brash, and somewhat eccentric.

He leaned in with a smirk. “I’m older than I look… and yeh’re not as old as ye look. I call that a disaster waitin’ te happen,” he said with a smile before he turned back to the bar, where the double handful of pints was waiting for him. “Good luck at the club, try not te have a hangover fer class temorrow,” he said with a wink.

As he’d mentioned making eyes at the bassist, Amelia had glanced over — her eyes moved from head to toe of the woman, and she grinned liking what she saw. But the offer to share died on her lips as he brought up their respective ages, and a pout firmly took hold of her lips as he winked and made good his retreat with the pints he’d come to the bar for. Beside her, Sean laughed and laid a hand on her shoulder.

“That was a magnificent crash and burn, Pond,” he said as the bar tender set their meals and pints in front of them. Sean grinned and nodded his thanks as he leaned in to smell the coddle. “Reminds me of Ma’s.”

Malathaar

All the planets just across the Orion border are the same. I have long forgotten which misbegotten hunk of space rock the cafe was on, but I remember the name — Malathaar. The sign was probably older than anyone on that moon, the flower it took its name from laser etched into it, but so faded that it was anyone’s guess what color it had been. It just so happened I had a lead on a man named Raebz — this was his favorite watering hole.

I felt a dozen pairs of eyes on me as I passed the threshold, live music caressing my ears as I casually inspected the owners of each — none matched the description I had for Raebz, so I sidled up to the bar to order. I almost didn’t look at the bartender, as my eyes were locked on the woman across the room.

Her hair was like silk—black as space and filled with jewels like stars—and her skin was the color of emeralds. When I gave her a smile, she immediately returned one twice as dazzling and my heart skipped a beat.

“That’s Felmia. You’ll want nothing of her.” The bartender set my drink down. “Raebz is fiercely protective.”

Even if I hadn’t already fallen in lust, that she was connected to my mark made her utterly irresistible.

“Send her a drink from me.”

“No.”

“I’ll pay in cash, up front, if you’re concerned about extending credit to a dead woman walking.” I fished some gold pressed latinum from a pocket that looked like it shouldn’t have been able to hold anything, let alone that much currency. His eyes slid down over my hip and across the painted on leather of my pants, then moved back up to my hand as I set his payment down.

“Now, what makes you think you’re a dead woman walking?” He swept the gold pressed latinum off the bartop in one quick movement, and was already collecting a glass and the mixings for a colorful cocktail. Clearly I’d judged the right amount. I smirked, and leaned across the bar as I lowered my voice.

“The fact that you mentioned she had someone fiercely protective of her. I can’t say I’m familiar with the name you dropped as I’m only just passing through, but you don’t wander the places I have without coming to recognize certain warning tones, if you follow me.”

He directed a look at me, even as the glass was filled with bright colored liquor without the appearance of his having to watch. Either he was good, she was a regular with a standing drink order, or some combination of both. When the silence stretched on, I looked across the room again and got a wink from Felmia for my troubles.

“No one steps foot on this moon without knowing who Raebz is.” He passed the drink off to a waiter who had been watching the exchange quietly, and he delivered it without needing to be told who it was for.

“Would you believe me if I told you I just stepped off the transport?” I flashed him my teeth with a wide grin.

“Doesn’t matter if I believe you. Though, before you go play with fire, you should let me know if there’s someone I should call when things go bad.”

I laughed, and a number of heads turned in my direction. “You think a misbegotten mutt like me has anyone who cares what happens to me? You have more faith in the universe than I’ve ever had.” I picked up my drink and sauntered across the room. The bartender didn’t seem like he wanted to talk, so I might as well enjoy my wait for Raebz to show. And if Felmia was his—in other circumstances I would be teaching a possessive pig like that a thing or two, but I had a job to do—flirting with her should bring him around faster when his gossip network tells him of the invasion of his territory.

“If I didn’t know better, I would think you were looking at me,” I said as I reached her table. I stood waiting for an invitation, circling my glass just enough to get a small vortex in the middle. She looked up at me, her dark eyes burrowing into my soul as she sipped her drink and considered.

“I don’t recognize your accent.” Her eyes flicked towards the chair across the table and I pretended I didn’t notice the subtle invitation — playing with fire like this, you wait for the blatant invite. It may not get you off the hook, but it’ll at least slow the brute down out of propriety.

“It’s what happens when one doesn’t stay anywhere long enough to put down roots.”

“Is that why you haven’t joined me yet?” She gestured, her hand moving over the table as if it were a dance. I treated her to a laugh as I perched on the chair across the small table, and she shook her head.

“Just being polite. Ain’t proper to presume I’m welcome, especially not with someone so lovely, and who the rumor mill makes me think I’ll pay for this company by occupying a casket — if I’m lucky.”

She pouted. “He doesn’t own me, I choose my own company. And right now, I want yours.”

I leaned across the table, staring deep into her dark eyes, as I dared lay my hand on hers. Her eyes dropped to look but a fleeting moment, and a chair a couple tables over roughly scraped across the floor. I saw someone standing out of the corner of my eye, and dared spare a look. The man turned and headed for the door as his gaze met mine. Felmia looked over her shoulder and clucked her tongue as she turned back to me.

“He has men everywhere, I feel like I can’t get a moment to myself unless I lock myself in my room.” She turned her hand over and clasped mine as she stood. “Let’s dance.” As she said it, the song the was playing cut out.

As she led me to the small clearing between the tables at the center of the room, a song soft and sweet replaced the joyous ruckus that had been filling the air as I’d arrived. My hand found the small of her back as she stepped in close, her head leaning on my shoulder as I started to guide us in time with the music. I closed my eyes as I breathed in her scent.

I couldn’t tell you how long we danced. One song blended into another, and all I could think of was how soft her skin was, how soothing her breathing, and the hint of the malathaar flower that lingered in her hair. As we moved past the low platform that served as a stage for the band, the guitarist hissed at me.

