A Little Walk
Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Halls of the Defiant
It had been almost a week ago since Elias had left the ship and Ian wasn't sure when he'd return, or for that matter, if he'd return. Elias couldn't share the details with him, but he knew that whatever this mission, it was a dangerous one. Ian didn't realize how much he missed the other man for three days. But now, almost a week later he was coming to understand, just how much of a hole in his life there now was. How much he really missed the man he'd come to love.
He spent an hour or two tossing and turning, then gave up on the idea of sleep at least for that moment in time. So, he dressed in a pair of gym shorts and an Academy tee-shirt, then stepped out of his room and into the corridor, deciding to wander around the ship for a while.
It was extremely late, but Caroline Isley had lost track of time. She had been in the science lab continuing her side research into the infected Tholian from previous missions. She was still fascinated with the crystalline species and was determined to learn more about a parasite that could infect such divergent forms of life. Nothing that could live in a Tholian's environment should have been able to affect humans, Klingons, and others, and vice versa. She knew Starfleet was also working on this issue, but Caroline had a sense of professional pride. Until recently, very few Starfleet scientists had really been interested in the isolationist, xenophobic Tholians and Isley had been something of an expert. Now everyone was interested in them and she felt as though she was being left behind.
As she exited the lab, the blonde was still reading her datapad. She wasn't even looking up, counting on the corridors being mostly deserted. So she didn't even notice it when she nearly collided with a man in casual clothing.
Ian had been lost in thoughts and hadn't heard the hiss of an opening door. Nevertheless, he avoided, barely, running into a woman in a teal blue science uniform. "Whoa," he said taking a step back, "are you okay?"
Isley's cheeks flushed scarlet at first, as she was embarrassed by her lack of attention. But then her natural defensiveness caused a surge of irritation. She also stepped back and then straightened her hair, slightly tussled form the near-collision.
"Yes," she said, rather coldly. "I'm fine." She then had a flash of recognition that the man was a fellow senior officer. "No damage done," the blonde added, slightly less icily.
Ian took a half-step away, wondering if he had done something to offend his fellow officer. He smiled at her to cover his own irritation since she had been the one to almost run into him rather than the other way around. But then his smile widened and turned more genuine. "Glad you're okay then. Uh, if you're not turning in for the night, I think I'm going to go to the Officer's Mess and get something to eat. Care to join me?"
Isley raised an eyebrow. She was going to decline when she thought the better of it. Part of her felt a touch guilty for being angry at someone when the entire collision might have been her fault. And she also dreaded going back to her quarters for yet another sleepless night after a stressful day. "Yes. Why not?" she said. She then motioned for Ian to lead on.
He led the way to the nearest turbolift, then after allowing her to enter first, hoping he wasn't committing some social faux pas. they rode down two levels. As they exited and started down the corridor towards the lounge he said, "We haven't had a chance to talk much have we?"
Isley entered the elevator, casually straightening her slightly too tight and too short skirt uniform as she did and then looked at Ian with mild surprise for a moment. "No, I guess we haven't." With a wry grin, she then added, "I'm Lieutenant Caroline Isley, chief science officer." She was aware that he already knew that, but it seemed a harmless poke at him.
His eyes flicked towards her as she smoothed her uniform, but it was only a quick glance, then moved back to her face. He made no attempt to stifle his smile or his chuckle. Recovering quickly, however, he said, "Nice to meet you. And I'm Ian Acainus, I'm an Akadian, so that's why my uniform differs from yours."
She bit her bottom lip and then replied, "Gym shorts and a t-shirt? I didn't know Akadians were so informal."
He ran a hand through his hair, without realizing he was doing it, looked down at himself and laughed, "I meant my otheruniform."
By that time they had reached the Officer's Mess. "Would it be chauvinistic to say after you?"
Isley smiled at his response and then entered the mess. She wasn't actually all that hungry this late, so she simply selected a decaffeinated tea and then waited for Ian to select something and pick a table.
Ian wasn't quite ravenous, but with his metabolism, he could eat just about anytime. He didn't want to make a pig out of himself, so he chose a large Ceaser salad and some buttered wheat toast. It was a somewhat unusual combination, but he liked it. He brought it over to the table, along with a chilled glass of water he'd also picked up and sat down in front of the science officer.
"So, I have a bit of insomnia I'm missing Elias. What has you up so late?"
Caroline only vaguely knew of Acainus's relationship status so she simply nodded, without saying anything. She obviously knew the pain of losing someone, but she thought her situation was a bit more final than Ian's. "Work. I was trying to catch up on some extracurricular research I have been doing. With everything that's been going on, I haven't had a lot of time for it lately."
"Really, what kind of extracurricular activity?"
Isley arched an eyebrow. She hadn't expected a follow-up question. Looking at Ian archly, she said, "Follow-up research on the Tholians. I was actually a bit of an expert on them before our encounter and, of course, that has shaken up everything Starfleet thought it knew. Now it's hard for me to stay on top of the field because of, well, Defiant business. Being a serving science officer is harder than being a dedicated researcher."
The blonde then looked up at the chronometer in the mess hall. "It's gotten quite late," she said.
I can imagine it would be. And yes it is getting late. I think I'll head back to bed. I'll see you around."
Isley nodded, took another sip of her drink, and then left the mess hall, heading back toward her quarters.