Voyager is still in the Delta Quadrant, since I prefer to ignore Endgame. As you can probably figure out, both Naomi and Icheb are now Starfleet Officers, though admittedly not very high up ones.
Note: Icheb is only a Lieutenant Junior Grade, but no one is going to call their friend that mouthful.
"Remind me again why you won't just come up here?" Naomi conscientiously moved the appropriate piece before giving him a Face.
He smirked. "I can't just leave in the middle of a calibration. I have to be here to make sure the data's all in order."
"Yeah, and I can see how busy you are with data. Y'know, I took time off for this. You said, 'Hey Naomi, we haven't seen much of each other, let's hang out.'" she complained, interrupting her tirade to announce her move. "So I foolishly assume you're actually going to visit me. You know, maybe take me out to dinner or something? But no, you call me up and say 'Why don't we play Kadis-Kot?' I could have done this in a holodeck with a picture of you and some decent AI." She could feel her annoyance rising dangerously. When she was this angry she tended to act first and regret later.
She didn't disappoint her anger. Standing, she posed in front of the screen. "I even dressed up nicely," she griped, turning full circle, "Apparently so I could talk to a computer screen. I hope the computer appreciates this."
Icheb had a very strange expression. She was too busy mental reprimanding her stupid, stupid tongue to notice.
"Oh," said Icheb.
"Yeah. Oh," she snarled, "So, Lieutenant, I would be terribly obliged if you would get your officer arse up here and feed me and actually have a real conversation with me. Red 8-14." She didn't really care that she'd taken two turns. Whatever small part of her mind not focused on fury (either directed at him or at her mindless mouth) thought that another turn was the least he could give her.
"…I suppose, for the safety of the ship, I should not further anger Ensign Wildman," he said slowly.
"No, you shouldn't. I would highly advise, in fact, against angering Ensign Wildman," she agreed through clenched teeth.
"I will be there in half an hour."
"Half an hour?"
"I need to find a cadet to press into service."
"Fine. You know where I am."
Thirty-four minutes later (not that she was counting), the door buzzed at her.
She stormed over, having kept her rage at a rolling boil just for him.
He was wearing his formal uniform, and holding a bouquet of Cypripediums as though they were about to stab him.
"I must apologize for the choice of flower," was how he greeted her, which admittedly was not what she had been expecting, "But they were the best in the hydroponics bay. They will not last long, I'm afraid."
"Oh- well… thank you." They were blushingly bustled into a replicated vase of water.
"I could not reserve any holodeck time at such short notice," he said as Naomi absently arranged the flowers, "So I'm afraid we will have to make do with whatever we can replicate at the mess hall."
"That's fine. I'm not that dressed up."
He offered another smirk. "Excellent. Then shall we?"
They shalled all the way to the mess hall.
Typical, she thought, as they relaxed on the couches after a very satisfying (if ever so slightly awkward) dinner. She was sprawled all over the cushions, but he was sitting, seemingly as comfortable as anything, with a straight back and hands folded on one knee.
"What I still don't understand," she said after a time of silently admiring the passing stars, "Is how two good friends onboard one tiny ship see so little of each other."
What might have almost been called a smile crossed his lips as he turned to her. "I keep inviting you to assist me in the Jefferies tubes, but you consistently decline."
Naomi's brow crinkled around her horns as she glared. "Getting sweaty and exhausted in a place you can't even sit upright in doesn't sound like bonding to me."
"Well, it's not my problem if you cannot recognize fun when you see it," he smirked, returning his gaze to the windows.
Three days later she would finally realize, to her extreme dismay, all the innuendo she let fly past her without comment.
"Ensign Wildman, report to fifth intersect, Jefferies tube sixteen immediately," Icheb ordered from her combadge. They'd both been terribly busy, but had managed to see each other at least once a week. The last two weeks, though, they'd barely caught a glance of each other. It was nice to hear his voice.
"Yes sir," she told the badge with a smile, "Anything I should bring? A phaser, perhaps? I can only assume that there's a Tribble invasion – why else would you call me down there?"
"A dessert would be advisable. I tried making Ktarian pudding, but… my replicator needs replacing now."
"I've never heard of using Ktarian pudding as a weapon against Tribbles. Is sugar toxic to them? I suppose with all their sweetness any more would probably cause them to explode."
"Well if you'd prefer to have a phaser for dessert, I won't complain. I was hoping for something a bit… tastier, though."
"Alright, alright. What are you wearing?" Argh, why did you ask that? This isn't a date or anything, he's just inviting you to eat, arrrrgh.
There was a pause, and then, his voice edged with laughter, Icheb replied, "I don't make dirty com calls, Ensign Wildman."
