The remainder of their week spent on Malrata, Aria and Jean Luc were inseparable, save a few hours when they seemed to be on a secret mission for future pleasure of the other. They spent much of the free time alone, in one of their rooms, enjoying the pleasures that lovers share. He even escorted her to the final night’s banquet, both of them working hard to not let the intensity of their affections show.
By the end of the week, Aria knew that she was in love with him, but was scared to let him know. At least until she was absolutely certain the relationship was going to continue past the planet’s surface and had a better gage of his feelings for her. She had given him her virtue but was still cautious of her heart. According to the regulations, their relationship could continue, but it would be challenging to continue their romance with his duties and both of their careers, not to mention the rumors that would run rampant on the ship. They had both resolved to try to keep their relationship a secret for the time, until they were both ready to tell everyone.
With sadness Aria, dressed in her uniform and boarded the shuttle that was to bring them back to the Enterprise. Jean Luc noticed that she was very quiet once they were underway. Jean Luc gave her some space but a few hours of utter silence, he finally asked her, “My dear, what is the matter? You seem so quite.”
“The week had been so lovely and I wished it never ended. I can’t help think of how everything is going to change when we get back to the Enterprise.”
“The only thing I can be sure of is that once we are back on board, my feelings for you will not change for you. I have enjoyed every second we have spent together, even before Malrata and I hope to continue to enjoy your company when we return.”
“Jean Luc, I just don’t want this to become more complicated that it is worth.”
“Aria, do you put such little value to what we have, all that we have shared?”
“No, not at all. This has been the most important relationship I have ever been in. I wouldn’t of let things get so intense if I hadn’t. I just didn’t want to tie you down to any obligations that I may have implied.”
“You have not tied me down in any way. I want you to know that I also chosen to be with you. Darling, I do hope that things can continue between us and more than just physically.”
“I am sorry for doubting your emotions and I do look forward to spending time with you as well.”
They embraced and Aria could feel her insecurities begin to melt away with the warmth from his arms. She looked up at him and kissed him lightly. There was no need to rush anything because they had seven hours before they were to rendezvous with Enterprise. Slowly, their gentle kisses grew in intensity when suddenly an alarm went off alerting them that their shuttlecraft was caught in a tractor beam. The Captain returned to the helm of the shuttle and tried to break free, but his efforts were in vain. In front of their eyes, a Romulan war bird decloked. Aria was terrified by the imminence of their capture took some comfort that she was with Jean Luc who had tactical experience from being a senior officer.
“What are we going to do?” she asked him terrified.
“Don’t worry. We will get through this together, Aria. Remember your training,” he replied concentrating on the growing war bird in front of them.
Aria was absolutely terrified but knew that Jean Luc was right. They were going to get through this, what ever happened. She was able to look brave when they were boarded as if she was in a production back at Julliard. They were stripped down to their pants and undershirts. After being put into a holding cell they were left to wonder their fate. There were guards posted near their cell on the other side of an energy field. Aria tried to listen in to any conversation because she knew Romulan and was able to piece together a few conversations she overheard.
Soon after being placed in their holding cell, a Romulan guard came for Picard and took him away. Aria was terrified of what they might do to her or Picard. In a small, dimly lit room, Picard was secured into a hard metal chair and was left with two Romulan officers.
“Captain Picard, what were you doing in a shuttle craft so far from you precious Enterprise?” one of the officers asked him.
“We were returning from a conference on Malrata,” he told them.
“And your traveling companion, Lieutenant Swenson? What was her purpose on this visit to Malrata?”
“She was my interpreter for meetings with the Herker, Topasian and Cantrall.”
“You tell me you were on your way back from Malrata, but Captain Picard, you were really forming alliances with the Chowattas.”
“No, we were not. I told you we were returning from Malrata. Check the shuttle logs.”
“Don’t think we already have. These records you speak of could have easily been altered.”
“Do you think Starfleet would really send me to do it?”
“It is common knowledge that you are one with diplomatic ties.” He slapped Picard across the face. “Picard, your interpreter, Lieutenant Swenson, was the only other delegate from your ship to join you. She wasn’t there because she was your interpreter. She is your lover. Isn’t she?”
“Lieutenant Swenson is a valued member of my crew and was very useful to me in my meetings on Malrata.”
“So you are not sleeping with her?”
“No.” It killed him to lie about something like that, but he had to protect Aria. Revealing his true feelings about her would most certainly put her in more danger than they already were.
They continued interrogating him about his trip to Malrata and trying get him to confess the notion that he was doing otherwise.