Nimue still did not really know why she had agreed to have dinner with Ian Lamont. Not that she usually gave a lot of thought to why she did things.
Even for her though, it had been an impulsive decision. She had not been aboard the Charon very long, but she already knew that the Ambassador was not exactly considered a likable person. Rumors were abound of his continuous disputes with the command staff and that, perhaps, was the reason of Lamont's reputation. Often a crew took on the opinions of its commanding officers, for the purpose of appearing agreeable or simply out of an unconscious desire to fit in and impress. Of course, it was entirely possible that he was really as big a jackass as people thought.
"Well," she decided with a shrug as she finished trying her brown hair up, "We are going to find out soon enough, aren't we Oopdink?"
Oopdink, her dog, gave a simple huff in reply, obviously uninterested in the topic.
"Be that way then. I still think the way he was blushing was cute."
When no reply was forthcoming from the animal, Nimue moved in front of a mirror to examine herself. She had chosen a fusion of Terran and Ardanian fashion, picking a deep lavender halter top with over a pleated black miniskirt and matching leather boots. An intricate silver clip now held up her wavy hair in a high ponytail. The outfit was modest by Ardanian standards, for though it bared her shoulders and her back, and tightened dramatically over her midriff to highlight it, it revealed no cleavage. That was on purpose, of course, for she was dressed to highlight her strengths and Nimue knew that her strength was in the absolute flat of her stomach, her slender, petite frame and her bright, brown eyes. Ardanian fashions with their daring, dipping necklines had never been all that good to her.
Terran short skirts suited her just fine.
All in all, it was probably a little excessive. However, what she had enjoyed most about Lamont's visit was how uncomfortable she had been able to make him. It was a little endearing. And this outfit, given his previous reaction to her, would definitely serve that purpose.
== EARLIER ==
Lamont stood in front of his mirror tugging on his uniform jacket before pushing back an errant stand of his shoulder length hair and neatly tucking it into a suitable place. Satisfied his appearance, formal and polished as always, was perfect he moved to leave for his dinner engagement with a precocious and lively Mrs. Andraste. He made it half way to the exit before stopping as an irritating thought invaded his mind. Like an unscratchable itch, Ian suddenly felt horribly overdressed.
He had invited the lieutenant to dinner to primarily to discuss the situation involving her mother who for reasons not yet fully understood by Lamont has seen fit to irritate and annoy him at every opportunity. Nimue had relayed a interesting story of her mother's past actions involving other men which was as disturbing as it was oddly intriguing. Her mother's constant messages and instructions were irritating at best, intolerable at worst and yet given some time to reflect Lamont had decided not to wage war against her. He was too far away to mount an effective counterattack he had decided and perhaps, just perhaps befriending the family could lead to beneficial relationships given the family's diplomatic status. Whatever happened would come, yet he had to find a 'diplomatic' solution to appeasing Nimue's mother. That goal was priority one.
His mind snapped back to dinner and his attire. His hands suddenly felt clammy yet he could find not ascertain the reason. Perhaps he was overdressed? He didn't want to make the woman uncomfortable. Yes. Perhaps something more casual. But what? Lamont always wore his diplomatic uniform. Fashion and style were not something he paid any attention to - until now.
A quick stop at the computer revealed a dizzying assortment of possible garments which he cycled through. All of them seemed dreadfully common, adorned with bright colors or odd patterns. He finally narrowed the selection to four choices, reviewed their ranking in trendiness, browsed other's comments, and finally made a selection. Replicating the garment, Lamont hastily tore off his uniform and changed.
Another stop at the mirror elicited a silent groan. He felt underdressed.
Gone was his familiar uniform jacket and tunic replaced by a shirt and pants that were soft and light while lacking the impeccable tailoring of his usual attire. About the leave feeling somewhat ridiculous, Lamont stopped again.
What if she wore her uniform? What if she considered this dinner to be business? He was after all a complete stranger. Informality might suggest another agenda on his part.
He did not want to embarrass the lieutenant. That would be unacceptable.
He had to treat her with the respect and dignity his upbringing demanded.
Impugning her integrity or honor having just arrived on board and subjecting her to the calloused nature of Charon scuttlebutt would be intolerable.
