Quite a Day or Two
Episode 5: Better Angels
Location: Dante Rawlins’ Quarters
Timeline: MD2: While Defiant is at warp, After Shift
Claire made her way through the corridors as she headed toward senior officer housing. She felt a little awkward for some reason, but she wanted to check in on Dante. He’d taken a pretty painful hit, worse than hers she was sure. And unlike her, he’d had to rush off to duty again. They’d started getting to know each other on the station just before everything went south. She’d been feeling a bit more confident then. But she decided to try and pick up where they’d left off.
Stopping in front of his door, she paused for a moment. She hoped she wouldn’t be disturbing him. She considered leaving and coming back at an earlier time but decided against it, before ringing the chime.
The first chime was completely drowned out by the sound of the water in the shower. The second came as he was reaching for the towel. Wrapping it quickly around his waist, painfully aware of how revealing it was as it clung to his wet body he wiped the excess water from his face and quickly made it to the main room of his quarters.
Pressing the button to open the doors he had a slightly perplexed look on his face. When he saw who was on the other side he went wide-eyed, and felt a blush creep across his bare chest, along his neck, and up into his cheeks. "Hi!.", he said, a goofy grin splitting his face.
Claire’s eyes went wide as the door opened. Her mouth opened, forming a few failed syllables before she actually managed to speak. “Oh, uh, I’m sorry I should have called ahead. I’ll let you get back to...uh...” Her face went Operations Red.
Dante laughed to cover his own nervousness, " I don't have anything to get back to. I was just stepping out of the shower when you rang the chime. It'll only take me a minute to get dressed. If you don't mind waiting...?", he said, letting his voice trail the last bit into a question.
“Uh...no. Not at all. I’ll just wait here until you’re done,” Claire replied hurriedly. It was a dumb suggestion. She’d just wait in the hall? But she hadn’t really thought it out too much.
"Don't be silly.", Dante replied, smiling and reaching out his hand. "I've got a couch, and it's pretty comfortable, I promise.", he added.
“Oh, right. Obviously,” Claire laughed, keeping eye contact intentionally. She followed him in, settling into the couch and finding a comfortable position. She straightened her uniform dress a little self consciously, and busied herself looking around the quarters as he disappeared into the back room. They were decorated quite nicely, and he had an impressive array of old school books on the wall. You didn’t see those every day.
A few minutes later Dante walked back out, dressed in a pair of white jeans, and carrying a tank top that went from white at the top to dark navy blue at the bottom. "I'm sorry to impose, but do you think you could help me with this?", he asked holding up a prepackaged bandage and glancing at his still healing wound.
“Certainly, she said, sitting up and making room for him to sit next to her. “God that still looks so bad. I feel guilty having made such a big deal out of my injury. After seeing yours, I should have felt lucky. I’m just not used to the whole ‘getting shot’ thing.” She took the bandage and began preparing to apply it.
Sitting beside Claire Dante caught a slight whiff of some scent she had on, and the corners of his mouth quirked up. As she began applying the bandage he replied.
"Honestly, it looks a lot worse than it is. I just waited too long for proper regeneration so it'll have to heal on its own", he said.
Once she was done he stood back up and pulled the tank top on, favoring the injured arm slightly. "Now, since you brought it up, how is your leg?", he asked.
“It’s good as new honestly,” Claire said, kicking her boot off to show. “Not even a scar or lingering mark. Honestly, it looks as if I wasn’t injured by the time I even left sickbay. It didn’t help my feelings of guilt. There were a lot of people much worse than me, and I was acting so panicked.”
Dante chuckled as he crouched down to take a closer look. His hand cupped her injured leg, his thumb moving gently over the skin that previously had been badly damaged by the phaser bolt. "Hey, you'd be shot. I'm pretty sure most people panic in that situation. You are right though, it does look good.", he said with a sly grin as he let go of her leg and moved to settle back into his seat on the couch.
Claire rolled her eyes at his joke, but couldn't supress a smile. "Not everyone panics. The Captain got hit a lot worse than myself 3 times, and she didn't panic. And you got hit and didn't panic either. I just don't think combat is my strong suit. I prefer working with sensors, and looking at stars and planets which don't shoot back."
