Jaws dropped. Silence fell, and then the noise resumed with a sudden overzealous clatter of cutlery as people tried to eat, watch the pair in the doorway, and appear not to be looking all at once. There were a few choked giggles as the tall, black-clad mage picked up a tray and moved solemnly through the serving line, and several wide-eyed glances as he sat with Dureena and began to eat.

Dureena missed none of it. "You don't eat here often, I take it." There was a slight edge in her voice as she matched a nearby table stare for stare. They took the hint.

"I generally take my meals on my ship," Galen replied mildly. He glanced around, and several people hastily began to eat, as if that was what they had been doing all along. "I've been told that some of the crew believe I subsist on solar energy rather than food." His raised eyebrows invited her to share in his amusement at the idea.

Dureena snorted with laughter, the tension that had been rising in her diffused. "Where did you hear that?"

"Doctor Chambers has quite a talent for hearing shipboard rumors, and she seems to have decided that repeating them to me makes me a more biddable patient." He went on to regale her with some of the more outré rumors, the recitation of which carried them all the way through breakfast, even lengthened as it was by laughter. As Galen wound down, a familiar voice spoke from behind them.

"Mind if I join you?" Gideon plopped his tray down before they could reply and pulled up a chair. "The mess seems to be awfully full today. I can't imagine why- it doesn't seem like anybody's eating." This last was delivered at rather higher volume than the rest, and was obviously directed at a table of junior officers who were now blatantly craning to see. All four heads suddenly lowered as they concentrated fiercely on their trays--their empty trays. Gideon grunted in satisfaction. "Seems you two have been making quite a stir." He dug into his egg substitute with enthusiasm. "So, is it really true that the ensigns believe I breathe fire?" he asked around a mouthful.

From The Authoress:

Hello, my dears! It has been a long time since we last spoke, hasn't it?

Well, I'm afraid I bring bad news as well as good, so I'll give you the bad first: Secret Soul is on hiatus for the foreseeable future. This scene has been knocking around on my hard drive for at least a year now with no progress in sight, even though I love it. I honestly have no clue where I was going with this when I started it 5 years ago, and with one thing and another, figuring out where to go with it now isn't very high on my priorities list.

The good news is that one of the things that is keeping me from working on Secret Soul (besides the research papers and the finishing up my A.A. degree and applying to colleges so I can get my B.A. and picking one and going through all the falderol associated with becoming a college student again) is The Drift of Stars. It is my baby, and apparently all of my other Crusade fanfic plots are incapable of escaping its gravitational pull. And seriously, I will finish it. Eventually. The end is, in fact, already written--we are now merely filling in the space in my outline that is filled with notes like "crew meets C&A", "something exciting happens here", "what about a sword fight?", and "people fall in love". You can see why this chapter is slow going, but it is going now that the research papers have been handed over to their respective fates.