We're Out here Chasin' a Feelin'
Location: Market District, Promenade
The market was busy for a Monday afternoon. Rik was using his first day off in eight days to prep for the week. He was a soldier with anosmia so the replimat victuals were usually more than adequate for his tastes, or should he say lack thereof, so he wasn't shopping for many groceries. It was more about the ambience. He loved fresh market days. The culture. The community. There were dozens of vendors and even a few street performers. That was probably his favorite part; it reminded him of his caste and admittedly made him a little sick for home but in a bittersweet way.
He had a few necessities (some fresh fruit and grains, some protein powders and bars, laundry detergent and soap and stuff like that) in a cloth fabric bag draped over his arm as he made his way through the bustling pedestrians. He was wearing a pair of aviators to guard against the artificial sun that was practically like the real thing, and he was munching on a treat he'd picked up from the Bajoran Bake stand a few stalls back.
As he'd said, the market was busy, which also made it the perfect target for pickpockets, and Rik's hypervigilance proved valuable when he personally witnessed someone in the act. The kid was young. A fellow bajoran. A scrapper. Malnourished. Probably starving. Rik sighed and moved into the kids path, reaching for his arm as they crossed and twisting it slightly, revealing the thin credential clip he'd just pilfered off some poor schmuck.
The kid cursed in Bajoran and Rik told him to shut up and take it easy. "They got a dozen easily accessible programs in place to help kids like you, ya know? Tell admin Winborn sent you." The older man plucked the wallet from the kids hand, then placed one of his sack cloths with the fresh fruit in place of it. "If I catch you picking again, I won't be so nice."
The boy nodded, gripped the bag tightly and turned to run. Rik sighed then turned around to find the blonde he'd kept track of out of his peripheral. The man was fishing for his wallet at one of the stalls when Rick came up and handed him back his wallet. "I think you're looking for this?"
"Thanks," Levi replied with a smile as he took his credentials back. "Guess I gotta be a bit more wary on a station like this than I'm used to."
"Poverty and hardship exist everywhere, I'm afraid. Even out here on this big shiny snowglobe in space," Rik responded before he wrapped up his baked Bajoran treat to put in his bag, then turned to the coffee vendor the other man had been ordering from before he found his wallet missing. "I'll take one of whatever he had and put 'em both on my tab, will ya?" Rik ordered before he handed over his credit chip, then turned to back to the blonde and offered him a winning grin. "Luckily ya got someone like me lookin' out." He gave the blonde a subtle wink before extending his hand to shake in human fashion. "Winborn Rikon, but my friends call me Rik." He was out of uniform so his rank and department were not obvious at all, but he definitely carried himself like military so he was most likely from station security?
If Levi was familiar with Bajoran castes at all he may or may not recognize the man's d'ja pagh as placing him from the Ih'valla caste; they were a caste of people known for their art in all its various forms.
"Levi Forbes, Chief of Ops," he said extending a hand. "I'm used to being wary of pickpockets and the like on shore leave, but I guess ship service has made me soft," he said with a grin. Some people could forget that stations of this magnitude sometimes served as shore leave. It was like a planet. Levi accepted his coffee from the vendor and smiled at Rik before saying, "Thanks. Next one's on me."
Rik accepted his own coffee and returned the man's grin with a bright one of his own. "Deal," Rik responded with a wink. Though, that heavily implied there would be a next one and Rik had to admit he was not opposed to the idea. He'd always been a sucker for blondes, especially of the human variety. Uh oh. "Can the next one be in an actual glass, and paired with a meal?" His eyes were shining with a bit of playfulness and his grin turned into a slightly crooked smirk.
"I don't see why not." Levi said before glancing at a chronometer, "I've got to run, thpugh, but why don't you meet me at the Vulcan restaurant, tomorrow at 1300?"
"You mean Celori?" Rik clarified. 'Vulcan restaurant' on a station this big wasn't really narrowing things down much. There were several. Most of which were vegan or vegetarian specifically, as most Vulcans tended to be. Rik was not even remotely vegetarian or vegan. Sure he liked to eat healthy, and vegetables were included in that, but he was definitely a carnivore at heart; meat eater through and through. Rik loved him some beefy proteins. "You a vegan, Levi?" The Bajoran asked with a single arched brow.
