Date Night

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It's not as if Larson is all that fancy of a city, but it's still a city. And an invitation to dinner in the city is worthy of dressing for the outing, that's for sure. Though Nika's been mostly wearing her work pants and such on the ranch, when she arrives in the city to meet Arden for dinner when he's done with his rotation at the hospital, she's wearing something a little nicer than that. Actually, she's wearing a skirt -- one of those semi-casual mid-calf-length kinds of things that women wear with heeled boots that would be perfectly acceptable for nearly any social engagement. Hers is a deep chocolate brown, her boots are a deep brown leather, and it's topped with a soft rose-colored blouse tucked into it. Her blonde hair is pulled back but hangs loose down her back to her hips. When she comes to the table he's waiting at, Nika offers a faint grin and the same greeting she always offers when she meets him, "Hey there." As she takes her seat, she glances around and says mildly, "Good choice for dinner. The food here is excellent."

Arden is wearing a black two piece suit, one that is probably a bit more in style than what most would wear out here in the near sticks. Underneath is a dark rose shirt. His hair is still a bit damp from a shower he took before meeting Nika. However, he did take the time to shave and made sure his usually messy hair is tidy and brushed. As she gets closer, a faint aroma of masculine cologne comes from the doctor, not something he usually wears (or has ever worn truth be told). He had moved to pull her chair out, but since she slid into the chair before he could react, Arden simply smiles and then seats himself with her, "It was recommended to me by one of the nurses at the hospital. I wanted someplace that was as far from gallery like as we could possibly arrange. I mean no offense towards Christian and the wonderful job he does, the Gift is still the Gift, no matter how nice the food is."

Arden arranges the napkin and then takes a sip of his water. He grins and picks up the menu, "So.... since you know the place what would you recommend?"

With quiet laugh, Nika admits, "I've only been here twice. Once when Nala and I graduated, and once when I came home after the war. But especially after a long time in space, anything loaded with meat and fresh vegetables sure sounds good to me. And there's a pot roast with mashed potatoes and fresh greens in season. It's a little early in the season for a lot of things yet, but I hear they always make it worth having. I think that's what I'm going to have, actually." She glances briefly at the menu and then props her elbows on the table. "How's your work at the hospital going?"

Arden closes the menu and places it aside with a deliberation that allows him to organize his thoughts, "Things are.... fine. I guess. Hard to explain but operating and performing medical duties out here is a lot different than what can be done in the Core. There something simple like a aortic graft is done matter of fact-ly. Here it takes money, time, effort, and a good deal of bureaucratic infighting. It’s disheartening." He sighs. "Obviously it is a nature of the beast... eventually medical advances will make their way out from the core, but it’s so damn slow. I have to wonder if it is away for the powers that be to keep things under their control.

"But enough of politics," Arden says the shadows running from his eyes, "How are things out at the ranch? Settling down? How's your nephew?"

There's a hint of a shrug, and Nika's reply is quiet. "I honestly don't know how much of it is a lack of resources to bring the medical expertise out this far, how much is a lack of qualified personnel willing to come out to the rougher planets, and how much is political. It's pretty hard to say -- it's not as if the Core is exactly glutted and overpopulated with doctors and such, though there are plenty there." She smiles slightly at his request to move away from that, though.

"Kevin's recovering nicely. Nala and Larry have already got him riding the ponies, which is sweet. Wish my dad could have been here for this. He would have enjoyed being a grandfather," she says with a grin. "You gotta watch him every second, though -- he's a bit of a daredevil." Heh... does that make Nika the pot or the kettle? "Actually kind of reminds me of JJ. My stepmother said he's looking into college in the core somewhere. They're supposed to be heading back out to the ranch in a couple of days -- they've been staying in the city to let JJ take his finals and entrance exams and interviews over the Cortex."

"Must be nice, having a family," Arden says simply. Must be the night for woolgathering as Arden thinks about Otto, his "older" brother. He takes a sip of water, but his mind is on "what might have beens" and "what should have beens." He shakes his head, clearing it of extraneous thoughts.

"I meant to say that you look extraordinary tonight. Your home planet agrees with you,” Arden says. "Thank you for joining me tonight."

"Having a family's a bit like having a crew," Nika tells him easily. "There's good days and bad days, and the good generally outnumber the bad if it's a good group of people." She tilts her head, studying him. "Thank you for asking. It's nice to be able to spend time out of the fishbowl," she says with a grin. Cuz that's sure enough what the ship is -- having any kind of fledgling relationship where everyone's watching out of the corners of their eyes is just sort of stressful. The time we've gotten to spend here on Boros is far more relaxed. "Now they can watch Larry and Nala make eyes at each other and leave us alone."

There's laughter in her expression, though she's commented to him before that she's not entirely sure about the whole Larry/Nala thing. Still, after watching them together for a few days, and watching Kevin's reaction to Larry along with the knowledge that Trey was really messed up in the head and not just an asshole... Liz hasn't seen anything that causes her worry. "I have to admit... it sort of feels good to come home and really deal with what happened," she admits quietly, sipping from her water. "I left for a lot of reasons, not the least being that I'm not exceptionally happy groundside much.... but I guess I always felt kind of guilty for what happened. Not because he didn't deserve it or anything, but... some level of regret for the kid we used to know." She looks up at him and shrugs a bit. "That's part of having a family too... regret when things go to south." She smiles at him.

