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Smooth as Tennessee whiskey

Posted on Sat Nov 27th, 2021 @ 5:57pm by Kindra Graham

Mission: Li Shen's Bazaar
Location: Li Shen's Bazaar
Timeline: November 3 - Mid-day

OOC: A solo post about what Kindra is doing after "Read so hard librarians tryin' ta fine me" and before the crew meets up again.

Kindra emerged from a shop with her bag noticeably full of purchases and checked the portable cortex on her wrist. She still had time before the crew of Fortune's Echo would be meeting up for Ice Planets. She considered the Alien exhibit, though cortex reviews varied significantly. Out of curiosity, she opened the companion registry. She had checked before the ship docked, there were no suitable clients, and even if there were she didn't have time or inclination to prepare.

Now, she checked for other companions on the station. A familiar name popped up, an old friend and fellow student from Madrassa. She waved him a short message, and he pinged right back, inviting her to join him. Kindra checked the map for his location, a lounge one level up.

Her cortex directed Kindra up a long crowded flight of stairs to the next level, and past a restaurant and a business office of unknown commerce. Music traveled down the hall toward her. The kind with a beat that got people moving and was played with an ensemble that included a drum kit, guitar and bass guitar, and vocalist.

She hesitated in the entrance and pulled back her veil, surprised at how busy the place was, upscale from the rest of the station, with two or three people at most of the tables and the smallish dance floor full. The scent of roasting meat wafted from the kitchen, reminding Kindra that she hadn't eaten since breakfast. On the stage, the woman singing had short, pale hair, and a smoky, rich voice. She was not beautiful in a classic sense, but she exuded confidence and charisma.

A familiar, sultry male voice to Kindra's left said, "The band is amazing, aren't they?"

She turned to the person she'd come there to see. "Garret Montgomery. It is a pure pleasure to see you again."

Garret folded her into an affectionate hug, surrounding her with his signature scent, like cinnamon and pine, and kissed each of her cheeks. "Kindra Graham, how long has it been? A year? Two?"

She took both of his hands, tipping back her head to look into his face. "A year and a half. We were both at the medical center on Ariel for our yearly exams."

"Ah, right. I did my last exam on Londinium." Then he gave her his arm and led her around the dance floor's perimeter to a large table facing the stage.

She took the chair he offered, and he sat next to her. Garret was gorgeous as ever - large brown eyes, tousled curly black hair, a muscular lean build. Like her, he contracted with both men and women, but usually women. The music was loud, and yet not so loud she couldn't hear him when he leaned close to speak.

"What brings you to this dive of a space station?" He asked. Garret's breath smelled of good wine, and he poured her a glass of what he was drinking.

"I'm renting a shuttle on a firefly class transport ship, and this is its current brief port of call - an overnight stay." Kindra tasted the wine, a smooth Merlot, and observed that despite Garret's outward solicitous demeanor towards her, his eyes were on the band's vocalist. "What brings a companion of your considerable talent to a dive station like Li Shen Bazaar? Or perhaps I should ask who?"

Garret glanced at Kindra, an unapologetic grin on his face. "Her name is Heather. We've been together since, huh, I met her right after I last saw you. Her band travels extensively to all sorts of places, and I tag along... choosing and entertaining clients along the way."

A dozen questions came to Kindra's mind. "How do you and Heather... that is, uh..." she was not sure how to ask in a tactful way. "Is she comfortable with you seeing clients?"

Garret affected the gravelly voice of their most senior Guild instructor. "The key to every good relationship is communication." Then he canted his head and answered her question seriously. "Took us a while to come to an understanding. In the beginning, she wanted to know about every one of my past clients and conquests. Wanted to understand why I chose particular contracts. I even offered to let her veto clients - not choose them obviously. And… we don't keep secrets from each other."

The song ended, and Garret's full attention was on Heather again as she spoke into her microphone, "We'll be taking a short break after this next song, dedicated to the man who makes loving fun to me." Kindra leaned back in her chair as the band played the introductory riff, then Heather began to sing,

"Sweet wonderful you.
You make me happy with the things you do...."

Garret was happy, that much was clear to Kindra. And in love. She had so many more questions, but didn't want to interrupt. Instead she simply enjoyed the music and watched the other band members. One guitarist and the bass player were men, and from the subtle way they moved together on the stage, and the not-so subtle way they mouthed the words to each other, she guessed they were a couple. The other guitarist was singing backup harmony as she played, her flirtatious smirk targeting multiple people in the audience. Elaborate tattoos covered the drummer's muscular bare arms, but she seemed oblivious to anything beyond the music. Heather, the vocalist and face of the band, positively radiated charisma and sensual attraction. Garret was not the only person in the audience besotted by her presence.

Heather and the guitarist sang the ending phrase one last time, and the moment the drummer hit the last beat Garret was on his feet giving them a standing ovation. His enthusiasm was catching, and Kindra found herself standing and clapping, along with most of the audience.

The band members headed for their table. Heather greeted Garret with a passionate, though brief, kiss. Her gaze held no hint of jealousy when she turned it on Kindra. "Another companion?"