“That guy who ran off was going to get Raebz, you’ll want to make your way out the back door.”

Felmia started to lift her head, and I guided us away again, daring to kiss her forehead to encourage her to stay just where she was. Instead she raised her head and looked me in the eyes. Before she could say anything, I leaned in to steal that kiss I’d been able to almost taste from the moment I first laid eyes on her.

“Get your hands– your lips off my woman.” His voice was a growl, and I started to draw back. He probably wouldn’t attack me while she was still so close, but I didn’t want to find out I’d misjudged and have her pay the price. She laid her hand on the back of my neck, drawing me back in for a moment more and nipping on my lower lip when she finally pulled away. I drew a breath, trying to clear my head.

“How many times do I have to tell you, I’m not yours, I just choose to share your company from time to time.” She turned to face him, but stayed close. As I moved to slide my hand off the small of her back and step away, she clasped my hand and pulled it further around her waist. So much for making sure she was out of the line of fire if his temper got the best of him.

“You live in the lap of luxury because of me, I have a say if you associate with galactic trash that rolls in stuck to the bottom of the transport.” He directed a look at me, his hand settling on the handle of a disruptor that was strapped to his thigh, but he made no move to draw it.

“You consider anyone who isn’t you, galactic trash.” She sneered at him and he drew the disruptor. Now, no matter how tightly she held my hand, no matter how drunk on her perfume I was, I couldn’t risk playing games anymore — I had no way to know how true his aim was, nor how willing he was to make her collateral damage for her defiance.

I closed the space between us in a flash, one hand catching his wrist and pointing the disruptor towards the ceiling. In a move I’d practiced over and over to ensure I got it right, I spun the ring on my thumb so that the hypo was facing inward and reached for his neck. A momentary bit of pressure against his skin—I had to trust it since I couldn’t hear it—and I moved on as if I’d missed some attack I’d intended to make. I dropped to the floor, sweeping my leg under his and he tumbled down. The disruptor went skittering across the floor, and I was off at a run for the door.

She called after me, and I glanced back long enough to see her foot on top of his disruptor, but his men all taking aim to fire after me. I shouldn’t have slowed down, but I turned back long enough to blow her a kiss, then took off running like my life depended on it.

Sittin’ Here and Wonderin’ What It’s All About

“What’s a Dick like you, doing on a ship like this?” Amelia couldn’t stop the words from tumbling from her lips as she darkened the door of his office. The Jazz that had spilled out when the doors opened had been on par with the holo-recording her brother had found and she’d just spent the last two hours in the holodeck enjoying. Having already pushed her chips forward without even knowing the odds, she figured she might as well go all in. She draped herself against the frame of the door with a smirk, one gloved hand on her hip, and one coral pump clad foot tucked behind her other ankle. Her dress matched the color of her pumps perfectly, the back seams of her Cuban heeled nylons were straight, and her pearls draped around her neck at just the right length above the sweetheart neckline of her dress.

There were a stack of PADDs so high it was reaching for the stars and from the half-empty bottle of whiskey on the disorganised desk, it had clearly been a long, slow night. Neither a hinky crewman nor clip joint to investigate. Yes. A slow night with jazz, paperwork and hooch. Hardly glamorous, but then Rik Caine wasn’t much into glamour unless it was from a dame on his arm.

Her voice trailed through the air almost blending with the smooth melody of the saxophone playing from computer terminal on the desk. From a few feet away she looked like a whole lot of class, but then, class didn’t often find its way to a security office so late at night. He grinned to himself and knew she was going to be trouble the moment she walked in the office.

“Rumour was you were in need of a half-way decent gum-shoe so they shipped me out.” He leaned back in his chair. “But that’s my excuse, what’s a dame like you doing in a dive like this? You found yourself in some kind of dutch?” he quipped playing along and looking around the dimly lit office, styled as far from standard Starfleet as he could manage. 

She snorted in amusement as she crossed the space between them, the doors sliding shut behind her with a soft whoosh as she perched herself on the edge of his desk. Her hand fell on the neck of the whiskey bottle, and she spun it to inspect the label as she pondered just what to say. The fact of the matter was, he’d shown up and settled in without so much as a nod to either herself or the Captain. It raised two finely shaped fiery eyebrows, and Amelia had volunteered to look into it.

“Trouble’s my middle name, but usually because I’m the one spreading it, not the one stuck in it,” she finally purred as she released her grasp on the bottle — it wasn’t swill, but it wasn’t anything to write home about either. “You’ve drawn a little notice from the bridge, so we thought we’d extend a proper welcome.”

For a moment Rik was clammed. He knew he should have looked away seconds before he actually did, but the redhead had fire and was certainly easy on the eye. Truth being told, he’d always been a fan of trouble and so grinned at her comment. Probably why he ended up as an investigator; probably why he was so good at it. He needed another drink, a new hobby and an easy life but what he had was a keen eye, a phaser and a stubborn demand for truth and justice like a starved dog who just found the last meat-covered bone in town.

“Not one for making a scene, prefer to slip in quiet and do my job. I’m touched upstairs noticed, but I made sure the transfer papers found their way to the right high pillow — I’m guessing you got ’em just fine or you wouldn’t be here.” He couldn’t help but notice she had gams light-years long as she perched on his desk.

He waited for her to finish eyeballing the bottle before taking another tumbler from the desk drawer. “Seeing as you found yourself here, and there ain’t nothing I can help you with work wise it seems, and what with you coming all this way just to say hello, how about a smell from the barrel to make the trip worth your while? It’s not the best, but sure beats synthehol to warm you on a cold tub in space. So, how ’bout it, tempt you with a short? Doesn’t look like you’re on duty unless there’s a new uniform code I don’t know about,” he asked, nodding to the dress.

“Well, I haven’t been caught out of uniform when I should be in it.” She winked as she grinned wide. “You have to assure me you’re not on duty either, if we’re going to share a drink,” she insisted as her eyes moved to his, after a quick detour past the fresh tumbler. She half expected them to be shaded by a fedora, but alas. She couldn’t help a small pout at the missed visual.