Conscious of the time, Lamont flew into a cloud of clothing, shedding his attire again for his uniform. Without time to properly adjust his hair or press the wrinkles from his jacket, he flew out of his quarters in order to keep his date - wait - no dinner with the Lieutenant.
== Nimue Andraste's Personal Quarters ==
Coming to a stop outside of the lieutenant's door, Lamont nervously tugged on his uniform and slacks attempting to fix the tiny imperfections which could drive him to madness. Then it suddenly hit him - why was he nervous at all? What the hell was the matter with him? He was having dinner. He had thousands of dinners in his lifetime and many with powerful dignitaries of heads of state and yet here, now he was a nervous bundle of excitable energy. Perhaps it was just the strain of recent events. That had to be it.
With all of his thinking it suddenly occurred to him he should ring and announce his presence. However he suddenly wasn't hungry and seemed to be having difficulty concentrating on the task at hand. Perhaps a visit to sickbay was in order if this unusual phenomenon did not clear itself.
Reaching over and pressing Nimue's bell, Lamont quietly waited. He couldn't help but notice the furtive glances of passing crewmen. Let them have their scuttlebutt he thought. He knew he was here strictly out of courtesy to a fellow officer who was new aboard as well as to speak about a matter that had brought them together in an unusual manner. It was a harmless, professional meeting.
"Damn", Lamont muttered as he looked around. Were the environmental systems on this deck malfunctioning? Why in heaven's name was it so warm? He made a mental note to file a repair request with engineering after dinner.
The door finally slid open, though if Nimue had called for him to enter, Lamont had not heard her. Then again, he had been preoccupied.
So preoccupied, in fact, that it was a few moments before he noted the glowering hound standing just beyond the entrance, looking at him at a curious mixture of disdain and irritation. For a moment, neither the dog nor Lamont moved. Then, the animal barked, obviously not entirely happy to have a visitor.
"Oopdink," Nimue called out from inside, a warning implicit in her tone. In response, the dog barked once more, looked at Lamont with a mixture of disdain and distrust, and then retreated to crouch in a corner. The sudden encounter with the canine had Lamont surprised enough that he did not enter immediately, prompting Nimue to come looking to see where he was.
"Hey," she greeted cheerfully as she pranced into view, "Come on in."
Ian's jaw nearly dropped as the lieutenant landed before him like a ticking stun grenade. Frozen in place he was both mesmerized and caught flatfooted as Nimue's choice in attire. She was absolutely stunning like a trillion exploding supernovas and Lamont suddenly felt incredibly overdressed - again.
Taking a cautious step into her quarters, Lamont maintained a watchful eye on the unusual glowing pet which seemed to return Lamont's own suspicious and wary gaze.
"That is an exceptionally interesting uh pet you have", he commented attempting to make some measure of small talk as he seemed suddenly without words for once in recent memory.
"Yeah, he's something else all right. Anyway, you look...rumpled."
Andraste teased with a smirk, "Just a tip
- usually, it is better to end the night looking ruffled like that, not start in that way." As he started to reply, she waved him off, "We're going to zip right past that. Did you want to have a drink first or...?"
"Yes" he quickly replied. "Wait, no."
Then it quickly hit him. He couldn't accept a drink. He barely knew her.
It would be improper to imbibe given their lack of familiarity. And yet...
He was suddenly aware of her odd expression and indeed he desperately wanted a drink to help strip away this nervous tension which had managed to grip him.
"Yes", he quickly said again following his rejection. "Forgive me, I..I just got through deleting another message from your mother. Its unusual and demanding contents left me a little flustered." It was a white lie, but the best he could manage given his heart was in his throat. The air was electric and he felt if he didn't get that drink soon he might have to excuse himself for some fresh air.
"A bourbon, neat, would be great."
Lamont looked about the lieutenant's quarters as she fetched the drinks.
"So how are you settling in aboard the Charon? Are you having any difficulties - other than your mother or well even perhaps me," he said in jest hoping some light humor would help him loosen up.
