== Avalon, Lounge ==
== later ==
Bruno entered the lounge and quickly found who he was looking for. Louise Sheppard met his eyes and smiled. He joined her at the table and sat with her. The panoramic window was looking away from DS 13, the Flambeau wasn’t visible and at this point, it felt like a good thing.
“I’m glad you got my message. Last time I saw you, we said we would have dinner...”
It felt like another day. It was only that morning.
“I was told you were all aboard the Demeter already?” he asked. The Avalon would be departing soon.
“There was a little mix up when Avalon crewmen dismantled Camp Paradisio, after beaming everyone aboard,” she explained, tapping to obtain a menu interface directly, without waiting for staff. “I decided to stay behind until it’s sorted, but I sent everybody ahead on the Demeter to get settled down. I have about an hour left while they locate our equipment and belongings.”
So the Avalon was being delayed and they got to say goodbye. Bruno couldn’t hide a smile, placing an order in turn. He couldn’t remember eating since breakfast, or even thinking of it. Suddenly it was the best idea in the world.
“Your people are probably exhausted and tired of being pulled around... Where do you find all that energy?” he wondered.
“Where do you find yours,” she returned, eyes on the menu. “One moment we were running, hoping a ship wouldn’t fall on our heads. The next moment, the Avalon was beaming down Security in hazard suits. I only heard the story in between a little earlier. You nearly fell on your sword..” She gave a last tap and the display disappeared with an encouraging beep. His followed. “Least I could do was to stay for dinner since I had the chance.”
Her hand came to rest on the table, like an offering. Bruno didn’t hesitate placing his on it. “A much happier conclusion to the day. I thought you probably needed to take care of your people and yourself.”
“We had some rest and a discussion over what to do next. Lt Somer came with the announcement about DS-13 and asked if we wanted to secure passage with the Biglow passengers. I got your story from her by the way. Then we needed to organize to stick around the station until it reopens.”
“Things are very much in flux all around it seems.”
There wasn’t much time. With the whole ship on standby because of it, their cargo would be found sooner rather than later, they were both aware of it. They went through dinner without fuss, appreciating the simple pleasures of good food and company, moving quickly through topics at hand, not diving too deep into anything.
“I thought you’d be travelling back to Mandukar with us for the holidays... Leave things to settle down around here,” Bruno admitted as their plates got taken away.
“All I need for Christmas is here. I know exactly how many I missed with my daughter. All those years she forgave... the divorce, my going away, missing out on so many milestones of her little life. But oh, I would take her on exciting adventures as often as we got the chance. She would look up to me, still does. She made up her own mind that she wanted that life, too. But she is all grown up now and quite ready to take flight on her own. This is probably the last time for us. The last adventure. The last christmas. I get to show her how not to give up, even though the winds are strong and contrary.”
He knew all that so well, too well. “Every christmas is last christmas,” he murmured, more to himself than to her. He knew she understood as well.
Lt Somer came to their table. Apparently, Louise had roped her in to solve her problem and he couldn’t blame her. The archeologist looked over the cargo manifest while Bruno exchanged a few words with Nala. All was in order.
“Then I’m going to report to the ship’s operations. They need to beam you to the USS Demeter as soon as possible. The Avalon is leaving the sector.”
It was just like her, Bruno appreciated, to translate an imperative into a polite and reasonable request.
“Thank you so much, Nala,” Louise said with feeling. “You were a shining light and our beacon through it all. I swear.”
Nala lit up with a smile and walked away when Bruno took over. He escorted Louise to the nearest transporter. A technician was expecting her already. She turned to Bruno.
“Not much time or privacy for sweet goodbyes, Bruno. I only know a few words in Italian but they’re yours...”
She reached for his ear. He reached for her lips next. The technician got very busy with his control panel. When Bruno stood back, reluctantly letting her go, Louise stepped away, turned and went to stand on a pad. They had known from the start and enjoyed it for what it was. He was glad they had.
“Ciao, Luisa” he said.
Then there was no one left there to smile at, but he took the smile with him out of the transporter room.
OFF: May I be forgiven for borrowing one of these iconic lines out of Doctor Who, because it’s been in my head for weeks ^^ Fans noticed I’m sure!
Capt. Bruno Marini