His eyes were a pale blue, like sunlight bouncing off a glacier. A little heart but a lot of sorrow. The heavy five o’clock shadow that covered his slightly squared jaw was neat enough to look purposeful, but rough enough to cast some doubt. That was the line that Rik Caine walked, able to blend in on both sides of the law. For him, that was where he needed to be. To the untrained eye he guessed he looked like a common hood, but opinion wasn’t something that bothered him. He ran a hand through his carelessly tussled dark hair and grinned at her comment, raising one eyebrow slightly with intrigue.

“Well officially I don’t start until the morning, but something told me to settle in early… never know what kind of–” he paused “–trouble is gunna turn up when you’re staring down the last half-a bottle without another soul about.” He poured her a large measure, then topped up his own glass and took a swig.

“An old Earth writer once said there is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others. Well, I don’t know what kind of crazy he was… but this is a bad whiskey.” He coughed and shook his head slightly, half-laughing as the harsh liquor hit the back of his throat. “Sadly it was all I could rustle up on the trade freighter en-route. Met a nice blonde, pirate’s moll, helped her out a little and this was the reward… not sure what that says about my work, but I suppose you’ll be the judge of that. So… what do I call you red?”

“Well, if you’re smart, you won’t make the mistake of calling me Red again,” she quipped with a laugh, and took a sip of the whiskey despite the testament as to its quality. It went down about as smooth as sandpaper, and to her credit, she managed to not cough though there was no hiding the effort made to do so. “If I decide I like you enough, you can call me Amelia, otherwise it’s Commander Waterhouse.” It was practically a challenge, waiting to see if he was as daring as his looks hinted — would he take the invitation or just fall back on the safety of protocol? She set the tumbler down on his desk, resting her hand on top of it. She hadn’t yet decided if she was going to finish the contents, but if she wanted to offer better, it would involve retreating to her quarters.

“I’m going to hope that it says more about the blond, and her failure to show proper gratitude, than it does about your skill,” she added, her fingers tapping at the glass in time with the music, her gloves softening it enough to make it nearly silently.

Rik couldn’t help but chuckle. “No offence meant, just didn’t know what to call you and red seemed fitting — but Amelia, well that’s a very beautiful name.” He paused as he took another swig of whiskey, grimacing slightly as the burning amber nectar slid down his throat like hot magma on rocks. “We can sure hope so, but I’m sure you’ve read my jacket and wouldn’t have let me aboard if you weren’t confident I could deliver.”

He looked at the woman perched on his desk once again, he wasn’t getting dizzy for this dame but she was a beauty — even if she was technically the boss. “Well, you got dressed up and came seeking a drinking buddy late at night… I won’t lie; I know you’re taken with my charm.” He laughed, part self-assured but mostly with ironic jest. “Still, a dame such as you doesn’t strike me as one that hangs around a dive with a gum-shoe unless you’re partway sure you like him enough, or perhaps intrigued enough, to forget protocols. So…” He leaned in close and met his eyes with hers looking around like a canary about to sing. “Amelia–” he leaned back once more and let the use of her name sink in– “you’re a fan of old Earth jazz?” He looked to her rhythmically tapping digits. He wondered if maybe he’d crossed a line with a command staff member that didn’t know him, his style, and contemplated if this would be a short assignment. Still, it was worth the risk.

The first time her name drifted from his lips, she grinned, though she could feel a slight blush rise at his complement to her name. She trusted her make up to hide the tell tale flush, she wasn’t ready to concede that ground to him. Everything that came between it, and the next time ‘Amelia’ danced from his lips, was a testament to how his ego stretched to the stars like gravity couldn’t hold it back. The urge to pluck the single support beam that would send it tumbling to Earth sang to her like a canary in a cage. But she liked the way his voice caressed the curve of her name.

“I was dressed for the holodeck, don’t flatter yourself, Rik,” she chastised him though she smiled, lifting her hand from the tumbler to wave a finger at him. “It just so happens, the program I spent the last two hours in was a live recording of a little Jazz band my brother ferreted up on Earth while Vindicator was in at Utopia Planitia for refit. Lady luck must like you to set me in the right mood before sending me your way. Though, if she loved you, she would have put the idea in my head to raid my booze collection first. I have much finer than this back in my quarters.” And yet, she collected the tumbler and brought it to her lips again.

The idea of inviting him back to her quarters rapped at her consciousness not unlike the two am call of a nightstick on the front door. She knew it was a bad idea, but she couldn’t shake it as her eyes found his again. Disengage while you still have the upper hand, she thought to herself; yet there she stayed perched on his desk, foot bouncing in time to the music.

Rik gave her a wicked grin that played across his face as if a line was being traced in the sand. “Well I s’pose I can believe that; although Lady Luck must love me just a little if she sent trouble wrapped in a dress that fine to chin with a Joe like me.” He paused for a moment and took a final swig of the rough whiskey, before emptying the last few precious drops from the bottle into his tumbler. “Impressed you like the old classics though, not too many in this day and age that have even heard of it, let alone appreciate it long enough to spend two hours in a holosuite and come seeking more.”

He paused again before looking to the empty bottle, to her and then back at his own sorrowful excuse of a full glass. “Looks like we’re all out,” he mused, letting the moment drag out a little as the song changed to a slower tempo number with a soulful canary breezing out some lyrics like a leaf on the wind. Whatever her story had been when that had been recorded, that doll had had a fine set of lungs on her. “Unless of course you’re planning to confirm my belief in the good lady and invite me back for something smoother… Would be a shame if you made tracks when dressed to the bricks like that after all. I’m only thinking of you, you understand,” he said with a small wink showing his hand and going all in.