Levi laughed, "No not all, but they've got some pretty good food." He said smiling to the Bajoran, "And yes I did mean Celori, tomorrow 1300." He said before clapping a hand on the other man's shoulder. "See you there." He said darting off before the other man could respond.
"I'll be there," Rik said. He smirked at the shoulder slap and Levi wouldn't have seen the way the Bajoran tilted his head as he watched the man's ass as he walked away.
Celori, 1300 the following day.
Levi arrived slightly early, a rare day off in his schedule his uniform was replaced by a grey polo shirt that was probably a bit tighter than it needed to be, and a pair of navy chinos. He got a table with a good sight line of the entrance as well as the rest of the restaurant and sat with his back to the wall. Causally skimming the menu as he waited for Rik.
It was a little after 1300 that the front bell chimed as Rik entered the Vulcan restaurant. He was sporting a pair of light blue jeans, a dark long-sleeved henley with a white undershirt, and a pair of military style boots on his feet. His hair was perfectly coiffed (styled with coconut oil if anyone wanted to know), and his facial hair was neatly trimmed. He pulled off his aviators, and tucked them into the space between the lowest button on his shirt collar before he leaned in to speak to the hostess. A moment later she was turning and pointing in Levi's direction and Rik turned to find the man in the restaurant. He grinned and waved before speaking his thanks to the hostess then making his way back to Levi's table.
Rik was definitely giving the man an appreciative once over as he made his way over. "Hey. Sorry, I'm late. Had to break up an almost fight on the tram on my way here. Hopefully, you've not been waiting too long?"
"Hours and hours." Levi said with a deadpan expression before breaking into a grin and laughing, "Not too long, I hope they at least pay you overtime for all these extras you seem to be doing."
Rik sat down across from him and started rolling up his sleeves. "What's that Terran expression? No rest for the wicked?" His grin was mischievous and he gave LevI a wink. "So, I've walked past this place a dozen times but never actually eaten here. What's good?"
"I've only been here once and had the lirs and the osro root. One of the Vulcan's in my department said he eats here twice a week and loves it. At least as close to loves as a Vulcan gets about food. I was thinking of trying the sauteed losta." Levi replied.
"I admittedly know very little about Vulcan cuisine," he said as he picked up his menu to give it a look. Just as he'd suspected practically everything was vegan or vegetarian. "But then as a man with literally no sense of taste I've never been into all the foofaraw when it comes to food... Rare steak, side o' vegetables... I'm good." He gave Levi a slightly crooked grin before he closed his menu and set it aside to reach for their drink list, which was mostly tea. "Why don't I just let you order for us?" He said as he perused the list. "Though, hopefully it will pair well with a bottle o' Vulcan brandy, yeah?"
"Pretty much everything pairs well with Vulcan brandy." Levi said with a wink. The waitress came over and Levi rattled off half a dozen dishes, "Oh, and a bottle of 2358," Levi ordered, after the waitress moved away he returned his attention to the Bajoran across from him. "Hopefully, you're not opposed to sharing."
Rik watched Levi order for them, admiring him quietly as he spoke. He reached for his complimentary water to take a sip before Levi asked him about sharing the brandy. "Sharing is caring as the saying goes, I believe," he replied with his own wink. "I happen to be a very caring man... So... Which island are you from? Australia or New Zealand?" Rick's ex had been an NZ native, so he recognized the accent but he also recognized it was a little different and he knew there was a huge difference between Kiwis and Aussies.
"Australia. Melbourne was pretty much home. We lived off world for a few years here and there but whenever we were on Earth we ended up down under." Levi replied, the waitress returned with the bottle and poured a small amount into Levi's glass to taste before filling both glasses with a rather generous pour.
Rik didn't bother with a taste test seeing as he couldn't taste. Booze was booze. He could usually judge a good one either by his smooth or how harsh it went down. He took a hearty swallow and found it went down very smooth. "Hmm. That's the stuff... You like it down under, huh?" Rik asked with a slyly playful smirk and he waggled his brows at Levi suggestively.
"I like it a lot of ways." Levi replied without missing a beat and gave Rik a wink. A few moments later the first few plates of food were brought out and set on the table before them. "Dig in," Levi said grinning.
