So there she was, surrounded by people, after attending the XXVII Interplanetary Symposium on "PTSD and its Impact on the Humanoid Mind"; it had been an interesting symposium for sure, especially considering the deluge of PTSD cases she and her colleagues had dealt with after the end of the Federation-Klingon war. Nevertheless, she was literally craving for some time alone. What caused such need? Was it the logorrheic Tellarite psychiatrist and his monotonous, droning voice? No, she thought with a smile, she had survived the Tellarite's speeches before. She always cherished her time alone - she didn’t need her psychology degree to realise that alone never meant lonely.
That's what she really liked about him: he enjoyed silence as much as she did: he was perfectly capable of spending hours and hours without uttering a single word. They would often spend their time together cuddling in perfect silence, listening to the sound of their heartbeats, or simply snogging, or reading, on her couch.
She could not help but think about the very first time Gabriel had found the courage to ask her out: it was early in their Starfleet Academy days, they were both students and, although they were not in the same circle of friends, they were on a first name basis, attended several classes together and often went to the same library; The mischievous sparkle that regularly appeared in Gabriel's eyes while he was in the company of his friends would immediately disappear the moment he caught sight of her. It was as if she had the power to evoke a maturer, but still playful, version of him.
On that particular day, Gabriel spotted her the moment he entered the cafeteria: she was alone at her table reading what looked like a manual about temporal mechanics - or maybe it was applied psychology ... whatever. He poured himself a cup of coffee, proceeded in her direction and, in an incredible succession of events, tripped over his own feet, lost his balance, performed an odd-looking pirouette and, nevertheless, regained his balance in time to successfully save his cup of hot coffee from spilling all over one of his toughest instructors who was sitting at the nearby counter. He just couldn't believe his luck.
Katrina pretended not to notice the commotion Gabriel had caused in the few seconds it took him to get a cup of coffee but was happy to see he was heading in her direction. He reached her table in a state of total disarray but nonetheless happy he had survived such close encounter with the Plague (that's the nickname that particular instructor had earned after he had put Gabriel and his gang of friends under an exhausting series of zero-g drills which resulted in their inability to eat, not to mention keep in their stomach, any solid food for a week - and that was simply because Gabriel and his friends had re-programmed the instructor's personal food synthesizer to produce fried blue eggs with rainbow-coloured bacon ... honestly).
"Kat?" he had managed to utter.
"Yes Gabriel?" she replied.
Gabriel took a deep breath and looked straight at her: "Would you like to ... maybe somehow ... go out with me some time? Maybe tonight? Maybe?" ''Ok, I'm the idiotest of idiots”- he quickly added - “but, well, you know, we have classes together, we often meet at the library … and, well, it’s … I mean, I really like to spend more time with you - we don’t even need to talk, just, you know, be in each other’s company”. His tone of voice had become steadier and more confident than it had been only a few minutes earlier.
This guy is unbelievable - she thought - competing for the prankster-in-chief title and yet, here he is, summoning up his courage ... geez, Kat stop analysing and answer him!
"Yes, of course" she replied ''by the way, you're not the idiotest of idiots - I've met a lot worse”.
She would never forget the smile illuminating his face and the sparks in his eyes - their mutual understanding started to grow from that moment onwards; an understanding which lead to a stable friendship and then desire and passion but also respect for each other’s choices. They had both realised very soon in their relationship that their careers would take them on different paths - yet they would still find time for each other. As Gabriel had pointed out many years later after receiving the news he would captain the U.S.S. Buran: “Kat, we would not be here were it not for our unspoken understanding ”. Yes, that’s what it was - an unspoken understanding they never needed to put into words. They loved each other as much as they loved their careers: their relationship - for lack of a better word - was never going to be a traditional one.
And yet, here she was now. Wishing to be alone; wishing to avoid the cacophony of voices surrounding her; wishing, desperately wishing, for people to stop talking just to impress her; wishing with all her might that the man who had played a practical joke on the Plague many years ago was here with her to share their silence together. The silence they loved so much; the silence where they had never felt lonely.