“My, is that tongue of yours shining like silver right now,” Amelia mused, spinning the tumbler in her grasp on the desk top. Staring into those icy baby blues of his, Amelia felt like she stood on the event horizon — one misstep and she’d go tumbling in, head over heels. In the back of her head a small voice reminded her how absolutely scandalous this was, the XO flirting with an enlisted man, but like the gin in a speakeasy, that made it all the sweeter. What would Rochelle think if Amelia took the next step and invited him back to her quarters? Even if it was just a drink, the gossip vine was hot on this ship, and such a dalliance would sizzle across it like a drop of water on a griddle.

“Doll I’ve been shaking the few dimes I have left since you stepped on in — you sure know how to light up a doorway and a room, and I’d be a liar if I said anything different. You should know I’m not in the habit of lying or going on the flimflam to get what I want, so my words are all I got. And ya know, you’re not exactly spinning less than silver yaself,” he said with a smile, watching her with interest.

She brought her drink to her lips again, to hide behind it as she considered. The firecracker rolled across her tongue and down her throat, and she couldn’t help but long for something better to chase it away. She needed more time to think, and he’d provided her another topic to grasp like a mobster would an alibi — the music.

“I was lucky enough to have a mother who minored in 20th century Earth history during her time at the Academy, and both my parents love music. Couldn’t help but rub off, and I like a little bit of everything,” she confessed, and took another sip. The more that passed her lips, the easier it flowed, and his boldness left her feeling obligated to finish what he’d shared with her unless she was going to retreat without him. In that case, the least a lady could do would be to leave the rest of the drink as a consolation prize? She felt like she was on the fast track to an empty glass though.

Rik paused again letting the music fill the silence and the song do all the talking. The sultry tones of the artist started singing about a girl meeting a boy and he let it linger before he spoke again. “Well it’s good to know I won’t be alone on this tub with my fondness for old music. You must approve of my office design,” he added, looking around the room at something almost reminiscent of a PI’s office from 1920’s America. “See that gat behind the glass? Hundred per-cent bone-fide original,” he said somewhat proudly of the antique six-shooter. “Belonged to a PI from Chicago who was shot by the mob in 1923. She’s a real beauty.” He looked back at the woman that he was sure could change the rise and fall of the sun with a single smile. “Different kind of beauty to a redheaded trouble-maker,” he crooned.

“You know, an old book I love has a quote that goes ‘the French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right. To say goodbye is to die a little'” he mused, out loud, enjoying the company of this siren that had caught his undivided attention. He was sure it was a rouse, a trap laid out before him in the night like a sneak getting ready to climb through an open window to clean a joint out. Yet, at the same time he couldn’t help but enjoy the thrill, the chance of a game well worth winning.

The words flattery will get you everywhere had been about to escape Amelia’s lips when Rik drew her attention to the deadly beauty behind glass, and there was no two ways about it, he’d just earned himself a ticket to her quarters. How she hadn’t noticed the piece before this was a testament to how distracting he was.

“Does she work?” The important question, as the only other one left to answer she could not ask him. What bottle would she present when they reached the executive officer’s suite? She didn’t know him well enough to pull out the blue stuff, but she had some wonderful moonshine and some top shelf whiskey she could offer.

Rik pondered for a moment, the idea of testing the piece filling him with a sense of giddy excitement like a kid who had wandered into a candy store when his momma wasn’t looking. “Good question… want to get it out and give it a test?” he asked with a mischievous twinkle in his ice blues like starlight bouncing off a tropical ocean.

“I’m sure no one will hear and drop the dime on us… it’s late as well. We’re all… alone, together,” he emphasised. “It won’t trigger any alarm either. It’s too old fashioned to be picked up by the sensors,” he added, almost daring her.

“You sure know just the thing to say to a girl to make her weak in the knees,” she purred, then knocked back the remainder of her drink. “However.” She leaned across the desk, looking straight into those icy windows of his. “If we take her to the holodeck, I’ve got a subroutine that’ll let us play without having to waste any of those hard to replace hunks of lead.”

“A dame who appreciates the value of an antique. My, my ain’t you something,” Rik quipped. “Well, we’re clean outta hooch so moving on seems like a sound idea and you’ve got me intrigued with your…” he paused and pursed his lips for a moment, picking the perfect word before letting the corner of his mouth turn up as slow as a taxi pulling up outside a gin mill. “Subroutines,” he concluded, allowing any indication of a double-entendre to be hers to imagine. “Lead on Miss Ameila Waterhouse — me and my gat are all yours tonight,” he concluded, getting up slowly for the first time since she entered.

His physique was slender, but defined. His clothes, dark trousers and a blue shirt rolled up at the sleeves and unbuttoned at the collar, were stylishly untidy. Simple, understated. Walking with purpose to the cabinet, he tapped on the release controls as if he were a pianist rolling out a tune on the ivories and the glass promptly slid open. Rik wasn’t sure if it was the revolver or her, but his heart was drumming a beat something fierce in his chest trying its hardest to escape.

Taking it out slowly Rik pushed down on the latch releasing the top-break and checked the cylinder before snapping it back with a swift wrist action. He aimed it briefly before spinning it on his finger and offering the weapon, handle first, to the vixen on his desk. “Here’s where I pray I haven’t troubled you enough that you jam the roscoe in my button,” he said with a wink.

“I’m not one to waste my time in the company of people who don’t at least amuse me,” she insisted, sliding off the desk. In her heels she had a few inches on him, but she suspected they’d be nearly eye to eye if she slipped out of them, though she’d probably still have the advantage. As she closed the space between them, her fingers wrapped around the offered handle, and a chill ran up her spine. There she paused a long moment.

“Do you know your way around the ship yet?” she finally asked, taking a step backwards towards the door of the office. “Or do I need to go slow so you can keep up?” She smirked as her eyes darted between him and the pretty piece in her hand. She couldn’t decide which excited her more at this point, but she kept falling into the depths of his eyes, cold as the ocean and easily just as dangerous. “I have a riddle for you, smart guy. How do you know you’ve satisfied a redhead?”

