The moment Icheb had been anxiously awaiting had finally arrived. The Doctor had once described the abdominal disturbance he was experiencing as “butterflies,” but today, if he had to compare the sensation to a creature in flight, it would be an eagle soaring at dizzying heights.
As he grabbed hold of Maren’s hand and helped her up over the final ledge of their daylong climb to the top of Galartha, it occurred to him that perhaps it was due to the location – it was a long way down. He had to admit there was a small part of him that was surprised they had actually made it to the peak, considering how difficult it had been to navigate the constantly-shifting vertical landscape of the enormous rock.
Evidently, Maren felt the same way. As she scrambled to her feet and steadied herself, she turned and flashed him a wide grin of equal parts pride and disbelief. “We did it!” she exclaimed, beaming. She looked back down at the undulating cliffside below them and her eyes widened fractionally. “We really did it,” she repeated, a note of awe creeping into her voice.
Icheb watched as she shifted her gaze from the now-conquered rock to Suraya Bay beyond. She gasped softly as she took in the view of its crystal-clear waters, lush garden islands, sleek yachts, and gleaming resorts. Above them, the sky was a brilliant blue, dotted with only a few wispy pink clouds. “Wow,” she murmured. “It’s true what they say. Holos don’t do it justice. Don’t you think?”
Distracted by the view, she hadn’t noticed that Icheb had dropped to his knees. Her contented smile gave way to a surprised frown when she failed to find him at eye level. Then her whole face screwed up in confusion as she noticed nearby tourists smiling at the ground beside her. She looked down …
… and gasped.
Icheb was dimly aware that a crowd of strangers was staring at them, just as he recognized in a distant way that the view behind Maren was indeed one of the most beautiful he had ever seen. Still, he thought it paled in comparison to Maren. He watched intently, memorizing each millisecond of the moment as her eyes grew wide, her cheeks paled slightly, and she lifted the slender fingers of one hand to cover her lips as she drew a breath and held it.
Icheb met her gaze, locking his eyes on hers. “You’re right, it is beautiful,” he said, his voice steady even though his heart was pounding harder than his Borg enhancements could compensate for. “But not as beautiful as you.”
Slowly, deliberately, he unzipped the chest pocket of his climbing vest and took out a small velvet box. He opened it and held it out to her, revealing the delicate ring inside.
An excited murmur went through the crowd, and Maren began to cry.
Holding her gaze, Icheb took a deep breath.
“Maren Siobhan O’Connor, will you marry me?”