Meditation was proving difficult this evening. Try as he might, the upper levels continued to elude him. He turned his focus to the root cause. He just couldn’t get the incident out of his mind. He had sensed something when steadying Nurse Chapel after their unfortunate collision in the corridor earlier today—something he had felt, six years ago, from Leila. The tips of his ears flushed green, his cheeks becoming hot with embarrassment, and regret, as he remembered that long-ago conference the two of them had attended in Salzburg, Austria, and the unwitting part he had played in the emotional wounding of that young woman. Wounds she had suffered at his hands, all because understanding the complexities of the female human heart had escaped him. Much as he had tried to make peace with what had happened, he was still haunted by the experience, and the pain he had caused her.
Surely this situation was different. He had to be misreading it. They weren’t even acquainted—on any level—before this afternoon. Some human emotions, especially those dealing with love and affection, were still difficult for him to comprehend, particularly when directed at him.
The shock he’d sensed when he’d grasped the nurse’s arm to help keep her on her feet, the quickening of her heartbeat, the sharp intake of breath, the dilation of her pupils—all had to be due to their collision, he was certain. The feelings radiating from her couldn’t possibly be romantic in nature. She had signed on as a member of the crew with the intention of locating her fiancé, which would certainly preclude her from having anything other than a professional interest in him. It had to simply have been due to her completely understandable embarrassment at literally running into a superior officer. To her mind, surely a poor start to her first day aboard the Enterprise.
When he’d spoken with her briefly in the mess hours later she had seemed calm, collected, the epitome of composed professionalism. None of the earlier discomfiture, or uncertainty, had been evident, either visually or rolling off of her in tactile waves.
Eyes closed, he shook his head slightly, as if that action would wipe the unfamiliar sensations and unpleasant memories from his conscious mind. Learning of her background in bio-research, he had offered to let her assist him with several ongoing experiments in the lab. He would keep that commitment, and over the course of the next few weeks, would surely come to realize that his initial assessment of her had been pure folly.