Rik mused for a moment exaggerating his thought process. “Do you offer bad hooch and a gun and see if she bumps ya off? Or maybe you get closer like pulling up the collar of a winter coat and see what move she makes next,” he said lowering his tone and taking a step closer to the dame in front of him.

He kept his gaze on hers — locked together like the strongest safe in town. “As for knowing my way round this ol’ tub, ‘fraid I don’t so I’ll be following you blindly wherever ya lead me doll — you strike me as the type that’d enjoy that type of power though”. 

“That,” Amelia said, finding herself stepping closer to him instead of backing towards the door as she had before, “is perhaps the treasure map to follow on how to satisfy a redhead, but it’s not the big red X that tells you you’ve found the spot.” Her heart climbed into her throat, and the sound of it in her ears was like a tommy gun on full auto. She was certain he could hear it, he had to be able to. She swallowed, and leaned just that much closer. “No, that big red X is when I unlock the handcuffs and let you go.”

And with that, she stepped back from him, spun around, and was out the door. “Do keep up, I wouldn’t want you to get lost. I’m having such fun,” she called over her shoulder.

“You’re a firecracker ain’t ya doll?” he commented, his own heart beating a faster drumbeat. “Guess I’ll have to go hunting for that elusive cross”.

Rik watched her turn and leave, those long gams taking elegant strides like she’d learned how to float instead of walk. “Me too doll, me too,” he called after her as he followed like a puppy being called for dinner, and only just managed to lock the office door as he did so.

The corridors were empty, made sense for this late hour; or was it early now? He couldn’t tell. Left turn. He followed a few paces behind, partly because he didn’t know the way and mostly because he was enjoying the view. Right turn. Lost as if he’d wandered into a maze, there was no return now. He was truly at her mercy. He enjoyed the back and forth power exchange of their late night encounter, kept the evening full of spice.

Another turn, left again, and there was the turbolift. As Amelia spied it, and waited for Rik to turn the corner behind her, a verse of song sprung fully formed into her head. Normally when something is fully formed in the head, it bursts from the forehead, but this danced from her lips as he rounded the corner and she turned to face him. It wasn’t the first verse, but it certainly felt right.

“I fell for your jivin’ and I took you in,” she sang, realizing she hadn’t actually summoned the turbolift yet. She half turned to press the button. “Now all you got to offer me’s a drink of gin. Why don’t you do right, like some other men do?” The doors opened behind her, and with only a fleeting backwards glance first, she stepped back into the turbolift. “Get out of here and get me some money too. Why don’t you do right, like some other men do?” Amelia crooked her finger and beckoned him to join her in the lift. “Like some other men do.”

He slowed his walking as her sultry tones hit him square in the ears. If it had been a punch in the ring, it would have been the knockout blow. He smiled, locking his eyes on hers enjoying the irony of the song she had picked. Not to be beat he took a deep breath. He wasn’t much for singing; his voice, while capable of holding a tune, had a rough but pleasing growl undercutting each note. “Face of a betting women, she bets on every hand, she’s a tricking modafunkyou everywhere she lands,” he responded taking the original lyrics of the song she had just sung at him. It fitted as well as a glove and by the time he had hit the last beat he was standing close just inside the turbolift door. Close enough to feel her breath, close enough for the spark to be charged.

The doors slid shut as the moment lingered, no instruction to the computer being given.

“I used to have plenty of money, the finest clothes in town, but bad luck and trouble overtaken me, bound to get me down. Please have mercy, Lord have mercy on me. Well if I’ve done somebody wrong, Lord, have mercy if you please… Well if I’ve been a bad boy, baby, I declare I’ll change my ways,” Rik crooned, his voice just above a whisper, continuing their musical interlude.

The computer chirped. “That deck is not recognised. Please state your destination.” Rik could have cursed like a sailor at that moment but instead rolled his eyes as he caught the fiery dame’s gaze once again, taking yet another step closer.

For all the teasing she had received over the years, twisting her nickname or her family name into any number of water based pun, never once had the liquid comparison ever felt so apt — the only way she could possibly have felt like more of a puddle was if she’d been a changeling. She had told herself that she was going to make him make first contact, that she wouldn’t touch him until he touched her first, but he easily gave as good as he got and Amelia was not used to being anything but in charge.

She had found herself leaning in, ready to just kiss him, when the turbolift had so rudely stepped in nearly spoiling the moment. She couldn’t help a small little laugh, her eyes dropping for a moment, only to find his as soon as she looked up again. Her breath caught in her throat as he took that one more step so that the only thing that kept them from touching was effort.

“I, uh–” she started, and swallowed. “How about a rain check on playing with the gat, and we go back to my quarters for a nightcap?” The words just tumbled out, tripping over themselves like a thug caught in the act, and she was sure that she was nearly the color of her dress and no amount of makeup could hide it at this point.

Rik reached his hand out slowly, lightly tracing down the elegant frame of her lower arm to the hand holding the six-shooter, his fingers grazing hers with complete intention but the possibility of accident. He lightly pried the gun away and tucked it into the back of his belt, like a cop in an old TV movie who had just taken a firearm away from a no-good hood. This moment, however, lacked the forceful arrest that followed but instead was filled with was enough sparks to light up the fourth of July.

“We’re hitting on all eight doll, a nightcap at your joint sounds like a fine plan to me,” he said not needing to raise his voice much in the small cylinder that was the turbolift. “Would be a fine shame if you lammed off when we’re getting on so well… or at least, I’m amusing you enough to get another drink,” he added, reiterating her words from earlier like playing back a favourite song on an old record player.

“Deck eight,” Amelia directed the turbolift, her eyes darting upwards — a habit picked up as a child growing up on starships, but one she couldn’t manage to break, no matter how juvenile she felt it made her look. “Right, another drink,” she murmured as the turbolift hummed to life. “Did you want to stick to whiskey?” It was a stupid question, but it was all she could spit out. Her head still swum from the fleeting skin contact as he took the gun back, and she was mentally cursing her choice to wear the gloves with the outfit. Her eyes closed.

