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     Although she's not much of one to be all touchy-feely emotional about stuff, the give-and-take with Arden has finally managed to reach that point of annoyance. Summer's Gift has been in space for weeks at a time, and although Arden hasn't always been flirty, he's certainly been far more so than she would expect of a guy who keeps getting shot down. Between Deadwood and his response to her query about his seriousness, though, Nika decides it's time to have an actual conversation about this.
     She knocks on the door to the room we've been using as a medlab, where last she heard he was double-checking inventory in preparation for lifting off in the not-too-distant future here, and pokes her head in. "Arden? You got a minute?"
     Arden looks up after making a mark with a stylus on the hand comp he his holding. "Yeah? What's up," Arden smiles.
     Nika comes into the room, closing the door behind her. There's a hint of a frown on her face, though it's perhaps more of puzzlement than of anger or worry. "You're confusing the crap out of me," she tells the man bluntly. "Christian, I totally get. He flirts because it's what he does -- and if he doesn't practice on the rest of us, he gets all rusty and then ... well, he's a Companion. It's as natural as breathing. You, I can't quite get a handle on. Every time I think I get you, something else happens that I have to try to wrap my head around. You know -- when I came on board, you were just the nice doctor guy. Then you were the nice doctor guy who helped a mutiny. And then you were OUR nice doctor guy who helped shoot at the owner of the ship who turned out to be a thieving murderer. And then you were the nice doctor guy who voluntarily, if not willingly, helped free a guy you don't even know and then put in a call to an old.... friend? Lover? Whatever she is ... all to help said guy you don't even know. And through it all, you occasionally pop out with these one-liners that I've always dismissed as flirting the way Christian does, but every once in a while, you act like you're serious! So..... I don't get you." Arden starts to chuckle, then when he realized that Nika is really perplexed, he stops and listens quietly to her, listening to what she says and well as what she means.
     "Yeah, I can see that," Arden says. "Come on in and close the door behind you and I will try to explain."
     He sits down on a stool and crosses his arms across his chest. "Well, all I can say is that I am all those people. I'm a nice guy, or at least I like to think of myself as a nice guy. Then I met you (as in all of the crew) and you became my friends and in the Black if you don't survive together you don't survive. So of course I am going to help my friends.
     "The Potermkins, while on the surface were just your every day sort of rim spacers," Arden continues, "the usual you know. But once it started being apparent what kind of people they were I had no problem causing or helping them being screwed over. In that case I am not a nice guy. I don't like people that prey of the weaknesses of others.
     "Mike," he shakes his head, "if you remember I was captured to and I wanted to escape as well. Mike was there, he's a friend of Rina's, and I felt guilty for running him over back on Beaumonde."
     He pauses, "And Vivian. Well, Vivian was my first love, or first sexual experience, something that is pretty damn close to the same to someone from my homeworld. Seeing her again bought back memories, sure, but I learned that I'm not beholding to her anymore. Yeah, she's beautiful and smart and all that but not what I want in a woman, much less a lover. Too hard if that makes sense.
     "As for my flirting," Arden smirks, "It’s just the way I deal emotionally with people, especially people i like and admire."
     Instead of sitting, Nika paces restlessly as Arden talks, touching things here and there. His mindset, she seems to get, and she turns to watch him when he talks about the situation with Mike and then Vivian. She looks thoughtful at the fact that the two things are close to the same thing for his homeworld, and then she smiles a little bit at the last of what he says, a small curl of her mouth. "All right... I get it. Mostly you're just like the rest of us -- nice until something makes you decide not to be." She pauses and tilts her head. "I guess I'm flattered to fall into your "flirting with" category," she decides. "I just ... wanted to know where we stood, that's all," she confesses. "It's been somewhat ... well; I'm a good bit off-kilter lately. So I'm sorry I just launched into you."
     Arden laughs, "No worries. You haven't done anything that would irritate me. And just so we understand one another -- I have a lot to learn. About a lot of things," Arden winks. "So anything you want to educate me, I'll make time to study." He chuckles. "In fact...." he leads off interrogatively letting her come up with the question and the answer.
     Now there's a leading statement! Nika eyes him warily. "In fact?" A small grin quirks the corners of her mouth upward. "There are so many things I could toss into that silence, and at least half of them would include foot-in-mouth disease. So.... in fact, is there something specific you wanna learn? I've already been teaching you rifles and such." She lobs the verbal hand grenade back at him.
Arden blushes and chuckles, "Touche."
     "I meant if you wanted to, er, spend more... physical ...." Arden laughs deprecatingly. "Nah, never mind. We do need to work on that rifle skill though. What do you say we meet down at the "range in an hour or so? I need to finish this inventory first."
     Nika tilts her head, surprise crossing her features. Just when she thought she understood, she finds herself once again at a loss. She's starting to think she's NEVER going to understand this man. But she chuckles softly, the light drawl that occasionally colors her accent once more in full force. "Tell you what, darlin'... if or when you decide you're feelin' bold enough to make that move without retreating, we'll see what happens then. See you at the range in an hour," she replies, and then turns to head for the door.

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