"Well. I mean, pulsars though, they sorta shoot back...", he said teasing her. "So, I know you didn't come here to catch me in the shower, since you seemed absolutely shocked and embarrassed, what's up?", he asked, turning and pulling one leg up under him so he could face her better.
"True...pulsars get a little weird." Claire said, she shifted in her seat a little. "And I figured we'd just catch up a little. We were barely talking when the whole world went to hell. I was wondering if you wanted to go do something. I know we only have the facilities on the ship now, but given how well things went station-side, maybe that's a good thing."
Dante looked at her for a few moments, admiring how the soft lighting made her hair seem to glow and then nodded, smiling, "I'd like that.", he said, standing and reaching out his hand. "Anything in particular in mind?", he asked.
“You’re the one who’s new here,” she teased. “I’ve been around these places before, so it doesn’t feel new and interesting to me. I’d rather go where it seems interesting to you. The observation deck on the bottom of the saucer is always fun though.”
"Observation deck it is, then.", Dante replied. "I'll try to keep my observations as on topic as possible...", he added, somewhat cheesily.
“Could be hard to tell what on topic is...” Claire decided to play mysterious...or at least something of the sort. She hopped off the chair and over to the door, probably faster than Dante would expect. “How about right now then?” she said with a wry smile.
Dante was caught off guard, and at first felt just a bit foolish, but the smile on her face drove the rest of his thoughts away. He returned it with a chuckle and a shake of his head. "Sounds good? Should I wear anything in particular? Or just have you go back out and meet you at the door in a towel again?", he asked playfully.
“I don’t know how the crew would react to that,” she said with a laugh. “Besides, I’m still in uniform. You could match me. You look good in gold.”
Another blush followed the compliment, and he fought the silly grin that threatened to break out across his face. "Alright, three minutes.", he said, and then walked off to change into his uniform. Almost exactly three minutes later he walked out in the right black pants, and form-fitting gold tunic of his on-duty attire.
Spinning around he stopped, hands up, and a questioning look on his face. "This work?", he asked.
“Yes. That will work nicely,” Claire said with a smile.
Located just above the sensor dome at the base of the saucer section, the observation deck was opulent by design. It’s wide, panoramic window afforded a view of the space around them, and of Defiant herself depending on where in the ring-shaped room you stood. Tables and lounge seating had been arranged around the room. The inner wall was a dark reflective surface, making it seem as if space was in either side of the occupants. Lighting was present, but kept to the necessary minimum, other than reading lights at the tables. A small mess station served drinks and small plates to those in the room. However, the fact that the room circled the sensor suite itself also made it oddly private. The curvature of the room prevent one side from seeing the other. One end could host a gathering of friends, while the other served as a workspace. It was one of the rooms on the ship that fully embraced the majesty of their location.
As the turbolift delivered them to their destination, Claire watched Dante’s reaction eagerly. The observation deck was an unexpected treat, hidden away in the Constitution’s design, and it caught many first time visitors by surprise.
As they walked out of the turbolift Dante stared around in wide-eyed wonder. He'd never been to the observation deck, mostly because he really didn't know what the purpose of one was. Now he wished he'd come sooner.
"This is amazing...", he said, still looking around, not just at the room itself, but at the amazing view of the stars outside the large windows.
The impressed look on his face was unmistakable. "It's one of the hidden treats of being on a ship of the line. There was extra space in the design around the sensor suite, so some inspired designer decided to squeeze this in. It's obviously not where you'd want to be in a firefight, but there are concealed sections of hull plating that slide into place anytime the ship goes to alert." Outside the windows, streaks of light passed by, signifying the ships status at warp.
With a huge grin still on his face, Dante looked over at Claire, "Thank you for bringing me here.", he said.
"A beautiful view everywhere I look tonight, it seems.", he added with a wink a few seconds later.
"Figured it'd only be fair to show you where the cool kids hang out," she teased. She settled into a seat by the window, facing toward the right side of the saucer. "It's funny, this room almost makes you forget that what kind of mission we're on."