Rik smiled to himself as she instructed the turbolift with a flick of her eyes like she’d cast some kind of spell willing the contraption to move. Cute, he couldn’t help but think as the lift steadily climbed. “I’ll take whatever you think I’m worth — as long as it goes down easy and beats the poor excuse I had to offer,” he said with another of those half smiles.

“You know doll, now I see ya up close and personal and in all this light; you’re really quite the dish,” he said, lightly tracing her hairline and faint Trill spots with a caress of his hand. Her skin was softer than the richest of silks, and he had to admit the touch made his heart beat loudly into his eardrums. He wondered how she would react, but he’d jumped in headfirst, without checking to see if there were rocks, and there was no backing out now. Day one onboard and he was already starting to feel dizzy for this dame, and not just any dame, but a forbidden redheaded vixen that had graced his doorway holding that invisible sign saying trouble in nine different languages. But those gams, those sun-blushed red lips like vine tomatoes fresh for plucking, and the fire in her eyes matching the flame red of her hair. From the first words she’d let drift through his office. Sure she may be trouble, this may all end up similar to taking a smoke in a firework factory but boy, was it worth every stolen second of forbidden time.

Amelia’s eyes fluttered open again as his hand brushed her face, and she visually traced the shape of his in return as she leaned into his caress. She felt like she could crawl out of her skin waiting for the turbolift to reach her deck. At any point those doors would open, and anyone could be standing on the other side…. Anyone such as Rochelle. She wasn’t sure what Rochelle would think, but Amelia was almost certain her friend—her commanding officer—wouldn’t approve. Part of her didn’t want to disappoint, didn’t want to get caught in such a scandalous position, but this just felt right. The chemistry was palpable like a looming summer rain, and all she could think about was that first raindrop that indicated the oncoming deluge.

Her hands settled on his shoulders, and she leaned in, removing the remaining bit of space between them as her lips found his. This long anticipated connection sent a jolt from head to toe as the turbolift doors slid open behind him. Amelia was beyond caring if anyone saw or not, all she wanted was to be inside her quarters where there was no one to watch her unless she invited them in.

Mirroring her every move, but looking nowhere near as good as an honest reflection, he felt her lips connect with his. The culmination of their game — the big reveal. Turned out they both had the winning hand that night. It was soft, tender, sweet. Electric enough to power the whole ship. His hands instinctively wrapped around her, pulling her in closer and resting on the small of her back. The moment, like a scene out a movie, played out without interruption as he continued to embrace the red headed dame who making him dizzy.

He pulled away slightly at a time that felt natural to do so and rested his forehead on hers, their noses lightly grazing. His breathing was more rapid, his baby blues firmly locked on hers. If a picture could paint a thousand words than that moment was an entire library. “You’re full of surprises Amelia,” he managed to whisper through baited breath. Before she could return a comment he had embraced her once again. Rik hadn’t even noticed the doors opening behind him, exposing their forbidden moment to anyone around. He didn’t think he cared if anyone was to see—there are some things in life worth loosing everything for—he figured this was one of them. Figured, no. He was damn certain this was one of them.

Merry Happy

After Commander Ivanova left, I tried to hold onto the momentum of the tea and conversation shared, attempting to focus on going to the holodeck to shed my frustration with some good old fashioned ass kicking. As I changed clothes, putting on a tank top, comfortable pants, and my converse, my thoughts couldn’t help falling back on the conversation with Terry before he’d left my quarters.

We’d been sitting on the couch, he’d been quiet, but he often had been lately. I hadn’t thought much of it, some people just fall into a comfortable silence and I’d assumed that’s what it was. I’d asked for his thoughts on lunch as I was skimming reports, so I could decide what to tackle first when I went on duty later this evening.

Then I’d found the change of security clearance notification with his name and his resignation attached. He hadn’t answered my question about lunch yet, so I took the chance to change the topic. I asked if there was anything he needed to talk to me about. He met my gaze, something I realized then that he hadn’t been doing much lately, then even though I could see in his eyes that he knew what I was asking about, he gave me a simple nope.

As I reached the holodeck, I was able to draw myself out of my reflection long enough to pull up my program. Don’t Forget the Anchovies was what Mama had named the program all those years ago when she’d first given it to me. It’d grown and morphed to match my skills as they developed, Mama carefully working to keep the curve ahead of me to challenge me to move forward. I hadn’t actually opened it since before I’d gone under cover in the mines. While there, I’d had to develop a way to practice without the holodeck’s help, to keep my skills sharp, and when I’d gotten to the Griffin, the momentum of the solo practice had kept up… especially when Terry had taken to sparring with me and watching my work outs with the nunchuks with a bit of a fascination.

Thinking of Terry again, I sighed as I stepped into the holodeck, looking around at the comic book style rendition of a 20th century New York street. Like an old friend, I realized how much I’d missed the program in the time I’d been without it. The arch faded into the alleyway it was placed at the end of, and I pulled my nunchuks out of the waistband at the small of my back.

“Shuffle all,” I ordered, looking up at the sky. I knew, always have, that I didn’t need to look up to give the computer directions… but it was an odd habit that I still don’t know where I picked it up. Mama never did it, Daddy neither. I didn’t have time to muse on this, as the music started to play and the random goons, holographic meatbags that exist for no reason other than giving me something to abuse with my nunchuks, started to spill into the street from the buildings, the alleyways and around the corners. Only a half a dozen to start… it was like the program had forgotten me; I smirked as I started my green transparent aluminum beauties spinning around me. Then I recognized the song that had been randomly selected from my music library to play.

Watching me like you never watch no one
Don’t tell me that you didn’t try and check out my bum
Cause I know that you did
Cause your friend told me that you liked it

I knew the song well, Kate Nash’s Merry Happy, liked its catchy tune… but today the lyrics finally resonated. They never had before, even though I’d sung along dozens of times. My pausing from this realization left me with my guard down, and one of the holographic meatbags landed a blow, sending me down on my knees. Instinctively, I lashed out and heard the satisfying crack of breaking bone even as I willed myself to ignore the protests from my knees hitting the pavement.

