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Chapter Seven

 
Previously: Chapter Six

Of all the dates Gabriel Ohn had ever gone on, this was by far the best.

The fact Miranda Willoughby had her own quarters was the crux of the date's best-ness.  It was great to not have worry about a roommate showing up without warning.

And then...there was the food.

For dinner, Miranda served pan-seared Andorian kala fish lightly crusted with breadcrumbs and topped with Asiago cheese.  She also served with blue Tellurite angel-haired pasta cooked in Romulan viinerine and Vulcan plomeek soup boiled down in a Bajoran springwine reduction.

Gabriel's contribution was merely two bottles of some simple Risian cordials he'd heard about from Drelle, but Miranda graciously accepted it anyway.  The sweetness of the beverage offset the tangy spice of the dish.

"Let me guess," he chuckled, as they sat down to eat, "you got the recipe from Chopped."

"I refined it, of course," she assured him, eyes twinkling.  "The contestant who originally came up with the combination used a Klingon bloodwine reduction, which is much too strong, and he didn't think to dull the sourness of the viinerine with the plomeek soup."

Gabriel smiled broadly. "Can this possibly get any better?"

Miranda beamed.  "Actually, I put some of your programming skills to test and manipulated the computer to replicating Black Orchid cupcakes.  They're basically Delavian dark chocolate cupcakes infused with the Cardassian mayal flower."

Gabriel's head rose and fell.  "Like they use in sugar candy."

"Mm-hm," Miranda nodded.  "It really darkened the batter, and added a rich flavor.  I'm going to recommend them to Lt. Silent River."

"I'm sure he'll be impressed," Gabriel assured her, and they began to eat.  Everything tasted absolutely perfect and he made sure to tell her so.

"Cooking's actually a big deal in the DMZ," Miranda explained.  "Most of the people are farmers who grow and cook their own food.  To be honest, grown food does taste better than replicated food, but you've taught me that with a little tweaking, computers can rival nature."

They ate for a time, talking about the Engineering lecture from earlier that day and making predictions about the Ketara Mission.

"What's the planet like?" Gabriel asked.  "I haven't searched the database yet."

"The moon we've been assigned is quite beautiful.  I haven't visited it, but I browsed the database." Her voice grew wistful as a faraway look overtook her eyes.

"It has this beach, you know? It just stretches on for kilometers, and at sunset, you can see Ketara V and its first moon.  The Miluna Sea is this beautiful shade of blue green and the sunset...the sunset, Gabriel...so luminous, with soft pinks and tender golds.  If you want, we can go see it on the holodeck tomorrow night."

A second date???  This was too easy.  If there was a catch, Gabriel didn't want to know.  Not yet.  He just wanted to savor this, their effortless synchronicity...and their growing electricity.

When he realized how she was looking at him, Gabriel cleared his throat and immediately broke the silence, grasping for something, anything.

"I'll help you clear the dishes."

Miranda beamed her angelic smile, and nodded.  "All right."

They moved in silence, packing up glasses and dishes and putting them back in the replicator. They wiped the table together, washed their hands, and were about to bid each other good night when Gabriel suddenly noticed Miranda was in his arms, and he was kissing her as though his life depended upon it.

Right away, Gabriel knew better than to bother going back to his quarters that night.  There was no point.

Miranda smelled of some strange jasmine and tasted of the cordial.  He wanted to slow down, knew he should slow down but instead, things kept speeding and heating up.  It seemed to take only seconds for them to shed their clothes.

Though they initially headed for her bedroom, they never made it past the dining table.

***

"The time is now 0700 hours.  Please acknowledge."

"Fuck off," Miranda mumbled sleepily.

"Acknowledged," the computer snorted in reply.

Miranda could feel Gabriel moving near her, rising and groaning as he stretched.  He began searching the dark room for his clothes and pulled each on as he found them.

Sighing in defeat, Miranda called for the lights and rose from bed.  She strode straight to the replicator and ordered two red leaf teas.

"Do you really have to go?" she pouted, when Gabriel was fully dressed.

Gabriel was bemused.  "Sweetie, we both have to go. Gotta clock in gym hours, remember?"

