Cawdor decided on a leggings and metallic silver vest combo for her dinner date. The dark make-up was back and so were the baubles and hair decorations, woven expertly into perfect, glossy dreadlocks.
"Hell you're fit, Cawdor." They blew a kiss at the reflection in the mirror and pranced out of the room.
Dale was getting on his own nerves by fretting himself silly in his quarters. Finally, he decided to go and wait in Cagney's, half an hour early. He sat at the bar and ordered himself a beer.
"Hello ducky!" Martin Evans was a pilot, and a very good one, but he knew it. He was an arrogant bully, as were his two drinking pals, Caleb Prior and John Warren. Dale hadn't even seen them at first, tucked away in the corner playing cards. "Hey Tanner, I mean you."
"Just get on with your cards, Evans." Dale said, without turning round.
"So where's your boyfriend?" Evans came swaggering over, his toadies following. "I always knew you were a freak, Tanner."
"Oh grow up, Evans." Dale heaved. "Ambassador Cawdor is an important guest of the Captain's."
"And as camp as Christmas." Evans guffawed. "Seriously, Tanner, what's the attraction? It's sick, man."
"Look, just carry on with your cards. I'm leaving after my beer." No way was Dale going to bring Cadwdor in here with this lot.
"You don't deserve to drink beer." Evans reached out and knocked Dale's glass over. "Something fruity would suit you better."
"Back off, Evans." Dale picked up his glass and dodged away from the dripping beer.
"Oh? A bit feisty for a bitch. Or is it him that's the bitch? Scum like you two are disgusting." Evans sneered. Dale let loose with a punch that sent Evans reeling into his cronies. "You sick perv." He wiped the blood that was streaming from his lip. "Don't just stand there, you two! Teach this bitch a lesson!" Caleb Prior lunged for Dale and Dale ducked. Dale followed through with a winding punch to his stomach, followed by backhander that floored him. John Warren glanced at Evans first, then they both went for Dale, John armed with a pool cue.
"Leave him alone!" Shelby Scales, the waitress screamed. "He's unconscious! Martin you're going to kill him!" She grabbed Evans' arm and he flung her into the bar, shortly before his own head cracked against the woodwork.
"Step off and I won't hurt you." Cawdor stood over Dale. Prior took a swing at Cawdor and Cawdor simply ducked, caught his arm and forced it out of its socket. Prior howled in pain and stumbled against the wall. "Now then, scum bag." They turned their attention to Evans. "What's up? Didn't expect a fruit to dish out a beating? Get out and take your trash with you." Evans scrambled to his two fallen friends and they dragged each other, stumbling, out of Cagney's. "Dale." Cawdor knelt down beside him. "He needs a doctor."
"Medics are on their way, ma'am ... er ... sir." Shelby was crimson. "That was all their fault and I saw it all, so did Berkley the Chef. Dale ... Engineer Tanner ... was just having a drink."
"Thanks, Miss Scales." Cawdor read from her badge. "Hang in there Dale. Help's on its way."
"Dale!" Natasha ran into Cagney's and she was furious. "Medics are on their way. Hell Cawdor, what happened?"
"I could have a guess." Cawdor held Dale's hand. "The two staff over there saw the whole thing." Cawdor stood up as the medics moved in.
"Are you hurt, miss?" One of them asked over his shoulder.
"Oh you mean me?" Cawdor looked at Natasha and shrugged. "No, I'm fine thanks. Is he going to alright?"
"We have to get him to the Med Wing." The medics got to work and Natasha went to talk to the staff.
Cawdor stood up when Dr. Murphy entered the Med Wing ante room.
"Ambassador." Murphy and Cawdor shook hands. "He's going to be sore for a week or two but no serious damage."
"That's a relief." Cawdor said honestly. "Can I see him?"
"He's asking for you. One of the medics told him your ... part ... in the activities so he's eager to see you're alright." Murphy smiled and took Cawdor to Dale's room.