Gave me those pearls and I thought they were ugly
Though you try to tell me that you never loved me
I know that you did
‘Cause you said it and you wrote it down

I started to sing along as I let myself fall into the flow of combat. The more I focused on the nunchuks, the less I usually thought… but my thoughts drifted to Terry again. I growled and cursed as my mind raced. I hadn’t even bloody well seen it coming, I had thought things were going well. I had even been trying to decide how to suggest we move in together. For some reason, he felt he had to retire, and that it required him leaving the ship, somehow also meaning he couldn’t talk to me about it.

Dancing at discos
Eating cheese on toast
Yeah you make me merry make me very very happy
But you obviously, you didn’t want to stick around

After a long moment, I realized I was standing there, unconscious thugs strewn across the street and sidewalks, and the next wave hadn’t arrived yet. Tears were sliding down my face as I stood waiting, and I stopped singing. I rubbed my upper arm where it felt like I was going to have a bruise in a little bit. It was far from the only spot on my body that felt that way. Mama may have been obligated to leave the safeties enabled on the program, or face charges of child abuse, but it sure did smart when you let the goons land a blow. I haven’t noticed I had, but clearly I was distracted by this turn of events with Terry.

Was it my fault? Had I pushed things too hard? I mean, sure, I thought I’d been coy at first, waiting to see what he did, waiting for him to express some sort of interest, but I certainly flirted until he seemed to wake up to it. Had he given in just because he felt like I was being pushy, and had he been hoping to relieve my pressure? I had offered up the rope to him not long after that, which is a large leap of trust. I trusted him, and he ran off without so much as a pardon me.

The tears poured down my cheeks, and I almost couldn’t see straight for them. I made out of the humanoid shapes moving towards me of the next wave of nameless goons, and my nunchuks started to spin again. I screamed at the top of my lungs. Violent words, hateful words, cursing in any and every language I knew even the smallest bite of. The choice Orion insults about his mother, the mud slinging bottom dwelling insults in Andorian about his fitness to sire the next generation, old Soviet insults that Auntie V had whispered to me behind my parents back… causing them to pretend they didn’t know she was doing it, then the Klingon. Oh the soothing prose of the Klingon insults, strung together poetically, as if penned by The Bard himself; speaking of smooth foreheads and relations to tribbles and unworthiness to wear combat boots. I couldn’t help a giggle at that last one. I knew that one would have left a mark had Terry been here to receive it.

Regardless of what anyone thought of his service as science officer, it was clear his heart had truly belongs to the marine core. His lingering loyalty to the core perhaps was what undermined his service in science. He’d always been more interested in the going ons of my department than that of his, even if he went through the motions to feign fascination with his. I hadn’t minded his interest in my department, I’d even used him as a sounding board as I’d tried to work through things I wasn’t sure how to handle.

Now, here I was yelling at the top of my lungs, breaking holographic bones in the holodeck, all because I’d fallen hard and the fucker clearly didn’t return the sentiment. I honestly hadn’t realized, not consciously, how badly I’d fallen for him. Sex had been good, but it’d been good with Ryan too… however, I wasn’t heart broken over Ryan. I was hurt over him, over his failure to communicate at all, and the absolute mystery that was him staying hitched to this stranger he’d been tricked into marrying, but I wasn’t heart broken. Mama and Daddy both had warned me: I would meet plenty of people that would do that sort of thing to me if the sex was casual. People move on without so much as a backwards thought to who they were fucking before, if they didn’t see a romantic attachment; treat you as a sex toy and don’t understand that you intended to be their friend first and foremost, that the sex was just something fun to do. Ryan was old news though, no point dwelling on his stupidity. He was still on the ship, I had to play nice with him on a professional capacity… so focusing on what had gone wrong would only lead to more bullshit and drama.

Terry though? Terry had just run away. I had fallen head over heels, and he’d run away. It wasn’t even until I reflected back on my thoughts about him, my feelings, after I’d yelled at him as he left my quarters that last time, that I’d realized it. That if he’d just said sorry, tried to see if there was some way we could continue to see each other without him needing to be in the fleet… I probably would have forgiven him. The words ‘I love you’ probably would have slid from my lips. Too late for that now, he was gone with the shuttle that needed to go back to the Whydah station. Hell, I’d caught myself a couple times in the last month, musing that Melody Mulholland had a good ring to it… and I knew that I was years away from wanting to have kids.

“Computer, pause program,” I ordered. The music stopped, the goons all faded from view, and I fell to my knees. I sat there sobbing, my hair hanging down around my face as I looked blankly down towards my nunchuck crossed in my lap. My body shook as I sobbed, and finally I was able to get my mind to shut up and stop dwelling on Terry as I just let it all out.

Walking in Central Park Singing After Dark

“I’ve been holding out so long, I’ve been sleeping all alone, Lord I miss you,” Amelia sung to herself as she crossed through Central Park. “I’ve been hanging on the phone, I’ve been sleeping all alone, I want to kiss you,” It was a little after 0200, and technically the park was closed. Not that it stopped people from cutting through anyways. The park sat right across the most efficient trajectory back to the hotel from Fly Me To The Moon, and with how cold it was this time of night, could anyone fault her taking the shortest path back to the hotel? The park was mostly closed to give law enforcement an excuse to clear out what few shady deals and transients still managed to find this city in this day and age.

She rounded a corner in the path she was on, and found herself staring down a couple people. The presence of knives in their hands snapped Amelia out of the soft buzz and the happy mood that karaoke and alcohol had left her in, and she quickly looked them over head to toe, trying to evaluate what she could. Doubling back would mean having to go completely out of the park again, and go all the way around, because she didn’t know the park well enough to try to detour around them. Chances are, they’d chase her anyways, especially since her combadge was buried under the woolly warmth of her green pea coat to avoid drawing attention to it, and thus wouldn’t be a deterrent by marking her as a part of Starfleet.