Whoa. Well, that changed the whole game. No it didn't, it was just a joke, stop taking everything so seriously, will you?
"You know darn well what I meant. I'm not accustomed to the dress code for meals in Jefferies tubes."
"Well…" There was a pause. "…I would advise something cool."
His hair wasn't ruffled. He had sweat dripping down his temple (masterful work by the Doctor, she thought, and then added quickly his sweat, not his temple in case her thoughts got any ideas), his cheeks were flushed, and he was stripped down to his undershirt, but not a hair was out of place.
"I'm impressed, Lieutenant," she said as she put her dessert next to a pile of corn cobs, "But why do you have our food spread out on bedclothes?"
"It is an Earth custom to have outdoor meals on a red, plaid blanket."
"Now I hate to have to remind you of this, but we're not outdoors."
"We are certainly not in a usual place to eat, and as the outdoors is not a typical eating place, I extended the custom."
"How terribly logical. Um… I have to ask this, and I do hate being such a nit-picker, but why are you using an Earth custom?"
"You are half-Human, and I could not find any Ktari customs that would fit in here."
She shrugged and sat down opposite him. Between them was a meal fit for outdoor-eating kings.
"Very sensible. I must say, Icheb, this looks delicious."
"I hope it is. I'm starving."
"How did you get all this down here?"
He nodded towards a wicker basket next to the ladder. "I had to fit it all in there."
"Another Earth custom?"
"But this is way too much to all fit in there."
"Yes, well… I had to make several trips. It does not seem the most efficient means of transporting food, but I thought I should keep with the spirit of things."
She smiled at him. "Well, I appreciate all the effort you've put into this. What were you doing down here before I interrupted?"
"I was fighting valiantly against a faulty connection… besides, you didn't interrupt me. I called you, after all."
"You did indeed, and made me a lovely lunch to boot. Did you win against the faulty connection?"
"I… decided to let it ponder the error of its ways."
This elicited a full-blown grin from the already giddy Ensign. "I see. Well then, shall we let it consider its erroneous path for a little longer?"
They let the connection think of its many faults far longer than it really needed.
"That was lovely, Icheb. Thanks for going to all this work."
His lips stretched out into a long smile, which was as close to a grin as he ever got. "Of course. For you, any time."
Luckily it was warm down here, so her cheeks were already flushed. "Hah, why thank you. I'll keep you to that."
There was a pause which felt as though it ought to be quite awkward, but she couldn't quite place why.
"Naomi…" he began finally.
"I… I have researched the cultural habits of Humans and Ktarians in some depth, but I could not find any guidelines for this…" He sought desperately for the right word. "…procedure?"
"Procedure?" Her forehead was twinging from the tension. It had absolutely no reason to twinge, because he was talking about lunch, she was… sure of it.
"Er… Naomi… we've been friends for a very long time, and I… consider you… very…"
A grimace fought with the fear on his face.
"What is it?" she asked worriedly, leaning unconsciously towards him.
"Very… dear to me. I was wondering –I am wondering… you see, I'd like…"
She knew what he was going to ask, but was utterly unable to believe it. At any rate, she certainly wasn't going to risk suggesting it, and then have it turn out that he just wanted to borrow some replicator rations.
"I like you."
Stifling a broad grin in favor of an understanding smile, she told herself he didn't mean it like that and said, "I know. You're a very dear friend to me, too."
"No," he moaned, shaking his head, "That's not what I meant. I… you're more than just a friend, Naomi."
Her face dropped in shock, and he completely misread the emotions behind the drop. "I 'm sorry. I should have waited-"
Something that would have been a giggle if it hadn't come from a Starfleet officer escaped Naomi's lips.
"I… I'm glad you didn't," she said softly.
Comprehension slowly dawned on her charming Lieutenant's face.
"Oh yes. In fact, I'm delighted you didn't." Another not-really-a-giggle sounded.
His smile parted to reveal teeth, and he let out a laugh. "Really?"
She laughed too. "Yes, Lieutenant, really."
"I-…" He leaned forward, but realized that these star-crossed lovers were seperated by a pile of dirty dishes.
Obligingly, she rose to her feet and came to sit by his side. Without a word she rested her cheek on his shoulder and looked up at him.
"This is comfortable," he said quietly, nervously putting his arm around her shoulders.
"Very comfortable," she agreed, drawing her knees up to her chest.
They savored the novel proximity for a while.
"So… I think you were going to do something," Naomi prompted from near his ear.
With a grin, he craned his head around and leaned closer.
He rubbed his nasal ridge.
"Sorry," she chuckled, tilting her head. Watching her horns in case they attacked him again, he tried again.
Some say it is hard to romance a woman with horns, but Icheb found a way.