Rik loved flirting and he was grateful that Levi seemes to enjoy it just as much. Rik didn't ever like to go around assuming anyone's sexuality, but at least for the most part it seemed Levi might be into men. Still, some people could just be flirtatious, and Rik was not really one of those who tended to beat around the bush... "So, I never like to assume cause we all know what that does, but I am curious... Would it be safe to call this a date?" According to human customs...
Levi grinned as he took another bite of a rice-like dish with fragrant spices and small pieces of a bean like vegetable. "I'm not opposed to the idea," he said, playfully nudging Rik's leg under the table.
"Perfect," he responded before taking another sip of his brandy. Rik didn't really know what anything was or what it was called but he had started with the dish that had looked similar to curry. He had been hoping it was spicy and he was right. Meant he could actually taste it a little and it wasn't bad. "So, you said we earlier. Were you referring to parents? Siblings? Spouse?"
"Mom and Dad," he clarified. "Still kicking. Mom refuses to give up her medical practice and dad's enjoying retirement. He was Corps of Engineers back in the day. I've also got two older sisters. Never married." Levi rattled off the family tree. "What about you?" he asked.
"Well, as far as family goes, my parents and sisters are all back on Bajor. I have five younger sisters. Two of them are married so I've a couple nieces and nephews in there." He took another bite of his food and chewed on it thoughtfully got a moment before he continued. "And my ex-wife and daughter, Annie, are back on earth," which Rik hoped was possibly enough of a hint to indicate his ex was human, or at least not Bajoran... but who knows! "Annie's a senior at SFA."
"Man, two sisters is bad enough, I think five would drive me crazy." Levi said moving on to a newly delivered plate, this one containing an eggplant like vegetable that had been grilled and served on a bed of leafy salad greens raging in colours from purple to brilliant orange.
Rik smirked and reached for his drink to take a sip. "Yeah. They definitely made my life more interesting, but I don't know what I'd do without a single one of them. During the Cardassian occupation we were all each other had." He looked at the new dish with interest, leaning forward slightly to look. "What's that?"
"It's a vegetable, kind of like a terran eggplant but with more of an earthy, nutty flavor," Levi said before he cut off a bite-sized piece. "Wanna try some?" He asked as he offered the forkful towards Rik.
Rik smirked and didn't hesitated before he leaned forward to eat the bite off of Levi's fork. He chewed on it slowly, thoughtfully, testing to see if he could taste the earthiness or the nuttiness Levi was talking about. Unfortunately, it just tasted like grilled vegetable to him. He made a Hmm sound of approval and finished chewing before swallowing. He reached for his glass again and glanced Levi's direction. "Can I be honest with you?" He asked before taking a sip.
"Of course." Levi said setting down his fork.
"I have anosmia which means I can't really smell or taste much of any of this," he admitted a bit sheepishly. Levi may or may not have noticed he was mostly eating from the spicy dishes as spicy foods were some of the things he could still taste. That and vegemite. He fucking loved vegemite. He used to put that shit on everything.
"So some of these dishes must be pretty bland," Levi surmised with a chuckle.
"They're fine. Very Texturally pleasing, but--alright, yeah it's a little mild for my tastes, but it's not their fault I got a busted sniffer." He tapped the side of his pointer finger against the side of his nose.
"How 'bout next time we go out you pick the restaurant?: Levi asked. "I'm pretty good with anything. Although give me a heads up if we're going for Klingon. I don't have a problem with some raw foods, but I prefer it to not be still alive when it goes into my mouth."
"Next time, huh?" Rik prompted with a crooked, slightly arrogant smirk as he leaned forward a little, crossing his arms across the tabletop. "Sounds promising. You like sushi?" he asked as he reached for his drink again. Levi had said he didn't mind raw food, and honestly Sushi from Earth's Japan had been one of Rik's favorite foreign cuisine's outside of his mother's kitchen. "I know this great sushi and noodle shop that distills their own hot sake." They also happened to be the 'front' for an underground club/rave that had one of the hottest small-time DJ's in the quadrant.
"Love it," Levi replied smiling, he flagged down the waiter and said something quietly in her ear, she nodded and disappeared back into the kitchen.
Rick watched with interest as Levi conspired with their server. When the server left, Rik looked at Levi, smirking. "What are you up to?"
"You'll see," Levi said with a wink.
