The next morning, Aria was jilted out of her dreamland by the alarm that had been set only a few hours before. She went on automatic pilot as she showered and dressed for her meeting with Picard. Last night she had enjoyed her time with Scott. He was so handsome and strong and really seemed interested in her. There was only one problem about starting anything serious with Scott was that they were stationed on two different ships and she was not really interested in pursuing a long distance relationship, especially when her career was really starting to take off. She knew that neither of them was willing to give up their career for the other at this point and she didn’t think that they could get that serious for that kind of commitment in a week’s time.
Picard was already seated at a table when Aria got to the hotel’s restaurant.
“I hope you have not been waiting too long, Sir. I though I was on time.”
“I am early. Please sit down. Now, I was alerted to two changes to the meeting schedule. It looks as if I will need your skills in them. I am not sure how much actual interpreting you will be doing but I will need you to listen in to any side conversations that may occur. This is the schedule for both of them,” he said as he handed over a file to her.
She looked it over the data and thought it odd that the Captain needed her in these somewhat routine meeting, but that was her job and she was not going to being to question the Captain’s motives.
“Sir, this will not be a problem. It shouldn’t interfere with my intense schedule of shopping and sunbathing,” she said jokingly.
“Good. So, what were you doing last night? I hope I did not interrupt anything,”
he said, avoiding her eyes.
“No, Sir. Commander McKinney and I were just walking on the beach and he was splashing me when you had called.”
“Oh, okay. I am glad you are having a good time here,” he said coolly. Picard was all business that morning which was quite a change from the previous evening.
“Yes, thank you.” She could tell something was bothering him, but she did not want to pry. Aria and Picard quickly and quietly finished their breakfast and headed off to the opening assembly.
The assembly room was cool and very crowed with conference attendees and tightly arranged chairs. She had to sit very close to Picard for the whole assembly. The heat radiating off of him warmed her leg. Her mind wondered from the speaker to the night before with Scott, but sitting so close to Picard made her feel guilty thinking of another man. She knew there was no real reason she should feel that way, but that didn’t help her feel any better.
At the break, Scott found her and asked her to have lunch with him. She couldn’t because of one of the extra meetings the Captain had scheduled, but promised to see him later that night at the banquet.
The rest of the day was filled with conference meetings, but Aria was able to fit a quick swim in the pool before she had to get ready for the evening’s banquet. She put on her new gown that she though was perfect. It was slinky deep maroon color with gold accents. The back was nonexistent and only the two thin straps kept it from falling to the floor. It had a small train and made her feel like a diva, especially with her hair pulled up into an elegant twist and secured by two golden clips. When she was ready, she went down to the cocktail reception on the main floor of the hotel. It was packed with all of the delegates. The Starfleet men and only a few women wore their mess dress but most women were wearing gowns. She saw many heads turn as she entered the room and scanned the room looking for someone she knew.
Scott came right over to her and complimented her and her dress. She could see that from across the room Picard had also noticed her but stayed with the group he was talking to. It was a to surprise that he did not come over to meet her, but chose to think nothing more about it when Scott introduced her to some of his friends.
Out of the corner of his eye, Picard watched Aria and Scott. He tried hard to push down his feelings and carry on his conversation, but all he wanted to do was take Aria in his arms and run away with her. The sight of the young Commander’s arm snaking around her delicate waist and touching her bare skin nearly drove him crazy with envy. He found this young woman to be an incredible person. When they were together, there was never the feeling that there was almost a twenty year age gap between. Picard logically understood that Aria had every right to be with this Lieutenant Commander McKinney. She was a beautiful young woman and was aloud to be with anyone she chose. He was her commanding officer, but her social life was not for him to control. Do I have the strength to not give into my feelings for her? He thought to himself. If he did, he was certain he would loose her and the man holding her and knew that Commander McKinney could never treat her the way she deserved to be treated, but could even Captain Picard be good enough to live up to what she deserved? And what would happen to both of their careers if he failed?
At the end of the cocktail hour, people began to take their seats for dinner. Scott walked Aria to her table. Captain Picard was already seated but stood, as all the other men at the table did while she took her seat. Once seated, Scott left for his table.
Quietly, Picard said to her, “You look beautiful tonight.” She blushed and thanked him. The dinner was the typical banquet, but Aria could not get the Captain’s words out of her head. He had never seemed so sincere before and it caught her off guard. When dinner was over, there was dancing. Picard asked her to dance to the first song. She accepted and he took her out onto the floor. He held her gently, like she was going to break. Even with his light touch, he was able to guide her smoothly across the floor. She looked into his eyes and again though she saw something familiar. Before she could figure out what it was, Scott came over to cut in to dance with her. Picard reluctantly released his grip on her as Scott took his place so close to Aria. She could feel Picard’s eyes on her the whole time, but hoped that she was able to hide her feelings from her dance partner.
They were getting ready to leave the banquet for a quite drink at one of the beach front bars when Picard came over and asked if he could have a moment of her time to speak privately. She told Scott that she would catch up with him at the bar and left the banquet with the Captain at her elbow, guiding her.