Dante chuckled at her joke, and slid into a seat beside her. "It's definitely a place to go to get your mind off of things, that's for sure.", he said glancing around. "Are you hungry? Thirsty?", he said, nodding to the mess station they seen as they walked in.
“A little of both I think,” Claire said. “I wouldn’t mind a cocktail. Margarita is always fun.”
"One margarita coming up.", Dante replied. Standing up, he strode over to the mess station and ordered them both a margarita, choosing a coconut one for himself, and a classic for her, both frozen, not on the rocks, and also placed an order from the small menu for some light eating.
A few minutes later he returned to the table with the two drinks, sitting Claire's down before her. "Your drink, madame.", he said with a flourish before sitting. "And I ordered us a little something to eat as well, should be here shortly. Ever been to San Antonio?", he asked.
“Why thank you, sire,” she said in a mock stately voice as she took her glass. “No I’ve unfortunately never been there. Why do you ask?”
Dante settled into his own seat and took a sip of his drink, savoring the icy coconut sweetness with a sigh. "I was there once, when I was a teenager, and my mom and I were walking along the river walk when we came across this little old man selling tacos from a stand. They were made out of little chunks of pork roasted until the outside was crispy and the inside was melt in your mouth tender, and they came with all kinds of toppings, from queso fresco, to pickled red onions, and everything in between. He called them carnitas. They have been a favorite of mine ever since. Guess what was on the little daily menu at the mess station...", he said, trailing off.
Claire laughed. "I'm going to take a totally uneducated guess and say carnitas." She took a sip of her own margarita, letting the cool drink clear her mind of all the clutter it had for the last few days.
Laughing as he took another sip of his drink Dante replied, "That would be correct.", he said. "I hope you like them. I probably should have asked first but I ordered a plate of them to share as an appetizer. Figured good food, good drinks, and some good conversation would help us unwind from the last few days of chaos,” he added.
“I’m sure I’ll like them. Not a lot of foods I’m not into these days,” she laughed. After another sip, she looked out the window, watching the stars streak by. “I’m worried about this mission. I know we can catch up to their ship any time. But...well, when are we going to do that? I trust the captain, but the closer we get to Qo’nos, the weirder I feel about everything.”
Dante nodded knowingly. "I know what you mean. This whole thing just feels so strange, like we should just be waiting for the other shoe to drop.", he said. "But I just have to look at the fact that Captain Reynold's wouldn't be in the position she's in if she wasn't smart, and good at thinking on her feet. We'll get this taken care of, and as many of us as possible are going to be around to see the end.", he said, waxing a little bit sentimental at the thought that some of them truly wouldn't be going home from this. It wasn't a pleasant thought, and he hated the idea of it, but it was the truth, and he had never really been the kind of person to shy away from the truth.
"On a cheerier note, I do believe that's our food headed over," Claire said, trying to shake the looming feeling about their mission.
Dante noticed the waiter on his way over as well, and he smiled, "This is going to be great.", he said, in reply, pushing the gloomier thoughts away and focusing on the experience at hand.
As the waiter set the food down he waved to Claire to help herself, and picked up a taco of his own, using the small utensils to pile on the toppings he wanted. A little bit of salsa verde, some pickled red onions, and a bit of queso fresco, just like he liked them. Taking a bite, and chewing, with a look of pure bliss on his face he had thank this beautiful, vibrant woman for taking the time out of her day to be bothered with seeking him out and choosing to spend time with him.
"Thanks for recommending this, by the way.", he said. "I had hoped we'd get a chance to actually get to know each other now that we aren't actively running for our lives. You seem like a really fun person, and I was hoping I'd get to see you again.", he added with a smile.
"You seem pretty fun too," Claire said with a smile. "Besides, I can't argue with someone who wants to see more of me. I am pretty great." She flashed a confident smile, but she had meant what she said. Dante made for good company.
Dante simply chuckled at what she'd said, as he took another bite and savored the fantastic taste of the food. She seemed to enjoy it as well, and somehow, in the midst of everything, that made him feel incredibly happy.