Mess Hall, 1800 Hours
: Tal Celes sat at the table with Billy Telfer as she ate dinner. “You’ve barely eaten anything.” Telfer observed, “Is something wrong?”
“I’m just a little nervous about the away mission, that’s all.” Tal replied as she moved her fork around the plate, just picking at the meal.
“That’s a Jibelian Berry Salad, it’s not exactly one of Neelix’s more radical concoctions.” Billy said, “If you want I could give you one of my replicator rations and you can replicate yourself some mapa bread or hasperat.”
“Oh no, Billy I couldn’t do that to you. And it’s not what’s being served that’s bugging me, it’s something else.” Tal replied.
“It’s not the away mission, is it?” Billy replied.
“It is and kinda not.” Tal replied.
“So you’re nervous about the away mission. I got you. And what else?” Billy said.
Tal stared at him for a little bit as she lightly chewed on a bit of her salad, should she tell him? Should she say what was written on her heart and mind for almost a year now?
“It’s the away mission. You know how we’re gonna be in close quarters on the Flyer...”
“Henry?” Billy asked gently.
“You’ve felt this way about him for a while, haven’t you? How long?” Billy asked, softly.
“Almost a year.” Tal replied.
“Have you said anything to him?” Billy replied.
“No. I mean I’m just not sure I should. I mean he is an officer...” Tal replied.
“First of all, there are no Starfleet regulations that say that you two can’t date each other. And in case you haven’t noticed, Henry’s not like a lot of the other officers.” Billy replied as he gently put his right hand on top of her left hand which was draped on the table.
“It’s not just the legal aspect. It’s just that I don’t know if he feels the same way. And anyway if things go wrong we couldn’t go back to being friends again.” Tal replied as she put her fork down and put her right hand on top of his.
“What makes you so certain he doesn’t feel the same way.” Billy said, “I saw you two making eyes at each other before and even during Captain Janeway’s briefing.”
“Really?” Tal replied.
“Yeah. I’m no expert, admittedly, but like any scientist I observe things.” Billy said, “And I come to conclusions as well.”
“So you think he feels the same way?” Tal said.
“No way to make any conclusions unless you actually talk to him about it.” Billy said.
“I will. But after the mission. I don’t think now’s the proper time.” Tal replied.
“You’re stalling.” Billy replied.
“I am not!” Tal protested, “I don’t think the night before an away mission is the best time to talk about things like this.”
“You promise you’ll talk to him when this mission’s over?” Billy replied.
“I promise you I’ll do that.” Tal replied.
“Don’t promise me.” Billy said with an enigmatic smile, “Promise yourself.”
Meanwhile neither Tal nor Billy had really noticed Lieutenant Ayala standing up and walking out of the Mess Hall, out of earshot but able to sort of lip read words from Tal and Billy from his table.
Deck 8, 1825 Hours
: “There you are. I was wondering where you’d gotten to.” Ayala began as he partially jogged to catch up to Henry.
He saw the Australian walk out of the Search and Rescue Team Room, his sleeves rolled up. He just finished punching some numbers into a keypad before he turned to face Ayala.
“Just doing some last minute checks on my gear before I go eat dinner and turn in before the away mission.” Henry replied.
“I figured you be eating with Celes and Telfer like you normally do.” Ayala replied.
“Well, Mike, I just had my pre-mission checks to do.” Henry replied.
“Are you sure it isn’t something else?” Ayala replied.
“What do you mean?” Henry replied.
“Tal Celes.” Ayala replied.
“Will you bloody lay off the subject?” Henry replied.
“You seem a bit touchy, at least when it comes to a certain Bajoran.” Ayala replied.
“May I ask why you’re choosing now to bring this up, mate?” Henry asked.
“Well, you to are about to be on an away mission in close proximity to each other.” Ayala replied.
“All the more reason, assuming your assumptions are correct.” Henry replied.
“So you do have feelings about Celes?” Ayala replied
“We’re just friends.” Henry protested.
“Tell yourself that. But has it ever occurred to you that maybe she just might feel the same way?” Ayala replied.
“Look, mate, the night before an away mission isn’t the best time to go and try and find out things like this.” Henry replied.
“Or it could be the best night.” Ayala replied, “Although you two might not get much sleep out of it in that scenario.”
Henry fixed him with a glare.
“I was just kidding.” Ayala said as he held up his hands and took a step back.
“And besides she does mean more to me than just a single roll in the hay.” Henry replied.