"I have to admit that I am having trouble with you," Nimue stated in a matter-of-fact tone, "At least right now. I'm not a very good empath and you keep switching back and forth between so many emotions that I'm getting a bit of headache." Handing Ian his drink, she added with a mischievous grin, "May I suggest to settle for lust? It seems to be prominently featured anyway."
Ian nearly dropped his drink. She was an empath? His eyes snapped wide before he instinctively regained a measure of control. He quickly took a sip of his drink and relished the warm, soothing tingle of the alcohol running down his throat.
He mistrusted all telepaths and empaths he held in only slightly higher regard. His encounters with telepathic individuals in the course of diplomatic exchanges never fared well. He had always felt telepaths had an unfair advantage in diplomatic negotiations and their ability to read thoughts or even sense emotions made his job many times more difficult.
Additionally, one who could sense or even accurately read the most private areas of an individual and then used it to their advantage was in his mind ethically conflicted if not criminally negligent.
Ian had been given some training on how to resist telepathic eavesdropping.
The technique that worked best for him was to focus on a memory that generated intense emotion which created a mental scattering field. The thought of those who had damaged his family's reputation typically generated enough anger and negative ill will within him to subvert most telepathic probing. Maintaining a wall of anger and hatred was not something he could maintain for long periods.
He almost reflexively moved to throw up whatever mental shields he could muster when the lieutenant's next words again caught him completely off guard.
"Lust", he silently shouted. Was he being that obvious? Wait! She was toying with him! Wasn't she? Another sip of his drink disappeared, but not before the ambassador shunted some of his uncomfortable misgivings into a stick to poke back.
He softly cleared his throat. "Well lust it is", he responded with a smirk swirling the amber liquid in his glass in slow circles. "You cannot exactly hold it against me. Your choice in attire tonight, which I must say is quite..impressive, I suspect would illicit the same response from most males aboard with the exception of perhaps our Vulcan colleagues." He raised his glass slightly in her direction to further accentuate his veiled complement.
"I do just fine with Vulcans, thank you," Nimue replied archly.
Lamont could say more..oh he could say so much more, but bit his tongue.
Being too forward could offend her and he was still somewhat uncertain about her personality. He would watch and listen for now. He had the impression Nimue was something of an untamed, free spirit, but he could draw no conclusions just yet. For now he was simply content with the intriguing proposition of learning a bit more about her assuming he could keep his own swirling emotions in check.
The fact that Lamont's mindset had altered upon the revelation of her empathic abilities was not lost on Nimue. It was, she knew, one of the two major disadvantages of being half-Betazoid. The other one was her mother.
At any rate, the reason she had chosen this particular outfit, the reason she had accepted this date, was that there was something adorable about Ian Lamont's discomfort when confronted with such situations. It was either naivete, or inexperience or simply upbringing. Whatever it was, it made her think that in part he was a kindred spirit - someone who had, at this core, an innocence that had not faded in the face of the profane, mundane universe that was always threatening to swallow it whole. Unfortunately, her Betazoid half apparently repelled whatever such spirit was left in the Ambassador. Nothing she could do about that, she supposed.
"So this latest message from Ardana," she said, changing the subject, "Anything interesting."
Perhaps it was time for a calculated risk to turn the tables slightly in his favor. If anything it should help take the edge off until his drink kicked in.
"Oh just a proposal. Actually it was more like a directive or perhaps an ultimatum", he said after another sip of his drink. "I am supposed to use all my powers to convince you to marry me and settle down. You can imagine my shock, however if I can do that I would have her eternal admiration and gratitude and she promised she would at last leave me in peace. I have to say I am seriously considering her proposal." It was Lamont's turn to offer a mischievous grin as he anxiously watched her reaction.
"Having my mother leave you in peace might even be worth it," Nimue conceded mildly. Folding her legs underneath her as she said on the couch next to Ian, she added, "And your actual plan for dealing with my mother...?"
"My plan? Ah yes. Uh, I was hoping you would be willing to assist me in that arena. My intent was to treat you to a luxurious dinner and perhaps a tour of the Charon's more interesting areas before asking you that very question however it seems you have beaten me to it."
Ian set his glass down and looked into Nimue's eyes directly for perhaps the first time that evening. They were quite lovely and full of life. "FOCUS LAMONT", he shouted internally to himself. He was no longer a teenager, but what was it about this woman that made him again feel like one?
