* * * * *
"You’ve become something of a celebrity, Seventh," murmured Upio. The corner of his mouth twitched as he tried not to smile.
Hysa snorted. "I don’t know why everyone is reading such significance into it," she complained. "Sweet pantheon! It wasn’t a date, it was just drinks in the crew hall!"
"Drinks with the First," said Upio. "A man who, by all accounts, has never expressed any particular romantic interest in anyone until right now. Until you." He gave up any pretense of disinterest and grinned at her. "That makes it significant."
She scowled. "All we did was talk about work."
Hysa frowned. "Well, mostly."
"What else did you talk about?"
She shrugged. "The usual things. Where we grew up and how we wound up joining the Guard. That sort of stuff."
Upio leaned forward, curious. "He told you about his homeworld?"
"No," admitted Hysa. "Not really. I mean, he talked about things, but only in general and, well, I didn’t want to push, given his history. So. . . ."
Upio sighed and shook his head. "You do realize that you’ve just described a pretty ordinary first date. Don’t you?"
She stared at him as if he had suddenly grown a third eye.
"Isolate me," she muttered. "It was a date, wasn’t it?"
Hysa felt her fingertips throb with blood. She curled them, clutching at the fabric of her shipsuit. "I didn’t really think. . . ."
"Did you have a nice time?" asked Upio, quietly.
"I . . . I suppose I did," said Hysa. "What if he asks me out again?"
"What if he does? Say yes. Say no. It’s up to you."
Hysa lowered her voice, felt her fingers continue to throb. "But...it would be the second date, Upio."
"Ah," said Upio, suddenly grasping her meaning. "Speak first, kiss later. Yes?"
She nodded, clenching her fists.
"Perhaps," suggested Upio, quietly, "you should speak with the First Medic."
"Things? What things?" There was a hint of alarm in Hysa’s voice.
"About . . . compatability," said Upio.
Hysa frowned, perplexed for a moment, before realizing what the Third Officer was referring to so obliquely.