“I wasn’t implying you only want her for a one night stand.” Ayala replied, “I know you care about her, and you’re worried that she might not feel the same way. Well, I’ll leave you with this thought my friend: she just might feel the same way about you.”
“You’re kidding me, right?” Henry replied.
“Not necessarily. Think about the differences between the two of you. She’s a crewman, you’re a lieutenant. She’s had some competence issues, you’re a Search and Rescue expert. But you’ve got part of the battle, depending on your point of view, you’re already one of her closest friends.” Ayala replied.
“How exactly are you such an expert on what goes on in a woman’s heart?” Henry replied.
“Hey, you Australians are wilderness savvy, we South Americans are woman savvy.” Ayala replied.
“Anyway I’m off to my quarters. I’m using my replicator rations for a steak and some chips.” Henry replied.
“And risk eating Neelix’s food for another two weeks?” Ayala said.
“Hey. It’s my pre-away mission ritual.” Henry replied as he headed for his quarters.
Kenneth Dalby tuned his coil spanner as he adjusted a modulator for the forward phaser array of the Delta Flyer . After he adjusted the modulator he did a check on the track while scan sensor. It was working just fine.
“Lieutenant?” Dalby said as he crawled out from under the Flyer.
“Yes?” B’Elanna Torres said as she poked her head out from the Flyer’s door.
“Phaser array recalibrations are done.” Dalby replied.
“OK. What about the torpedo launchers?” Torres asked.
“I did it during lunch.” Dalby replied.
B’Elanna stepped out of the Flyer and ran a quick diagnostic on the torpedo launcher. “Huh. Good job.” B’Elanna remarked.
“I found out why there’s a launch sequence error after firing a single shot with the torpedo launcher.” Dalby replied.
“Oh?” B’Elanna replied.
“I noticed the reloading mechanism was out of synch so I replaced it with a spare. I’ve got Harren and Chell on that assignment.” Dalby replied.
“Harren and Chell?” B’Elanna asked.
“Well I figured they were up to the task. Given the right incentive.” Dalby replied with an enigmatic grin.
“And just what was the ‘incentive’?” B’Elanna replied.
“Let’s say that Harren would be receiving manual power transfer requests almost non-stop until he helped Chell fix the reloading mechanism.” Dalby replied.
“How did you convince Chell?” B’Elanna asked.
“Well. Let’s just say that I bribed him with a week’s worth of replicator rations.” Dalby replied.
“So you used bribery and an unauthorized deviation from normal power transfer protocols to get work done?” B’Elanna replied.
“Yes sir.” Dalby replied.
“Dalby, a creative approach but try not to get too creative with your approach to problem solving.” B’Elanna replied.
“Well, that’s all the tasks I had to do for getting the Flyer ready for tomorrow’s mission.” Dalby said, “If there’s nothing else?”
“Not at all. Get some dinner and some rest.” B’Elanna said.
“Yes sir.” Dalby replied before gathering his tools and walking out of the shuttlebay.
B’Elanna was about to leave herself when Tom walked in.
“Doing more checks?” B’Elanna replied.
“Yeah.” Tom replied.
“Don’t tell me you’re standing me up.” B’Elanna replied.
“Not at all.” Tom replied as he walked around the Flyer. He examined panels and checked various pieces of equipment.
A moment of realization swept of B’Elanna. Tom was doing checks and to the casual observer they seemed to be genuine. But B’Elanna knew Tom too well to be fooled.
“You’re not doing checks.” B’Elanna finally concluded.
“What?” Tom said.
“I’m guessing you’re here for the express purpose of a little back and forth banter, tinged with more than a little innuendo.” B’Elanna began as she stepped closer to Tom with her characteristic ‘I’m going into Klingon mode right now’ manner.
Tom began to back up, wondering what exactly he did to provoke one of B’Elanna’s moods.
“The goal you have is probably to say yes to a little us time before you go on a potentially dangerous away mission. Well I have news for you. I’m on to your little scheme.” B’Elanna said.
“Damn.” Tom replied.
“I’m not finished yet Tom.” B’Elanna said.
“Ok. Ok. Let me have it.” Tom said. Poor choice of words. He inwardly groaned until B’Elanna spoke again.
“And I just want to say: I’m all for it.” B’Elanna said before taking the final step. The two kissed deeply for a long slow interval before parting for want of air, “I think my quarters are a little closer...”
They walked out of the shuttlebay shortly thereafter, Tom with his left arm around her waistline and B'Elanna with her right arm draped around the back of his neck and shoulders. Tom lightly kissed her as they walked out of the door.
To Be Continued...