"I'm Kindra, we were students together at Madrassa." Heather sat on Garret's other side and the rest of the band took seats around the table. The wait staff brought them bar drinks and water, followed by a meal of steak with an assortment of vegetables including broccoli, carrots, and asparagus that was set down in front of each of them including her. It smelled wonderful. She picked up her knife and fork.

Heather cut into her steak and regarded her thoughtfully. "Hmm... Kindra, Kindra..." Then she raised an eyebrow and looked to Garret. "Oh. I remember. Your study partner?"

Garret laughed out loud. "She was indeed. Kindra started the last stage of training late and needed help to catch up. I generously obliged."

So Heather really did know Garret's history of conquests. Kindra chose not to remind him the delay in the physical aspects of her training had been because of her mother's death. "He was a diligent and dedicated tutor," said Kindra, smiling. Her comment earned chuckles around the table. "Sadly not as enthusiastic a study partner for our classes in economics, partial differential equations, or history. As I recall I had to write our supposed joint research paper on Guild origins in the time of the generation ships, without much help from him."

Garret shrugged, unrepentant. "I admit Kindra tutored me in those subjects, plus music. She plays the harp like an angel, and her voice is good too."

The drummer, who'd been absently tapping the table with her two drumsticks in one hand whilst she used her fork with the other, looked up. "Are you thinking to join the band? We lost our keyboard player a while back."

Heather choked on her food, and Garret spoke up. "Of course you'd have to audition, and each of the current members would have to approve. It's a good life, Kindra. If you're interested."

"No." Kindra responded, faster and with more force that was strictly polite. She smiled, thinking of new and renewed friendships on the Fortune's Echo, and Alden's compelling blue eyes, his compassionate soul, and their delicious alone time on the bridge. "Thank you, but my current situation is, uh, very promising."

Garret was now giving her that knowing companion appraisal, a sly smile on his full lips. Kindra looked away and hoped he wouldn't ask in front of Heather's band.

"Repeat sound check in fifteen," said Heather, reminding them their performance was not over. There was a companionable cessation of talking as Garret's friends busied themselves with consuming their food with quick efficiency. Kindra's steak was tender and juicy, the vegetables cooked perfectly to bring out the combination of sweet and savory. It was an excellent meal.

A cortex chimed, and without protest the band members got up from the table. The two men taking wine glasses with them, the woman guitar player still chewing. Heather paused to kiss Garret, then nodded to Kindra. "We'll be previewing a few new songs later, you're welcome to join us."

"Very kind of you." Kindra took her hand and gave her a warm smile. "It is a great pleasure to meet you, Heather."

Heather squeezed Kindra's hand, then together, Kindra and Garret watched the vocalist return to the stage. "So that is the woman my dear friend Garret Montgomery has fallen in love with."

"Promising, hmm?" Garret smirked. "Do tell me all about... this person... on the transport. Has my dear friend Kindra Graham fallen for another pilot?"

She laughed, softly. Garret was one of few friends she'd confided in about Alden. "The same pilot. He's a captain now."

"You found him?" Garret's eyes shone brightly with interest. "Did you tell him everything? Does he feel the same about you?"

"I did find him." Kindra blinked at the second question, not sure how to answer. "Uh…"

The warm smile on Garret's face faded into a worried frown. "Kindra, hun..."

Kindra rested a reassuring hand on his shoulder. She needed to change the subject before he asked more questions she didn't want to think about. "How about a dance?"

Garret gave her a hard stare, then nodded. "Heather always says she loves to watch me dance to her music."

Sound check finished, the drummer brought her sticks together counting a slow beat, and Heather started singing.

"Used to spend my nights out in a barroom
Liquor was the only love I've known..."

Garret drew Kindra onto the dance floor. It had been a long time since she'd had a dance partner with his level of skill and timing. Tension flowed between their moving bodies like gravity between binary stars, together and apart, balance and spin, pressure and release, inhale and exhale. Garret led her expertly, and together they created the graceful illusion that their smooth and precise footwork, twists and turns, dips and stops, were all effortless and natural. Kindra lost herself in the slow driving beat, and the smoky, sultry croon of Heather's voice.

"You're as smooth as Tennessee whiskey
You're as sweet as strawberry wine..."

Kindra and Garret had become part of the show, with other potential dancers standing on the perimeter as spectators. Garret took them closer to the stage, and Heather gestured, blowing kisses to the two of them.

"And honey, I stay stoned on your love all the time..."

At the final crescendo, Kindra clapped and whooped with the rest of the crowd. The band's next song was a heart-pumping lively tune that had the audience descending to the dance floor in pairs and in groups. Garret led her back to the table and she downed a whole glass of water. "Thank you, that was... so much fun." She checked her cortex. "I should be meeting back up with Echo's crew."

Garret pulled her into a last warm embrace. After dancing together, his cinnamon and pine scent mixed with her own. "Wave me," he said. "I want to hear all about how things work out for you."



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