"But we can have our workout right here," Miranda answered wryly, with a twinkle in her eye.

It was tempting as hell, seeing as she'd slid back into her pink lingerie, but Gabriel loathed to think of what the Borg Queen would do to him if he were late for gym hours.

"Sweetheart," he coaxed, "come on.  I'll go to the holodeck with you tonight if you behave."

"I have an better idea," she replied.  "How about after gym hours, you and I grab a shower together?"

***

"Where have you been all night?" Drelle demanded, taking her steaming cup of tea from the replicator. "We waited until 2400 hours for you."

Sillia Rix had no idea what to say; she hadn't expected this. It never occurred to her to compose an explanation in the event her prolonged absences were noticed. Morana and Drelle looked at her, then each other, then back at her.

"Well," Sillia cleared her throat, taking her seat at their replimat table. "If you must know, I was playing kal-toh with Pranay--I mean, Commander Bhatnagar."

Morana raised an eyebrow. "The whole night?  You expect us to believe you were up playing chess for a whole night?"

"Technically, it's not 'chess," the Trill blushed. "And it's a very engaging game!"

There was an awkward pause, in which Drelle closely regarded Sillia's increasingly guilty face.

"Are you insane?" she suddenly rasped, leaning in. "You don't go screwing your commanding officer. What the hell's possessed you?"

Morana's eyes widened in disbelief. "You're seriously screwing Commander Bhatnagar?" she asked incredulously. Of all the twists and turns she'd expected during her time on Deep Space Nine, this wasn't one of them.

Sillia flushed deeply.

"How...?" Morana blinked, shaking her head slowly and finding herself unable to complete the question. She recalled the calm, prim, deeply private nature of the astrophysicist. It seemed so unlike him to bed an ensign. A doctor, diplomat, or fellow scientist--sure, but not an ensign.

"It just happened!" Sillia cried.

"Sillia," the Bajoran gasped, breathless with disbelief, "sex with a man--any man--who's born and raised on Vulcan, doesn't 'just happen.'"

"We ran into each other two nights ago," the Trill confessed miserably. She started babbling uncontrollably like a madwoman. "He talked about the war, then he invited me back to his quarters to teach me kal-toh and he was so proper and refined and so friggin' smart, and the intricacy of the game was such a turn-on that before I knew anything my clothes were on the floor and my legs were in the air and his head was between my--"

"STOP!!!" Drelle and Morana shouted at the same time. Drelle even raised her hand, as if to physically block the details.  For a moment, the women couldn't look at one another.  It was a while before one of them broke the awkward silence.

"Sillia," Drelle said simply, rising from a the main couch in the sitting room, and setting her teacup down. "You have to stop. You have to stop this now before you destroy your career over a man you already know Starfleet will never get rid of, not for you. His proven himself as an officer, while you're just a newbie and there's a lot more where you came from."

"Is it really that serious though?" Morana blinked. Sillia looked at her as if to say, I don't know where you're going with this, but please make it work. "I mean, they're technically not doing anything wrong. And they've been super discreet."

Drelle was insistent. "It looks bad for both of them, Morana. She's his subordinate, which creates a huge liability for him. Every assignment, every promotion is gonna look suspect."

"But Starfleet officers serve together and marry each other all the time," the Bajoran shrugged.

"They're usually of similar rank," Drelle countered. "This is not okay, whichever what you slice it."

"It'll all be better after I'm joined," Sillia insisted. "I'll be older, wiser--"

"And mostly likely not even interested in him anymore," Drelle blinked. "And that's if you get joined. Sleeping with your CO does not help with your resume."

***

Damian Silent River woke, his head throbbing from too much the Begosian wine but he didn't care. That's why the gods invented Klingons, who in turn invented raktajino.

Wrapped in a bed sheet, he was halfway across his quarters when Lt. Sohini Ghoshal suddenly entered his quarters, looking very grave.

"Engineering recorded a coded subspace message sent from one of their consoles yesterday," she told him, before he could speak. "They've yet to reveal the source, but they've found it carried a Maquis signature."

Just like that, Damian was sober, wide awake, and immediately switched moods.

"Do they know what the message said?" he asked.

"It said, 'We rendezvous at Ketara.'"

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