The station was quiet at this early time of day, so nobody was around to notice the unsteadiness in my steps as I returned to my own quarters, the memory of last night slowly fading. This Gallentean had been quite a good kisser, and knew how to use his hands, so it had been an enjoyable evening. Well, up to the point where his girlfriend suddenly changed her mind. The following minutes of yelling and bulkhead-slamming had been less pleasant, but it did save me from having to break it to them that making out had been all that I had been interested in anyway. That way, while their yelling turned into something less adversarial, I got to plunder their beverage stash and catch a few hours of sleep on their couch.
Admittedly, I was still confused about the details of the various holidays people were celebrating at this time of year - at some point I think I saw two people shouting at each other while holding a metal pole - but it was fun to just go with the flow and enjoy myself.
Ah, my quarters! Finally! My access code was accepted, I stepped through the doorway, and the hatch fell shut behind me. Immediately, dim light coming from my main room told me that I wasn’t alone. Carefully, quietly, but not overly concerned I approached the room’s entrance and peeked inside. Yep - it was only Kitten, having fallen asleep in one of my more comfortable chairs.
Usually, she was off in her own circles, but we had an understanding that she was always welcome should she need a place to crash. I wondered what brought her here this time, but given the time of day and my state of mind, that was a question which could wait. I stopped briefly by her side, to gently stroke her cheek, then found the way to my own bedroom.
The smell of coffee finally woke me up. And not that weak excuse for coffee served with your average breakfast - this was hand-brewed strong coffee, Minmatar style. But as much my taste buds protested, I headed for a shower first - the hot water doing wonders for my well-feeling. Small wonders. Emphasis on ‘small’. When I finally entered my main room, I was greeted with the coffee I had smelled before, pastries, and a way too smug Minmatar punk.
“Look who’s back in the land of the Undead!”, greeted me Kitten.
I ignored her demonstratively, poured myself a cup and grabbed a pastry. It wasn’t until I was halfway into my second cup that I graced her with an answer.
She giggled. “C’mon, don’t be coy. Given how late you came home last night, he must have been cute!”
“He was ok.”, I allowed. “But not that cute. And even if - there were complications.”
“Mhmhm,”, she nodded, “I should have guessed - after all, you did come home at all. So he won’t make your guest list for your ‘Festival of Burning’, or whatever it’s called? Which I think is still coming up?”
“’The Kindling of the Light’”, I corrected her, “and no, he won’t. But what about you - who is on your guest list for your New Year’s shindig?”
“You tell me.” Her demeanor faltered, and suddenly she appeared vulnerable. “Did you deliver the gift?”
“Yes, I did.”, I nodded carefully. “Though in hindsight I must say…”
“…I know, I know, it was a stupid idea.” She sighed, and slumped into her seat.
“Especially coming from you.” I pressed on. “I thought we were over this kind of stuff since ‘Princess’.”
She shot me a look as if she was going to say something, but then reconsidered. Instead, she replied “I thought so, too. But… One night of double entendres, months of nothing - but then suddenly Bam! I can’t get her out of my thoughts.” She shook her head. “Maybe it’s just my mostly-male Lance getting to me, because for all I know, she probably doesn’t even remember me - but what if it’s more?”
I emptied my cup. “Well, you cast your dice, and now you have to wait. Either she’ll figure it out, and you will have a whole new set of questions to answer for yourself, or somebody else is going to get lucky, in which case you won’t lose much.” I looked at her askance. “Though I suggest you find something to occupy yourself with in the meantime.”
“Way ahead of you.”, she managed a smile. “One of your Alliance mates has a problem with miners encroaching on his territory. But since it’s hi-sec, his hands are tied - so I thought I fly down there and buzz those miners. Which is why I’m here - to pick up my old Cheetah.”
I laughed. “Buzzing miners” was what we had called sitting in a belt and shamelessly cargo- and ship-scanning miners, hoping that the mere act would scare them away. It rarely worked, but when it did, it absolved you from the messy business of actually attacking said miners. Plus, if you negotiated smartly beforehand, you got to keep the ammunition expense budget.
“Speaking of which - I need to be going.”, she added. “But that also reminds me, my Cheetah has a bunch of heat-damaged blasters in its hold - are those yours?”
She chuckled and stood up, grabbing a pastry while doing so. “I’ll have them transferred to your hangars.” She gestured. “Thanks for letting me stay here tonight.”
At the door, she stopped and turned her head back to me.
“Listen… before I leave… when you mentioned ‘Princess’…”
She hesitated, then convinced herself to speak freely. “You were right - but at the same time… you’re one to talk.”
“What do you mean?”, I asked, perplexed.
“Remember what you did before that Op?”
I nodded, slowly.
A pained expression flitted over her face.
“You’re doing it again.”