"As a diplomat I have no desire to make trouble for you or your mother. I try to adhere to my profession of maintaining peace. However I suspect negotiations will be difficult given the caliber and position of my...opposition. I was hoping you might have one or two useful suggestions given your wealth of experience for me to formulate suitable and equitable tactics. Unlike Captain Rehu's typical suggestion for a variety of situations, I am hoping airlocks are not a part of any proposed solution."
He offered a smile realizing his last comment would probably be missed by the lieutenant. She would eventually figure out its meaning with enough bridge time. Rehu's solution to almost anything that upset her was to toss it in an airlock, but he wasn't here to contemplate the captain's irrational behavior.
Lamont's proximity to Nimue was just close enough that he was unable to tell if it was his drink or her presence which was generating increasing amounts of pleasant warmth.
"I call bullshit," Nimue replied with a chuckle. In response to his questioning look, she added, "We already had this conversation. You already asked me if I had suggestions to deal with Xanthe. Why would my advice be any different after a fancy dinner? So...bullshit. You just wanted a date."
Ian was shocked. "I...I did not", he protested his voice quivering ever so slightly at the unexpected comment. "Your mother has me especially vexed and I simply felt that discussing the matter in comfortable surrounding would make the matter somewhat more enjoyable for us both. That and you are new aboard. It isn't a crime to offer to show someone around who might not be familiar with a new environment. I give you my word as a gentleman I have no ill intent or ulterior motives lieutenant."
"Right," Nimue replied with a quick smile. It seemed that as Lamont got more uncomfortable, the more he resorted to formality. It was probably a defensive mechanism one picked up in the diplomatic core.
With a light shrug, she simply said, "It isn't a bad thing. I'm just wondering...you know, why not just ask?"
"Ask? If I did have such motives Nimue, which I am not admitting to, that would be most ill-mannered of me. You deserve courtesy and respect as both a person and an officer. It would be improper and horribly forward of me to ask such a thing after just meeting. Putting you or anyone else on the spot like that without knowing more about them could be exceedingly embarrassing or uncomfortable. I refuse to behave in such a coarse manner. I felt that dinner would be a comfortable venue to simply talk. I do not know much about Ardanians and looked forward to a chance to learn more about one - or rather..you. I apologize if I have inadvertently offended you. That was not my intention, but rather I had hoped to simply provide you with an enjoyable evening aboard the Charon."
"I appreciate that. In case you haven't noticed though, I'm not exactly a proper young lady. If you want to skip the dinner and conversation and just want to start making out right now, let me know."
Lamont was surprised yet again. The lieutenant didn't beat around the bush and seemed to say exactly what was on her mind. He paused for a moment unsure how to respond. It was obvious she could probably sense his feelings which he was doing a poor job of hiding - not that he really wanted to anyway. Any pretenses he tried to hide behind now she would likely see through. That both irritated him and at the same time was oddly exciting in a way he couldn't yet fully articulate. There was certainly something about Nimue that fascinated him.
"Why not", he suddenly blurted against all logic and his own conscious and upbringing screaming for him to reconsider. He had been beholden to rigid tradition his entire life for once he decided he would simply not think and be completely spontaneous. "No dinner it is. If there's a main course, I guess you're it," he said suddenly flashing a genuine grin that felt surprisingly good.
"We're not really skipping dinner. I'm pretty hungry." Then with a mischievous grin, she teased, "That was good progress for you though.
A moment for personal growth."
Lamont's smile faded somewhat as he contemplated her statement. Growth?
What did she.... He kept forgetting she could sense what he was feeling. His smile returned though it was slightly more cautious. "I.don't usually behave this way, but I must say it feels pretty good", he said with an embarrassed chuckle.
Lamont stood and held out his arm. "So how about dinner? Heck, how about a date? I know a quiet little spot on the Eris Deck which has a great view,"
he said with a confident grin.
"Sounds good," Nimue replied, accepting his arm. With a puzzled look, she added, "So what was that you were saying about airlocks?
Lt. Nimue Andraste
Ambassador Ian Lamont