"Well," Arden answers with a smile, "I am glad that I was able to help. While i was dealing with the bureaucracy of the hospital I was getting desperate. I mean I knew what was wrong and how to fix it but the tools to do it just weren't there! That was maddening.

"And then Otto" Arden's smile disappears. "Otto.... I hate the fact that you and the rest of the crew have been drawn into this situation.

As the waiter comes to take their orders -- and she's as good as her word, she sticks to the good old-fashioned pot roast with mashed potatoes, gravy, and whatever fresh vegetables they'll throw on the table besides -- Nika waits until he's taken them and gone on his way before she replies. When she does, she meets Arden's gaze with her own straightforward one. "Pfft," she hisses mildly. "As if every gorram one of us hasn't brought something ugly to the group." Nika's smile is easy. "It's funny... this crew's been together a year, and in some ways we're only finally starting to mesh into a full-on family. We've all got things we ain't proud of, darlin'," she drawls, her tone practical. "Yours, at least, isn't even something you did, it's something that happened to you. So there isn't any real reason to apologize, is there?"

"I think so," Arden says forcefully. "My family has caused problems not just for me and my immediate family (that would be you all), but others as well. I feel like they (whoever) are pushing me. And if there is one thing I really dislike, that's being led around like I have a ring in my nose. And now they are forcing you to do that as well. It burns me up, it does."

Arden takes a sip of water and visibly calms, "Well, it just makes me mad, you know? I at least like to pretend I am in control of my destiny."

"Don't we all?" Nika asks with a faint grin. "Sometimes I wonder if we're in control of anything at all. The Wheel turns, and life goes on. We make the best of it and keep on moving forward -- there aren't really any other options." She rests her elbows on the table once more and asks, "You think your brother's agenda is as simple as 'making sure you're making something of yourself'?"

"Doubt it," Arden says after a moment. "But that is a problem for another time. Unless..." He pauses then leans forward placing his elbows on the table.

"What we need is some leverage of our own, right?" Arden says conspiratorially. "Or am I getting ahead of myself?"

Nika looks curious. "I have no idea what you're talking about -- What kind of leverage do you think we're in any position to use against Otto?"

Arden throws up his hands, "Oh, I don't know! I just feel so out of control I am grasping at straws trying to figure out some way to regain some measure of control. I really have no idea what i can do; it feels like the universe is actively conspiring to make my life difficult!"

Arden subsides, "Sorry. It’s just eating away at me, you know?"

There's a soft laugh as the waiter returns to place plates on the table in front of each of them and refill their waters. When he's gone again, Nika comments softly, "Yeah.... I felt that way for several months when we first got running. I gave some serious thought to leaving, honestly. And then after we got stable, Christian offered me an out -- told me it was okay if I wanted to jump ship and head back to Harbinger." She smiles a little, picking up her fork to toy with her food and then looking up at him. "And it was damn temptin', Arden. I think we were... six months in, I still didn't feel like we were cohering very much as a crew, and... they're my family too." She hesitates. "And I still can't say I wouldn't run if they called, because I've flown with 'em for a lot of years. But I always believed that we landed where we were supposed to be at any given time in the 'Verse, you know? There's reasons for everything... and eventually, we'll figure out the reasons Otto's bein' a complete diâo (Chinese for dick, penis, wand, or whatever slang you prefer). And when we do, it'll work out."

"I am having trouble with this what comes around goes around philosophy, "Arden says. "I know it centers you and allows you to deal with the here and now, but still... it's hard to do."

Arden starts to eat as well, and surprised at the flavor, spends several minutes just eating.

"So," Arden says patting his lips with a napkin, "Now? Do you feel like the Gift is a home now? Or rather, your home now?" "If it's 'what comes around goes around,' I'm gonna be up that creek with no paddle by the time my karma catches up to me," Nika comments mildly as they eat. After all, she did sorta kill a guy in cold blood not all that long ago.

She takes several bites of her meal before she answers him. "It's a home," she acknowledges. "It's not just a place that I fly anymore. Whether it'll be my home for the long haul... honestly, don't have an answer for you." Nika grins. "I always fly by the seat of my pants, haven't you figured that out yet?"

"I seem to remember a barrel-roll or two," Arden comments with a grin. "And I could make a comment about how I like to fly by the seat of your pants as well, but I am too much of a gentleman to make such a crass observations." His grin belies the comment.

"I think the Gift has the potential to become a home..." Arden pauses, "No strike that. It isn't the Gift that makes it a home; it’s the people on it that make it a home, my home. We could be on an Alliance cruiser (although preferable the bridge, not the brig) or a Firefly or what have you and as long as I had my friends with me, I would be content." Arden takes another bite, "Not to get too maudlin that is."

Nika snickers. "No you're not," she retorts good-naturedly around a bite of potato to his 'gentlemanly' comment. "And you're right -- it ain't the ship that's home. At least, not for most of us. Rina might be the exception, hard to say -- she's got major hard-on for ship-type things." She smiles. "It's always people. We're gettin' there." There's a brief pause as she wonders to herself whether it's sad that she misses her people on the other ship more than she misses people on Boros... but then, she gets to talk to Nala pretty regularly when the two of them feel like Waving. "Anyway, it's getting to be a pretty good crew. I like it where I am."

We left off here assuming that Arden and Nika had a good dinner and then found a quiet private place (like Arden's room upstairs) and relaxed more fully...