Rick gazed at him with interest, a flirty smile lifting both corners of his mouth. "Is this the part where the topless dancers come out?" he teased.
A few minutes later, the waitress came over with a large wok-like pan full of steaming vegetables in a simmering reddish brown sauce. "Give it a minute to cool before you try it," Levi cautioned, grinning.
Rik leaned back as the woman appeared with the steaming pan, and he gazed at the contents curiously. He could actually smell the spices, which was very promising, and had his nostrils flaring as he inhaled through his nose. "Well, what do we have here?" He asked before he grabbed one of the small empty plates and served himself up some of the new dish. "I can actually smell this shit, what is it?" He was really looking forward to trying it, and he forked one of the vegetable florets, swirled it in its sauce, and blew on it a little before taking a bite, humming in surprise and approval as he did. "Damn, that's got a zing."
"It's this vulcan dish for certain celebrations, it actually gets spicier as it cools, so young vulcans typically turn it into a contest to see who can keep eating it the longest." Levi replied.
Rik offered Levi a closed lipped smile as he chewed. He finished swallowing before he spoke again. "Eh, those little fucks got nothing on me," he said as he scooped up another forkful and ate it happily. He didn'tfinish chewing before he spoke this time, but at least he sort of covered his mouth with his hand so he wasn't showing off his See-food. "How do you know so much about Vulcan cuisine?" He ssked.
"I served a year on Vulcan at the Starfleet orbital facility." Levi said taking a relatively small spoonful of the dish before taking a larger one still able to tolerate the slowly increasing spice. "A lot of it is really interesting, but man, I would have given my left arm for a steak half way through the tour."
"I can't even imagine being surrounded by all those Vulcans for so long, sucking the fun out of everything. How did you manage?"
"Really good booze." Levi said with a wink as he downed his glass of brandy. "They aren't too bad, and there's a few hundred million non-Vulcans on the planet now, so there's a nice little human expat community in the capital in particular. The orbital base I was on is about 50:50 vulcan and non-vulcan." He poured another glass and smiled. He was certainly enjoying his evening, an attractive dinner companion, good food, and some very nice brandy.
Rik smirked at his joke and reached for his own glass to drink the last of it. When Levi refilled his own glass, Rik held out his in a silent request to do the same. "You got any plans after lunch?" He asked as he waited for Levi to refill his glass.
"No, it's a rare day off for me." Levi replied, "What about you?"
"I called in a long overdue favor," he admitted with a wink. "So, I'm free as a bird. Do you like boats?"
Levi raised an eyebrow, "Boats, sure I guess."
Rik's smirk lifted a little more on one side of his mouth. "What are you doing a week from Saturday?"
Levi thought for a moment, "I have the early shift in Ops but I'm free after that." Levi said.
"Perfect. You should meet me at the dock by the lake at 1500." He phrased it almost like a question. Maybe it was a little too early to be planning a second date, but he liked where this was going.
"Sure." Levi replied smiling, he let his leg brush Rik's under the table as the next round of dishes came up.
Rik's smile turned a little smouldery, a little sultry, and his gaze at Levi held so much promise and a little heat... "So, I have what might be considered a personal question, so feel free to not answer I won't hold it against you, but how does a young, gorgeous, intelligent man like you end up at the ass end of the galaxy without a mate, er, spouse yeah? That's the terran word, right?"
“I seem to manage a pretty lousy track record with men," Levi started to explain. "I was engaged once but he ended up taking a promotion to another ship. We tried to make long distance work but at least for him it ended up being a case of ‘out of sight out of mind'.”
"Long distance is always hard," Rik responded with a sympathetic tone and expression. "Especially when the loyalty is one-sided." It sounded like maybe Rik might be speaking from personal experience, or he could just be commiserating, who knew?
Levi took the last bite of one of the dishes as the sever began to clear the table of empty plates. “Yeah, well, the last five years I’ve been on the move a lot myself, so I haven’t really had a chance to settle down." What about you? You seem to have the saving the damsel in distress routine down. Although, for all I know you could have picked my pocket yourself as an excuse to meet.”