“Give us your valuables, and we won’t have to hurt you,” one said, holding his knife up to look threatening. A grin bloomed across Amelia’s face, and she felt a tingling up her spine. The other one took half a step back, also raising his knife.

“Uh, Marv, why’s she grinnin’?”

“Thank you,” she said softly, closing the space between them. The unnamed one took a full step back, as Marv looked at her dumbstruck. When her hand closed around the wrist of his hand holding the knife, something seemed to click, and he tried to pull away. She moved too fast, pulling his arm towards her, drawing him in. She turned as she did this, keeping the knife in sight and driving her elbow into his gut. The knife fell clattering to the paved walkway, and she quickly turned to look for his partner as Marv doubled over.

“Bitch.” She heard him before she saw him again, and tried to side step the lunge of his knife. Marv was in the way though, and she collided with him. He went sprawling to the pavement, and she fought to keep her feet, just shy of clearing the swipe of the blade coming at her. It sliced through the upper arm of her coat, but she couldn’t tell yet if it’d gotten deep enough to get at her skin too — she probably wouldn’t until the adrenaline stopped pumping after the fight. His lunge had been poorly planned, and left him wide open to her uppercut as she got her feed under herself again, sending him staggering backwards. Somehow he managed to keep hold of the knife and stay on his feet.

Their eyes met for a moment, then she dove for Marv’s dropped knife, having to tuck and roll to grab for it, as the man lunged for her again. She was clearly the quicker of the two, as he got nothing but air and she skidded across the pavement as she collected the knife. She was pretty sure she’d just destroyed the heavy knit tights she’d worn under her dress to fight off the cold; the tights were expendable, but the exposure that meant wasn’t good — she needed to finish this, fast. She sprung to her feet again, knife at the ready.

“Get outta here,” Marv snapped as he finally picked himself up off the ground. He took off running without waiting to see if his buddy was going to follow. Amelia’s eyes darted towards the back of the retreating mugger, and then leveled on the one who still stood in front of her. She curled her lip back in a snarl, and that was all it took to finally snap him out of it and send him after his buddy.

She stood there a long moment, calming her breathing and looking around. No sound other than the slap of shoes on pavement disappearing into the distance disturbed her, and she couldn’t help a small laugh as her eyes fell on the knife in her hand.

“That’s a souvenir even Uncle Spiegel couldn’t fault me for keeping,” she muttered, turning it to look at it closer. Pretty generic, serviceable but otherwise inexpensive. She bent over to slip it into her boot — probably not the best place for it, but for the distance she was going and with how well the boots fits, it would serve to keep it from drawing attention as she walked. She drew her fingers along the raw red of the pavement rash that covered part of her legs, hissing softly as she did, then turned her attention to the slice in the sleeve of her coat as she started walking again, finding blood on the edges of the slice in the fabric.

When she approached the entrance of the hotel, the bellhop almost turned her away until he recognized her, then he ushered her inside with an arm around her. She shrugged him away quickly, even as he tried to insist he should get her some attention for her injuries. Across the lobby, sitting in one of the plush couches, was Cecil with a nose in a PADD. He looked up at the noise, and before either one could realize he was there, he was between Amelia and the bellhop.

“I have her,” Cecil insisted. The bellhop opened his mouth to protest, but Cecil turned his back on him.

“I have myself, thank you,” she snapped, quick stepping to try to leave both men behind.

“He’s not going to leave you alone until he’s certain you’re being looked after,” Cecil insisted, easily keeping pace with her. “It doesn’t matter to him you’re an Executive Officer of a Starfleet vessel, you’re a guest in his hotel. It’s his job. Now you can either let me walk you to your room, or you’ll have him on your heels until he’s seen the last cut healed with a regenerator.”

“Fine.” She sighed. “Cecil will see me back to my room. I’m fine,” she growled. The bellhop inclined his head and quickly returned to his post. Cecil bit back a smirk as he silently walked next to her on the way to the elevator.

Silence followed them halfway up their ride until Cecil finally cleared his throat and rocked forward onto the balls of his feet. “You kicked someone’s ass, didn’t you?”

“Nothing quite so entertaining,” she returned, though she finally smiled and silently chuckled. “Had a couple guys try to mug me when I cut through Central Park. One landed a lucky slice on my arm, and I had to go sliding across the pavement to collect his buddy’s knife before they finally realized maybe I wasn’t worth the trouble.” She bent over, and pulled the knife out of her boot. “I got a souvenir.” She held it out to Cecil, and he reached for it cautiously as if it was going to bite him even though it was the handle she offered him.

“It doesn’t look like much,” he said as they reached her floor. She smirked as she strode out of the elevator, and he followed.

“It’s the story of how I got it that makes it interesting, not the knife itself. The knife is a cheap but serviceable blade. Something I’d expect a petty thief to steal because it would attract less attention than the flashy things he’d lift off tourists,” she insisted, and Cecil nodded. She pulled her keycard from her pocket, and let herself into her room. “Thank you, Cecil, I’ll be fine from here.” She held out her hand for the knife.

“I can get you a regenerator, or see if Doctor Rotek-” Cecil started to insist, and she shook her head. He handed over the knife.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got a regenerator,” she assured him. He shook his head with a look that said he really wasn’t surprised. “This will be our little secret, okay?”

“But shouldn’t you file a police report or something?”

“I’ll tell Rochelle, because she’ll have my neck if she hears about it somewhere else… like from you, or that bellhop. Otherwise, unless I’m passing the knife around at a cocktail party, I don’t want anyone else to hear about it.” She grinned at him when he shook his head at her. “Good night, and thank you for getting the bellhop out of my hair.”

“It wouldn’t due to have you skin the bellhop with your souvenir,” Cecil quipped, walking backwards down the hall. “Good night.”