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Backpost: A matter of taste part 2

Posted on 08 Aug 2021 @ 11:50pm by Lieutenant Avery Stuart Ph.D. & Lieutenant Commander Arjin Djinx

Mission: Extinction
Location: Chief Science’s Private quarters
Timeline: Mission Day 0 at Afte

As the drinks began to need a refill, Arjin decided it was a good time as any to go to table.

“Let’s continue this at the table, shall we? Is there anything you are allergic to before I get us our food?”, he offered.

Avery was enjoying the company and the conversation and found herself becoming more relaxed overtime with the help of the drink and the casual chat. She was so caught up in just getting to know Arjin, she had almost forgotten about dinner entirely. Answering his question, she shook her head. "I don't have any food allergies."

“That’s good.”, he replied whilst walking over to the replicator. After a few instructions, two plates with a blend of diverse Andoran seafood and seaweed came to be. The flavor being a bit more subtle than Earth varieties, the textures more crispy and the overall look a bit strange with all the blue and purple colors.

He took them over to the table and sat one before the Counselor, then one at his side.
“You want water with this or non alcoholic wine?”, he asked her.

"Water, please," Avery replied. Having already had a drink, she figured water would cleanse her pallet and allow her to take in the taste of the seafood. "This looks delicious," Avery remarked, "and quite exotic."

Arjin nodded. “Water it is then. And I suppose it is exotic. I hope you like it.” He went to replicate a carafe with some ice water and poured it into the glasses on the table before sitting down again. “Bon appetit.”, he said.

"Thank you," Avery replied, beginning to dig into her food. It occurred to her then the chief science officer would perhaps have tried a larger variety of foods compared to her, and for all she knew, this meal was more routine for him than anything. "I guess I should say it's exotic for me. I love seafood, but haven't gotten up the courage to try too many things for fear I wouldn't like it. I know it may sound weird in the age of replicators, but my father never wanted us to waste food and wasn't too happy if we didn't eat what we took."

“It is not like it is common food for me either.”, Arjin replied after having taken a first bite. “But it isn’t new to me either. I like to try something new from time to time. This is easily done since if you don’t like it, it can be recycled with the replicator. So no harm done.” He took a sip of the ice water before continuing. "And I suppose forcing children to eat what is on the table is a valid method of education. It serve a purpose to get them to eat healthy. But again fathers and being happy with their children.... “

"It's complicated," Avery replied softly, wistfully. Of course, that was a diplomatic way of describing her relationship with her father, whose insistence that she eat what was given to her was part of his pattern of power and control over her and her mother. Violence was also part of her childhood, but she pushed the thought away, not wanting to spoil her mood or give him the impression he had done or said anything wrong. "This is nice," she said frightening. "I can't recall the last time I had dinner with someone. I usually eat surrounded by work or watching mindless vids to decompress."

Arjin recognized a change of topic as good as anyone else. He decided to let it slide. “All work and no play makes for a dull day.”, he replied. “So what kind of vids do you watch then without using your mind?”

Avery dabbed at her lips with her napkin before looking sheepish, smiling awkwardly, her cheeks tinged with a hint of red. "I love to watch the galactic soaps, the cheesier and more outrageous the better." At the risk of losing any more face than she already had by the admission, she added, "I guess it's a release to observe someone's fictional problems and not feel any obligation to fix them."

“I suppose it is. Certainly in you’re line of work. And a plus is that you can miss some episodes and still quickly pick up again.”, he smiled. “Do holonovel romans fall in the same category?”, he added tilting his head a bit.

The counselor chuckled. "It sounds like you watch them too if you know how quickly you can catch up if you haven't watched in a while," she said, wiggling her finger at him. Avery shook her head. "I don't blame you for thinking I'd be into romance because I like the galactic soaps, but the truth is, the romance is the least of what I enjoy. I just like the drama, the family stories, and the campiness is a nice escape. After the time we've had of it lately, I take the opportunity to decompress as much as I can. What about you? Do you want to disclose any guilty pleasures now that I've shown you mine?"

“Well I do spend a lot of time reading those romantic Holonovels.”, he replied after having taken a bite from his seafood. “And my last two lovers were Betazoid. But I don’t know if that counts as a guilty pleasure.”

Avery had taken a bite of her own meal as she awaited his answer and she managed to stifle another chuckle so she didn't choke on her food. His answer completely surprised her. "That certainly sounds more interesting than what I shared. I am impressed by anyone who can maintain such a relationship and stay on top of the heavier workload that can come with a senior leadership position in any department. I guess now that there's a new counselor aboard I can investigate what it might be to have more of a personal life."

“It is not that impressive. It is just a matter of prioritizing your work an del... Wait a second.”, he stopped with his fork pointing towards the Counselor. “What did you just say about a new counselor.”

Suddenly feeling as if she said something wrong, she hesitated before offering, "Lieutenant T'Mari. From what I understand, she is here to take Tivan's place. I was under the impression it was just going to be me for a while and counseling services were going to be folded under the medical department, but I guess someone decided against that." She pushed her food around her plate for a moment, not quite sure what she had stumbled into.

Arjin ate the food on his fork before answering. That gave him time to think about what he’s was going to say. “I am sorry for you.”, he finally said. “Is she another Vulcan? Really after the last debacle?”