Rik's lips turned up into a smirk after he finished his own plate. "Well, I only saw you from behind," Rik said in a suggestive tone and gave Levi a sultry little look. "But even so I probably would have made up some excuse to introduce myself. Returning your wallet was just convenient timing." His smirk widened into a grin as he pushed his empty plate away and leaned back a little with his drink. "I was married once. White picket fence, baby on the way, the whole deal... Then the resistance came calling and my wife basically said it was her or my entire fucking family, so..." Rik shrugged. "It was probably the shittiest ultimatum a person could ever slap someone in the face with. I mean I get it, sort pf. The Bajoran rebellion had almost killed me once and I promised her I was done with it, but I couldn't just turn my back on my entire family, my people... Ya know what I mean?" Maybe it had been selfish of him, but he honestly never expected the 'love of his life' would make him make such a choice?
"When I got back after everything was over, after we'd won, she'd changed all the locks and served me with divorce papers." He downed the rest of his drink and leaned forward to hold his glass out to Levi, silently asking him for a refill. "Took me a while to get over that..." Part of him, even to this day, even though she was remarried and Annie had two half siblings now and he knew they were long done and over, still loved her. He wasn't trying to get back with her or anything, but no other woman would ever be able to hold a candle.
He'd always been a demi-sexual, or pansexual or however society wanted to label him, but he was also incredibly picky. He couldn't be physically intimate with just anyone, anytime. That was outside his nature. He was a very emotionally and spiritually passionate being, very cerebral in a lot of things, and if there wasn't emotional intimacy involved as well as physical, he couldn't really get into it. In other words, Rik had never had a one night stand in his life. He was 56 years old, but had only ever had two real lovers in his life.
"Anyway. That's all in the past. We live and we learn, am I right?" he said as he subtly reached for Levi's hand and gently ran the pads of his fingers across the back of his wrist. Rik's hands were heavily calloused. Working hands.
Levi smiled, enjoying the feeling Rik touching his arm. "Yeah," Levi agreed, the waitress returned and asked if they needed anything.
"Yeah, could we get the check?" Rik said to the waitress, and Levi nodded before they each turned their attention back to the other.
"So what now?" Levi asked.
"Well, I could walk you home, or we could go get some desert?" He said, still gently tracing his fingers against Levi's hand. "I know a place that makes the best Tuwaly pie."
"Sure," Levi smiled, he paid their bill despite protest from RIk and the pair set out from Vulcan restaurant. A few paces away from the restaurant Levi took Rik's hand in his as the pair continued along the promenade.
They fought over the check for a little but Levi proved to be too fast and slick for him. Rik just would have to get the next one. He pulled his leather jacket on as they exited the restaurant. They didn't get far before Rik felt Levi reach for his hand. Rik looked over at him with a soft, affectionate smile as he twined their fingers together, and pulled him in close so they brushing shoulders as they walked. "Have you ever had Tuwaly Pie?" Rik asked as he gently squeezed Levi's hand. He had butterflies in his stomach. Honest to god, butterflies. He honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd had butterflies from courting someone.
"Can't say that I have." Levi replied.
"Well, you're in for a treat then," Rik assures him. The place they eventually arrive it is set between two tailor shops that from the look of it are obviously at war with each other. A professional feud. It's very comical. Rik holds the door for Levi and heads in after him. They approach the counter and Rik orders a whole pie, sliced and boxed to go, with plates and forks, and two bottles of juniper wine. The bottles were small, only containing about two glasses worth each, hence why he got two. He paid at the register then took Levi's hand as they waited. "I know a place with a really great view. Figure we can enjoy our desert and some scenery, that ok?"
"Sounds like a plan." Levi replied smiling.
It didn't take long for the server to slice and box up their pie and get everything else for them together. She handed Rik the bag, which he took with a thank you before reaching for Levi's hand again. "C'mon," he whispered with a slightly crooked smirk. He led the man out of the bakery, and down the street but he veered off eventually to approach one of the maintenance tunnels. "I discovered this place on patrol one day. I was escorting some squints down here for repairs."
They walked down into the maintenance tunnels, and Rick led them on a ways until they came to a closed door that said Aquatic maintenance. This was where they controlled the conditions of the lake. Rik put in his code and the door opened into another long tunnel, the only difference here was that this one had transparent aluminum walls which made the lake and all its aquatic inhabitants above them clearly visible. The light reflecting on the lake was also causing a beautiful blue and white light show in the otherwise dimly lit tunnel. It was private, intimate, and possibly romantic. At least Rik liked to think so. "I love this place," he said as he led Levi in.
