Freya's Tears

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Chapter Two - Hot Date

Mission: Book Two - Ginnungagap
Location: Lafayette

Els strolled up to the Lafayette Officer’s Club door, Kasli holding her hand. Living aboard a mid-range hauler didn’t offer many chances to mix with high society, and Els felt a little subconscious as she tugged at the embroidered hem of her only good tunic. Her others had all had stains or rips in them, saving her from anxious indecision over her wardrobe. At least the hue was one of her better ones, a light blue that drew out the color of her eyes. The only adornment on the tunic were golden celtic knots sewn into the hem, cuffs and collar. She’d donned a pair of brown trousers and added a wide belt to the ensemble. The only jewelry she owned was the Thor’s hammer on a cord about her neck which she’d polished to glowing luster for the occasion.

Kasli, though…Kasli looked stunning. Els gave Kasli’s profile a sidelong look. Kasli had chosen a burgundy long-sleeve shirt, leaving the top buttons open to reveal a bone and beaded choker at her throat. She wore a tan vest and trousers, the vest embroidered with medallions of burgundy and blue. The smoked design across the shoulders hid beneath her long free flowing hair, but the front revealed the blackened edges of the shoulder straps, leather fringes and two silver buttons.

“Are we going in?”

Els started, not realizing that she’d paused them at the base of the steps. Sheepish, she shrugged off Kasli’s amusement and led them up the steps. Not knowing what to expect, she took a deep breath and opened the door, allowing Kasli to enter before her.

Though Els had been an officer herself in the Zeta Lyman Subsector Space Navy several years ago, most of her experience had been shipboard not land side. Even when she’d dated Bennie Takahashi, Els had never considered the local officers’ hang out as an appropriate venue for her high-maintenance girlfriend. Bennie had come from big money and tended to prefer public establishments that cost dearly rather than those made available to them by rank. The result was that Els had never actually entered a military social club for officers before.

Curious and a little ill at ease, Els scanned the club. The establishment didn’t look much different from the NCO club a few blocks away, a place with which Els had enjoyed some experience. “Huh.” The similarity eased her tension. Kasli took her hand and she relaxed more, casting a her date a smile.

Kasli leaned her head close. “Doesn’t look like all that much.” She’d never been inside an officers’ club either, having been a grunt like the majority of the Freya crew who’d had prior military experience.

“No, not really,” Els agreed.

They stood in a vestibule with a hall to the left, stairs in front of them and a podium to the right. The left corridor appeared to house the head. Behind the podium to the right was a small room with a bar, the hall continuing a short distance beyond. Els craned her neck to peek into the lounge, noting a fireplace surrounded by a handful of red leather armchairs. Two junior officers stood at the bar and another lounged in one of the armchairs, feet up on the wooden table before her as she read a data pad. Folsum had said that he had a private table, but there didn’t appear to be any dining area here. Els eyed the hall past the lounge—perhaps the dining room was back there.

A uniformed maitre d’ arrived at the podium, having come down the stairs. He glanced from Kasli to Els. “Captain Ulfarsdottir?”

Caught gawking, Els straightened and cleared her throat. “Ja, that’s me.”

He nodded. “Commander Folsum said you’d be by this evening. His table is this way.” He gestured down the right hallway behind him. “Unless you’d rather be seated in the lounge or utilize one of our private dining rooms?”

Els scanned the hall with fresh eyes, noting two doors off the corridor. Private dining rooms? She shared a quick glance with Kasli, noting she wasn’t the only one surprised by the option. Private rooms in the NCO club meant commandeering one of the heads for a quick conference. Rather than waste the time, Els cleared her throat. “Um, no. We’ll be fine at…the commander’s table.”

“This way please.”

They obediently followed his lead, Els hooking her arm through Kasli’s. Beyond the lounge was a slightly larger, circular room from which emitted the sounds of silverware on china. A dozen tables and booths filled the area, perhaps half of them occupied. Dominating the center of the room was an unused buffet.

The maitre d’ directed them to a booth tucked around the corner from the entrance. “Your table.”

Els scanned the facility, impressed by the strategic location. From this vantage point a person could watch people enter without being seen as well as have a grand view of all other tables and the large window. Private it wasn’t, but for someone living on the edge it was near perfect. She looked at the maitre d’ who seemed to be awaiting a response. “Oh! This is fine. Thank you.”

Kasli slid into the booth and Els did the same. The maitre d’ produced two menus for them. “Would you like something to drink while you decide what you’ll have?”

“Um.” Els blinked, uncertain. At any other pub she’d ask for a list of the local beers, but here? She doubted a military base would legally brew their own and, with everything being imported, the price might skyrocket.

While Els considered her options, Kasli spoke. “What do you have in the way of pinot noir?”

Els gaped at Kasli as the maitre d’ filled her in on the available labels, insecurities forgotten. Kasli always ordered the darkest home-brew available in a bar, sometimes with a rotgut chaser. What did she know about wines? Els came to her senses as both Kasli and the maitre d’ looked at her for confirmation of a suggestion she hadn’t heard. “Uh. Ja, sure. That sounds good.”

Oblivious to her consternation, the maitre de’ smiled. “Very good. I’ll return momentarily.” He whisked away with a purpose.

“What did I just agree to?” Els asked, focusing on Kasli’s laughter.

“A bottle of pinot noir. Not their finest by any means, but one that will do well regardless of what we have for dinner.” She picked up the menu and began perusing the list of offerings. “It’s a mid-range red that can go with both lighter and heavier fare.”

Els stared, mouth open to speak but unable to come up with a response.

Kasli glanced up and smiled. She reached over and used two fingers to hoist Els’s lower jaw back into position. “Gotcha.”

Heat suffused Els’s cheeks as she returned the smile. “Ja, you did.” She tried to appear casual as she read through the menu. “How do you know so much about wines? I don’t recall ever seeing you drink any.”

“Wine isn’t my first choice, true.” Kasli’s skin darkened as she returned her attention to the menu. “But I wasn’t hatched, Els.”

Despite the comment being delivered with humor, a sharp stab of caution pierced Els’s heart. After three years of serving together aboard Freya’s Tears there was so much that Els didn’t know about Kasli’s background. They shared many of the same interests and held a definite attraction to one another, but Kasli had always been secretive about her family and childhood. Els only knew the planet where Kasli’s family resided—Wakan Tanka in the Theta Paine sub sector of Siler space and she’d only discovered that by parceling out incoming crew mail packets over the years.

She felt the need to ease the underlying tension that had sprung up between them. “Are you sure you weren’t hatched?” She ran a hand down Kasli’s spine. “I’m positive I’ve felt feathers.”

Kasli grinned, her response interrupted by the arrival of the maitre d’ and a wine bucket.

 

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