Picard took the podium and the room quickly got quite. Aria found a seat near the door and watched her Captain speak eloquently about his ship and how well she served him and his crew all of their journeys. Aria watched him intently as he spoke. He was so confident and so proud and watching him made Aria want to squirm in her chair. She thought that he was the most amazing man she had ever known. If she could only know how he felt about her. There were times that he seemed to have shown more than just a friendly interest in her, especially while they were working alone. He looked so sexy in his mess dress and it drove her wild in desire for him.
Once he was done with his speech, Picard turned the podium over to Admiral O’Neill who rambled on as Picard sat down, facing the crowd. He could see Aria sitting in the back, watching the opening ceremonies. He was amazed that a woman as young as Aria was able to almost single-handedly plan and execute all of the anniversary celebrations. She was an incredible woman and longed to be able to act on his growing feeling for her. He thought of how many nights sleep he had lost because he was thinking of her. Even though they had spent many nights working on the previous night’s celebrations where he had only gotten a glimpse of whom Aria Swenson really was. In two weeks he hoped to get a chance to get to know her better during the conference on Malrata, but he was concerned that he would overstep their boundaries and was afraid that he could ruin the friendship they were slowly building.
Picard though she was like no other woman he had ever met and wanted to be able to get closer to her. Hearing that Jack was interested in her, made him jealous. He didn’t want his old friend to make her an offer that would take her away. Even though she had only been on board a few months, he had a feeling that if offered a job that would forward her career, Lieutenant Swenson would jump at it. Jean Luc knew that Jack would make her an offer like that with the hopes that it would lead to more. That’s how his friend was, but he did not want her to leave. Seeing Aria made his days that much better. Some mornings after their evening work sessions, he could still smell her perfume lingering where she had sat. Now their work was done and she would not be coming by his quarters to work as much. He really had grown to looked forward to those evenings they spent together. It drove him wild to see her, to feel her, to hear her, to smell her. Late at night, when all he could do was think of her, every once in a while he even entertained the though of a future with her. Thoughts like that scared the long time bachelor.
That night, at the banquet all of the invited Starfleet members were still in their mess dress. With a bit of protest, Aria sat next to the Captain at the head table. She thought that there were other people that should be there, but the Captain insisted that she take the seat in honor of all the work she had done. Everything had been a complete success but Aria barely had time to be pleased with the fruits of her labor. Now all she had to do was to not mess up her performance with her mother and the day would be perfect.
After dinner was over, the Captain introduced Claudia Swenson for the evening’s entertainment. She sang several songs from a variety of operas. Before she would begin, Claudia would tell the story behind the song and why it was important to the story it told. Aria had not herd her mother preformed in such a long while. She had forgotten exactly how good she really was. When Claudia finished her repertor, she introduced her daughter and told the story behind the song that they were going to sing. Their audience applauded politely as Aria joined her mother in front of everyone. She was a bit nervous because she did not want to end things with an inadequate performance.
They began and Aria let her mother take the lead. She knew exactly what she was doing and Aria knew how to follow her. Their song pulled heart-wrenching emotions out of Aria as she told the story of unrequited love. Claudia thought her daughter was doing quite well and even let her have the solo about three quarters into it. This was the time that Aria truly let her talents shine. There was no holding back this time. Aria was taken into the song and soon forgot that there was an audience watching every move that she made. There was so much feeling in the words she sang, so much that when she had sung the last note and the lights came back up that she realized that her face was wet from tears that she shed while she was the character in the song.
The audience was amazed by the performance they had witnessed and Aria felt exhausted and elated. Then she realized that she had truly opened up herself to the audience and it felt so good to do so again. Right now she seemed to have the perfect life, she was a Starfleet officer and was able to express herself creatively through her formal training. Claudia was very proud of her daughter’s talents and wished that Aria had followed in her footsteps and finished her training.
“I must thank you Captain for your hospitality and being able to include me in the ship’s celebrations,” she told him graciously, looking over the Captain completely. Like her daughter, Claudia though the Captain looked good in his uniform.
“You are certainly welcome. I enjoyed your performance you shared with us. It is not often we are treated to talents as rich as yours. When I found out that you were Aria’s mother, I was hoping you would come for a visit.”
“Well, I am glad I had the chance to meet my daughter’s Captain, but she never told me how handsome you were.”
“Your daughter spoke of me?” he asked, curious.
“Yes, she told me she was feeling very welcome on the ship and that you two were working on a project. I just found out that it was a party for the crew.”
“It was a very special party, a chance for the crew to celebrate all that we have accomplished in the past five years. What else has she said about me?”
“She told me you were a good Captain and cared very much for your crew.”
“Yes, I do.”
“So, is there a Mrs. Picard?” Claudia asked flirtatiously.
“No, Claudia. It is hard to separate the Captain and the person.”
“That can be rough on the person. So, what do you do for fun, Captain?”
Picard was getting a bit uncomfortable with where the conversation was heading. He replied, “I read and am able to spend time with some of the senior officers.”
“You sound like Aria, she always has her nose in a book, even as a child.”
“She does seem like a well rounded woman.”
“Why Captain Picard, do you have a crush on my daughter?” she said seeming to enjoy her revelation.
“She is a very valued member of the crew and I have enjoyed working with her,” trying to escape a direct answer.
“But you like her, don’t you?” she said pushing for an answer.
“I have several friends on board and I do think of Lieutenant Swenson as one of them,” he told the mother of the woman he desired to learn more about. This woman was very direct and had no problem getting right to the point. Feeling like this conversation was going to get more intense, Picard looked for an out. “Claudia, have you met Ambassador Montono from the planet of Bantana?” he said pointing out the closest non-Starfleet person in the room. “He is a big opera fan and I think he would love to meet you.”