The tunnel was an actual tube just like the Jefferies tubes, only larger. It actually was big enough to let more than one person stand in it. Rik sat down against one side, laying against the curve as he watched the creatures swim around overhead. He patted the spot next to him encouragingly for Levi to join him.
Levi grinned and took a seat. "This must be where you take all the boys." Levi said laughing as he set about opening one of the bottles of champagne. "But it really is beautiful, I can see why you like it."
"God, make me sound like some kind of pervert, jeeze," Rik teased with a smirk as he untwisted the foil on the cap and pulled the cork free for him. It fizzed a little which forced him to kind of sip quickly from the mouth of the bottle to avoid spilling it. He then handed the bottle to Levi with a grin. "Nah, this is where I come sometimes when I need to brood. If I brought everyone down here it wouldn't be so secret and special anymore." Though he was sure he wasn't the only one who knew about it.
He reached for the bag and pulled out the box with their pie in it and both forks. He offered one fork to Levi before he opened the box, He didn't bother cutting or serving the pie before he just scooped up a forkful, made sure it had some of the cream, then offered it to Levi to taste. Tuwaly pie was the consistency of a pumpkin pie like sponge cake, but was creamy white, and tasted like a blend of rhubarb, sweet potato pie, and cheesecake together.
Levi took it and chewed before swallowing. "That is pretty damn good." He smiled and took a sip of the wine. Leaning back on the round wall very close to Rik. Their arms brushing against each other. "So, how am I doing so far, for a first date?" Levi asked with a laugh, "I admit I'm a little out of practice."
Rik grinned and scooped up his own bite and ate it before he set the box aside and laid down beside Levi, propping an arm behind his head. "That first date faux pas is a wholly terran fear, but if it eases your worries I can safely assure you that you've played a perfect game so far." Rik said as he sort of rolled to his side, leaning up on his elbow as he looked at Levi and reached for his hand. "I've spent enough time with humans to realize they have a sort of roundabout way when it comes to courting, so I'm gonna be a little direct here and hope it doesn't put you off... I genuinely feel this--spark of something when I'm with you that for me goes beyond basic attraction. I'd like to explore it seriously, but only if that's what you want too. I guess, I just wanna know if you feel something similar, or if you're just looking to get laid..."
Levi smirked, then he leaned in and kissed Rik. Slowly at first, but then he leaned forward and bit at his lower lip.
The kiss was unexpected, but definitely not unwelcome. Rik tensed in surprise at first, but a moment later he was returning the kiss just as eagerly, humming against Levi's mouth in pleasure. As lovely, and hot as the kiss was, it didn't do a whole lot by way of answering Rik's question. He quickly dueled Levi for domination of the kiss and pushed his fingers back through the blonde's hair before grabbing a fistful and tugging gently, but firmly, effectively breaking the kiss. He leaned up, though they were still close enough they were sharing the same air. "Kissing is lovely, and sexy, and all," he said with a sultry husk to his voice and he rubbed Levi's nose with his own. "But that doesn't really answer my question, sweetheart..."
"I'd say there's a spark." Levi said with a grin.
Rik nuzzled his nose against Levi's and ghosted their lips together. "Good," he said before giving the man another kiss that held so much heat and promise... but he eventually, slowly pulled away. "Can I walk you home?"
"Sure." Levi said smiling, getting to his feet he extended a hand to help Rik up, using the moment to pull him in for one more kiss.
Rik took said hand and happily indulged in more kissing but eventually they reluctantly broke apart. Rik picked up their pie and took Levi's hand as they exited the maintenance tunnels. Rik did in fact end up walking Levi all the way home with some light, easy chit chat on the way. Neither seemed particularly needy to fill the silence with nonsense and mostly enjoyed each others company.
At Levi's quarters, the two engaged in a little light make-out session in the hallway, but when Levi invited Rik inside, the older man simply took Levi's hands and placed several kisses on his knuckles, and held his cheek in his palm. "Another time, maybe," he'd promised before indulging in another kiss or two before he said his final goodbye, and left with a promise Levi would meet him at the lake next Thursday.
Levi entered his quarters, flushed and smiling and very much looking forward to next Thursday.