An Evening Meal
Location: USS Black Hawk || Captain's Quarters
Timeline: MD 1 - 2000 hours
At last, the Black Hawk was underway. Harvey glanced out the window of his quarters, watching the starstreaks fly by. Warp Eight never looked so exciting.
Not long after the briefing, he invited his first officer, Commander Kos, to his quarters to discuss the next phase of the mission. This was a deep space assignment, after all, and he didn't plan to return until after all his questions had been answered.
What he wasn't ready to acknowledge was that part of his motivation was to find out why he and Kos had rarely spoken over the last month. When she returned from Razmena, she seemed quite distant, limiting their contact to their shared bridge duty.
He'd chosen to not have dinner delivered this evening, and instead replicated something himself, a lemon-glazed chicken with garden vegetables from the ship's Arboretum, an improvement over the soup and salad from their last dinner, and paired with a Centurian wine.
For now, he sat on the couch, awaiting Kos' arrival.
"Hell!" MacKenzie said when she looked at the time on her bedside chrono. She had been sitting there, lost in thought, for over an hour. And now she was running late for her meeting with the Captain. Fortunately, she was still in full uniform, so she didn't have to take time to get dressed. Also fortunately, Geisler's quarters weren't that far away.
She touched the announcer when she got to the Commanding Officer's door.
Though he was expecting it, the suddenness of the door chime caused Harvey to flinch in surprise. "Come!" he said, his tone higher than he intended.
Harvey, sans his gray and black uniform jacket and with his red collar unzipped enough for both sides to droop down, rose to his feet in time to see the doors part, revealing his executive officer. "Commander Kos, glad you could make it."
"Thanks for the invite sir," she replied as she entered Geisler's quarters. "More soup and salad tonight?"
He smiled at the comment. "Not tonight." Harvey gestured over to the table where the meal awaited them. Assuming the role as the gentleman, he held Mac's seat out as she sat down and pushed her close to the table. As he took his own seat, he asked, "How's the crew?" He didn't know any other way to gently begin conversation other than duty. His other thoughts would be saved for later.
"The crew seems to be functioning well. I haven't had a meeting with Dr. Stuart about the mental health of the crew recently. I suspect that after our last mission, there is bound to be some troubled minds on board."
"Seems that we've found the proverbial rabbit's hole then." Harvey picked up the knife and fork and began to cut his chicken into manageable bits. "How are you, Mac?" he asked, looking to the woman across the table.
Mac sighed. She knew that eventually she'd have to come clean about her current emotional state. "I'm getting by," she replied, knowing that it was not a very satisfying answer. "Off the record?"
Harvey paused for a moment, a very brief moment. He set his knife across the top of the plate and held a skewered piece of chicken just above his plate. "Of course," he granted, slightly hesitant yet still curious at what she might say.
Mac took a deep breath. "Sometimes I forget how much horrible stuff exists out here. Intellectually I know that bad things happen. But when you see things..." She paused a moment before continuing. "I've seen my share of violence, unfortunately. Even before I joined Starfleet. And on some level, I can handle violence. But seeing things like slavery...that's a painful reminder that sentient species haven't evolved that much."
"Isn't that one of the reasons why we--Starfleet--exists?" Harvey suggested. "Despite all of the wars and conflicts we've been a part of, our first function is to seek strange new worlds. Not all are perfect. Think of the Andorians and Vulcan and the hostilities between them when Archer first came across them. Or the years of hostility between the Klingons and the Federations before finally becoming allies. Those events give me hope that we can somehow shed light on what the Golden Stars are doing and bring about a better quality of life."
Mac pushed some vegetables around her plate. "Me too. But Harvey..." Her voice trailed off.
Harvey set his fork down on his plate, taking note that something seemed to be on Mac's mind. "What is it?" he asked, a hint of concern in his tone.
She hated feeling this vulnerable. She tried to keep a professional, but friendly, veneer. "I just...," she started, before the words caught in her throat. She took a moment to compose herself. "Sometimes it's tough. That's all." Especially when you've got feelings for someone, she thought.
The Captain exhaled a deep breath through his nose, keeping his mouth shut. He wasn't sure how to respond to that, though a story came to mind. "I almost resigned during the war. Not long after I escaped from the Dominion on Betazed. I didn't simply because there wasn't anywhere I could go. The Dominion was unlike anything I've seen before or since. Then there are days where someone discovers something amazing... like the nebula we found that was collapsing into a new star. Days like that, I think, make this life worthwhile."
Even as he recounted that story, he had a sinking feeling it didn't line up at all with what Kos had on her mind.
I should just tell him how I feel, she told herself, knowing that she wasn't ready to open herself up like that.
"Wolf-359." The words came out of her mouth before she knew it was happening.
Harvey nodded slightly, recalling what he knew of the battle. He wasn't in Starfleet then, but who hadn't grown up hearing about the first time Starfleet fought the Borg.
She took a deep breath. "The Battle of Wolf-359 was the catalyst for me joining Starfleet. My father was posted to Grazer at the time. We watched the news reports. Seeing the dedication of Starfleet crews, their willingness to sacrifice themselves to protect the rest of us, that is why I joined Starfleet." She paused, realizing that what she'd just said could be taken the wrong way. "I didn't have a desire to fight. I'm not a fan of violence. But I do have great respect for those who accept the challenge of life on the front line."
A sip of water gave her a chance to consolidate her thoughts. "At the time, my family was still dealing with the death of my brother. My mother threw herself into her research. My father was always kept busy as a diplomat. I don't know what, if anything, my plans for the future were at that point. I was just a pretty spoiled girl whose family had been shaken up. Then the Borg happened. And my worldview shifted. I worked hard to get into the Academy. I didn't have much direction outside of joining Starfleet, no idea what I wanted to do once I joined. I took an easy path and started out in astrosciences. Growing up with a well-known astrophysicist as a mother, you pick up some things. I was also deeply interested in interstellar relations, my father's career."
Harvey, by this point, had finished with his meal. He avoided an impulse to lean back in his chair, not wanting to appear smug or condescending while Kos recounted her history. Instead he picked up his glass to sip his water. "Astrosciences? Interstellar relations?" he asked, setting the glass back on the table. "How did you wind up in Engineering?"
"I more or less fell into it. I performed very well in my required engineering classes my first year at the Academy. So much so, that one of professors suggested that I consider a career in engineering. So I took a bunch of systems engineering classes. Structural and propulsion weren't my thing. I figured that out early. Lucky for me, when I started at the Academy, I had planned on enrolling in all the summer and winter sessions also, because I wanted to take full advantage of my time there. So I ended up with a double major in Systems Engineering and Interstellar Relations and a minor in Astrosciences." She drank from her water glass. "I'm both very complex, and very simple. It's strange."
"And now you wear red," Harvey said, smiling. "I don't think I've met anyone who's worked in all of Starfleet's core divisions." He took a drink from his glass.
Taking a look at the redhead across the table, Harvey replaced his glass on the table and placed his napkin on his empty plate. "I'm glad you're here, Mac."
"Here eating dinner with you, or here on the Black Hawk as your Exec?" she asked, both genuinely curious and nervous at the same time.
"Both," Harvey replied. "It's... been a long time since I've even talked to anyone about matters beyond the uniform. I forgot how much I missed it."
"It's always nice to have....friends," she replied. Instantly, a thought rushed into her head. What if that sounded like innuendo?
"As do I." Harvey raised his glass of water for a impromptu toast. "To friendship."
"Ever evolving friendship," Kos interjected, smiling clumsily upon realizing the potential meaning of her words. Not that I'd be opposed to it if things moved that direction, she told herself.