Avery didn't quite know what to say when he said he was sorry for her. On the one hand, she appreciated someone recognizing how she might feel about these latest developments, but on the other hand she felt guilty for even giving voice to her surprise and disappointment. She believed in herself and knew she wouldn't be aboard if she wasn't
good at what she did, but after all they had been through, she just wanted some predictability. "I don't think it would be fair to judge an entire race based on the actions of one person," Avery pointed out. "From what I understand, T'Mari is Vulcan and Betazoid. I think we have a better chance of getting someone in touch with her emotions. Naturally, I'm going to do whatever I can to support the crew. As surprised as I was, I know I don't have the power to make these decisions and it would be unfair to make it all about me. I'd be lying, though, if I didn't say I was a little disappointed, and I appreciate that you recognize that."

“Of course you are. That is natural. And you are right. I should not judge an entire race based on the acts of one person.”
Finishing his plate, he added “Vulcan and Betazoid huh. That seems like an interesting combination.”

Taking her last bite and absorbing what she had just shared, Avery nodded. "I was surprised too, but it's not the most exotic combination I've ever heard either. I am reminded Vulcans have emotions, they just work to suppress them." Still, Betazoids were some of the most emotional beings in the universe, so she couldn't imagine representatives from either species would have much in common, but then again, opposites did attract. "From what I've read of her personnel file, she seems more suited for actual clinical work. It's funny," she added with a chuckle, "when Tivan came, all I wanted was for someone to help share the workload. Now that I have that, I have such complicated feelings."

“So this helps you to figure out what you yourself want then. That is a plus. And it might give you some more time to relax.”, Arjin added. “Maybe I should look forward to an encounter with a fourth Counselor in a short time.”

Avery smiled. She genuinely appreciated Arjin's ability to see the bright side of her complicated emotions. "You make a very good point," Stuart replied. "As for looking forward to another encounter with a counselor, I don't see the harm in such an attitude. After all, we are all just people trying to make our way."

“Yes and as I have been told countless times. It is not the destination, but the voyage that is what counts. Supposedly”, he added whilst he took the empty plates towards the replicator for recycling.

“So. Desert.”, he added with as childish grin. “What do we have? What do you take? And which drink you want with it?”

Avery's expression went from reflective to delighted at the mention of dessert. "I brought lots of chocolate things, including pieces of triple fudge cake, which is what I'll take with just ice water, please. Besides chocolate desserts, I included several fruit tarts and pies, as I wasn't sure what you would like."

Arjin smiled and put a piece of something he hoped was triple fudge cake on a plate. It looked like something triple to him. He settled on a strawberry pie with whipped cream. He went to the replicator for a new glas of fresh cold water and another glass with sparking but highly mineralized water called “Vichy” he had become to appreciate.
“Enjoy”, he said before sitting down.

"Thank you," Avery replied politely, letting the silence fall between them for a few moments as she took a bite of her confection, a combination of chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, and chocolate pieces. She nodded approvingly before swallowing and dabbing at her mouth with a napkin. "This is every bit as good as I remember. How's yours?"

“Fruity and tasteful. Like it should be.”, he replied. “I see you are liking yours very much. Do I detect another guilty pleasure there Counselor?”

Avery's smile came easily. "Absolutely. I know it's not terribly original, but I consider chocolate to be its own food group."

“One you don’t have to kill before eating either.”, he added. “What about Ice Cream? Many Humans have a craving to that as well.”

His answer was so unexpected and struck Avery as being incredibly funny, she had to suppress her laughter to keep from spitting out her dessert and embarrassing herself during what had otherwise been a lovely evening. Swallowing quickly, she wiped her mouth, and then said, "I've never had a love of chocolate put quite that way. To answer your question, I love ice cream too and in a perfect world, there's such a thing as ice cream cake that combines two of my favorite things in one dessert."

“So besides the obvious chocolate ice cream flavor? What are your other favorites?”, he inquired further. Ignoring the almost misdirection of the trajectory of the dessert could have taken when she answered.

Were this a counseling session, Avery would consider him a master at deflection with the strangest detours, but since it was a personal endeavor, she found herself more curious by his curiosity. "My favorite was chocolate chip mint or strawberry as a kid. My mother used to give it to me after she and my father were to fight." This was almost an afterthought, but now that the words were out of her mouth, Avery looked up and shrugged. "I guess you could say I ate a lot of ice cream."

Arjin reflected on the Counselors words before answering. “Because of your parents fighting?”, he decided to ask. “Or just because you like it so much?”

Avery had not intended to share such personal information, but he had made her feel so comfortable, she found herself sharing with only a mild sense of awkwardness. She knew she had to provide an explanation, if only to avoid appearing any more melodramatic than she might have already appeared by considering leaving such a statement at that. "My father was physically and emotionally abusive toward my mother. She always gave me ice cream after one of their explosive altercations. It was her way of trying to distract me from the things I witnessed."

“I am sorry to hear that.”, Arjin answered. “Children should not witness that. And no one should have to undergo that.” He pondered further. “Emotional abuse can make far worse wounds than physical abuse do.”

Avery nodded. "I agree with you. At the same time, I don't think I would be the woman I am today, caring about the sorts of issues I do if I had not had those experiences. As stressful as our recent events have been, I think some part of me has always been built to stay calm in a crisis and work to hold everything and everyone together." She shook her head. "I'm not sure if I'm making any sense."

“You do. It is what we are trained for in Starfleet. But you got your part of that training a different way. “

"I suppose that's a better way to look at it," she agreed with a nod. She paused, then offered, "Thank you for dinner. I hope we can do it again sometime. For now, I suppose I should get going and let you enjoy the rest of your evening."

“Off course. If you like we can do it again. Thank you for coming over.”

As she stood, Avery offered the Chief Science Officer one last sincere smile. "Anytime."


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