"My Knight in shining armor." Dale smiled through the mass of cuts and bruises.
"Hardly. You had one of them sparked out before I got there." Cawdor took Dale's hand. "I'm sorry Dale. This is my fault."
"Hey! No it is not." Dale tried to sit up and winced. "It's not your fault. Don't talk crap. Evans and his mumbskulls are noted for this type of trick. Arseholes. People are usually too scared to speak out against him but I think you've made them all have a rethink. Brawler Cawdor."
"Oh I've always been a bad swine." Cawdor sniffed and somehow, Dale believed them. "Natasha's on the warpath."
"No more than they deserve." Dale grimaced and winced.
"You need something for that. I'll tell Dr.Murphy."
"You're coming back?"
"After you've rested up a bit." Cawdor smiled and went to look for the Doctor.
Natasha was making arrangements to remove the pilots from Station Cumberland for processing. Cawdor coughed politely before entering.
"I will not tolerate that ... shit ... on my Station." Natasha growled. "Cawdor I'm so desperately sorry for that. Please don't think that behaviour is rife here. It isn't."
"It just takes a few bad apples to taint the rest. Don't worry about it." Cawdor smiled.
"How is he?"
"Battered and bruised but nothing too serious. Dr. Murphy says he'll be sore for a while."
"So will those other three." Natasha looked at Cawdor.
"That's why I'm here. I want to apologise. Brawling in cafe on someone else's patch isn't acceptable, no matter the reasons." Cawdor said wearily. "I'm a bloody disaster zone. It's probably just as well I'm leaving before long."
"Cawdor, you can stay as long as you like and you can come here as often as you like." Natasha said sincerely.
"You are so incredibly beautiful, Captain. Your husband is a lucky man." Cawdor smiled.
"Dale told you about him? He's based on another Station but we get to see each other every two weeks, sometimes more. Greg."
"Is that enough for you? You must miss him."
"All the time. His position on Station Manchester is just a stop gap. He took the job a year ago until he retires next year. I told him I'd get him a janitor's job here." Natasha smiled. "You said Vanley has a partner. Have you not met anyone?"
"Oh I've met lots of people, darling." Cawdor smiled and winked. "Rock full of tarts remember? What about Dale? I won't believe he's been on his own all his life."
"Just the usual school and college flings until he met Lizzie. They were engaged to married."
"She started treating him like the Commonwealth bank. She got the ring, then wanted the crown jewels to go with it. When Dale put his foot down she drifted off to someone else who could maintain her lifestyle and Dale gladly waved her off." Natasha shrugged. "This was about four years ago and he's been in no hurry since."
"Don't blame him. Greedy sow." Cawdor tutted.
"So when do you have to leave? I meant what I said about staying as long as you like." Natasha repeated the invitation.
"A day or so. I'd love to stay a while but I can't. I have to be back on Bedlam. Look after Dale for me." Cawdor said miserably.
"Always. I believe we'll all see each other again. Bedlam doesn't seem quite so far away now." Natasha smiled.
"Its distance was never measured in miles. Catch you later, Natasha." Cawdor returned to their suite feeling completely exhausted. Once in their room, Cawdor felt the headaches starting, and their temperature going haywire. They had no choice but to contact Vanley.
"I knew you were cutting it too fine, you bloody pest." Vanley grumbled.
"Well I'm very bloody sorry!" Cawdor snapped. "Look Vanley, it's making me ill. I'm in quite a bit of pain here."
"And the rest. I'm burning and I feel like my innards are being pulled out. It must be the men and women, Vanley. They're seperate, remember? You have to configure the magnetic shield and get me home." Cawdor felt sweat trickling down their neck.
"I'll get started on it. I'm sure Kendrew will understand even though we only have three compatible days left." Vanley said sarcastically.
"Kendrew will probably be glad to get shot of your whinging. Contact this communicator then Foley doesn't wet himself." Cawdor ended the link and curled up on the couch.