Naris had wrapped up the briefing with most of the Senior Staff; oddly, she found it strange that Eli hadn’t attended the briefing. But their departure from the station had been sudden, and she knew the ship wasn’t quite ready. As she made her way to the lift, she spent most of the time attempting to convince herself that he had just been tied up in the duties of Chief Engineer.
Their shore leave had been short and uneventful. Most of Naris’ time had been spent entertaining Grace, who had planned their entire stay. The Captain’s only regret was that she hadn’t gotten to see Eli during their stay. Fate, however, seemed determined to keep the two apart. Grace was right, but she wasn’t about to tell her daughter that.
She made her way through Engineering, stopping at the office of Captain Eli Bates. He didn’t look upset and hoped this was a good time. “We missed you at the briefing,” she smiled.
Eli had not intentionally missed the briefing; he had been tasked with making sure the ship was prepared, and yet, with all the work he had put in, the ship was still, in the nicest terms, a piece of crap. He had made the ship operational even with his defiant department. He had been increasing his caffeine consumption from the amount of stress. He still did it all for one reason: it was Naris’s ship, and he would make sure it would do as was intended.
He had just returned to his office and was about to look over the latest reports when he heard the familiar voice. He grunted, “Apologies, Captain, I am trying to make sure this bucket of bolts stays together, and though it’s been a challenge, I think I’m finally getting somewhere. I figured you’d rather me be doing this.” He smirked at her, showing that same mischief with her he always had.
“That was always your problem, Eli,” Naris stepped into the office as she glanced down at his padd, “married to your work.” She laughed, “in this case, I am positive that’s a good trait.” She sat down in the nearby chair. “I am sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet up at the station, you have your job here, and Grace had this plan of dragging me to every shop she could find. It would have been nice to talk and catch up.”
“This is a simple patrol mission, or so I hope perhaps we will get an opportunity to catch up here,” she shrugged, “if our two jobs don’t mind testing fate.”
Eli nodded. It was true he had always been married to his work. How else would he become a Captain of Engineering? It wasn’t his sunny disposition, that was for sure. He smiled at Naris. “First off, it’s ok. I know how busy a Captain is. Grace, ahh, how is the firecracker? I can imagine you went to every shop on the station.”
He thought for a minute, “Well, I think catching up is important, especially for us. A simple mission seems like a really redundant thing to say because has anything we’ve done in our career been simple, Naris? I mean, look at you and me.”
Naris snorted, “you have a point,” she sighed, “it’s a patrol mission to the Gradin Belt. Some odd new form of dilithium crystals has been popping up randomly out of the blue. They are calling them blood dilithium. Starfleet doesn’t know why. They don’t know how. They all know people are coming from all over to harvest this crystal.”
“I guess I just proved your point; simple doesn’t happen.” She stood up, walking to the nearby replicator, “I have to admit, no matter how many times you get a new host, it always feels weird. I can remember every event from the Trinity, up to and including my death. Well, Ladra’s death. Yet, waking up on that table was a strange feeling. When Ladra died, I truly wasn’t sure we would make it. There wasn’t a Trill on the ship; that was the end. Then I,” she paused, “Vidre showed up, and I changed all over again.”
“I woke up that morning an Executive Officer in a relationship with a wonderful man,” she winked at Eli, “and ended the day a single mother of a daughter I didn’t know, and yet I did. I was a widow and certainly not ready to be joined.” She looked at him, “all things considered; I should have messaged you at least to let you know that Naris was ok.”
“That probably wouldn’t have helped. I am not sure.”
Eli looked at Naris with something special in his eye. “When you have a connection to someone, you just know they are ok. Would I have liked to have known? I truly would have, but fate seemed to think we weren’t done because here we are. It’s probably weird for you to know my past relationship, but I still see the same person I fell in love with there.”
He changed the subject for a minute. “This blood dilithium seems like it could be a problem if people want to mine it. I could be wrong, but dilithium, especially a new kind, could cause dangers we don’t know.”
He slid the conversation on purpose, wanting to see how Naris would react to him.
Naris walked over to Eli and slid a hand up on his cheek, cupping his face, “my sweet Eli, you deserved better. We both did.” She smiled at him for a moment, “this crystal is more than dangerous, and it has some odd effects on telepathic races too. Makes them go crazy.”
“And for the record, I don’t think that knowing your past isn’t weird,” she replied to his previous comment. “Having you here is one of the stable points in my life.” She looked at his desk, “You should know Grace is petitioning hardcore for a Ross class ship. The poor girl seems to think I have a lot of pull in Starfleet.”
Eli touched her hand and pushed it to his face. “I never deserved anyone, yet I got you, which was more than I had ever wanted. This crystal needs to be contained, and though I know it won’t be easy, I will do my best to help you here.”
Eli smirked. “I think Grace is petitioning for what she wants. I could probably help get you a ship like that given my connections, but that might not be very shined upon.” He smirked for a moment, then did something he wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. He grabbed Naris and pulled her in for a very romantic kiss.
Naris, without thinking, wrapped both arms around Eli as he pulled her in closer. As the kiss ended, she could feel the heat building up in her cheeks, “for that, Captain Bates, I expect you to find a way to contain this strange new crystal.” She reached up, running her hand through his hair, “maybe bringing you here was a mistake, but it’s a mistake I am willing to make.”
She turned her head and rested it on his chest.
“This mission is going to be problematic, but it’s going to have to be a success if we expect your favor for a Ross class to work,” she couldn’t help but laugh.”
He pulled her close. “Your wish is my command. I will do some research and see what I can find. If this is a mistake, I don’t want to make it right.”
“I do think my favor might lose some pull if we fail, but I could still make it happen.”
Naris could hear the small laughter of the crew, who no doubt had seen or at least heard their interaction, “I think we have an audience, and we both have work to do. And whatever you do, don’t tell Grace you can get us a Ross. The girl already hounds me every chance I get.” She turned and headed to the doorway, “thank you, Eli.”
Eli smiled and watched Naris leave his office. After giving her a second, he walked out and looked at the crew members, who immediately snapped back to work. It was just as his department should be. He had not felt like he did in that moment, but work must go on, and he went straight back to his task at hand.
Naris didn’t want that awkward goodbye, especially after that passionate kiss. She simply smiled and left, giving the evil eye to a few Officers who’d been standing outside listening to their Chief and their Captain. It was strange only a few weeks ago; she was determined to strictly keep things professional. She sighed, “Grace will never let this one go.”
She stopped looking back into Engineering; Eli had left his office and returned to work. It was a skill he had adapted over his career. He was a sound Engineer. She left Engineering, heading to the nearest lift.