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JL | Cmdr Valeese, LtCmdr Stacker | "So Long Cruel World" pt II/II

Posted on Sat Jan 19th, 2019 @ 9:01pm by Commander Valeese Stacker

Mission: Lacuna

The words broke the spell: a polite verbal rap on the side of his head that brought him back to the here and now. A cramped reconnaissance vessel with no privacy and thin bulkheads. Not a Sovereign or an old Galaxy with their myriad assortment of varied compartments and rooms with armor-clad bulkheads. As reality assumed its rightful place he mentally shook himself like a dog emerging from water; the aftermath of his spasm of madness was flung away to slink back to where it had arisen from. "Yes, thank you." Thankfully the words came out on a considerably more even keel, compared to mere minutes before. He was himself again. But how much longer can I keep this up he asked himself, as he glanced down to his hands on the tabletop.

Nodding, she ordered up two cups of green tea, heavy on the honey, and returned to her seat. His cup was passed over, pushed by one small fingertip across the table to where his hands sat empty. It was another small reminder that had she not gotten up and fetched tea, their discretion would have been thrown out the window and those hands... Well... It was best not to think about it if she wanted to remain in the role of 'detached doctor'. "You're welcome. I've been told that your ancient Eastern cultures believe that certain teas hold medicinal qualities. Frankly I've just found them to be really quite soothing." An ear twitched towards the not too distant sound of boots scuffing along the thin carpet in the corridors beyond. A soft, barely perceptible sound, but one she picked up on none-the-less. Whoever it was was tired, likely coming off duty and in search of mid-rats before climbing into bed. A reminder that they were never truly alone. "Not to say that herbal medicine doesn't have its merits." Valeese flashed Stacker a small smile about the same time their privacy came to a halt, "Anyway, the combination of tea and honey should help soothe your throat. Maybe keep a store of hard candies available for when you're liable to be in a situation where you're barking orders and screaming obscenities and slurs about 'zombies'. Pretty good practice to follow."

He made a thoughtful sound, eyes darting to the peripheral motion that flagged both his interest and resentment. Had he been a more junior officer - perhaps a very-inexperienced one - a verbal tongue-lashing would have no doubt been unleashed. As mission commander, however, that was not only poor form but also in poor taste. He turned his attention back to the tea and lifted the cup, sipping at it and letting the soothing properties swish down his throat again. Words only came when it was most of the way back to the plate.

"Doctor, this is a starship. One doesn't carry around a supply of hard candies in their pocket. Not unless they wish to have the bridge crew sniffing the air and wondering why the compartment smells of peppermint. Not that that's the worst thing to have ever happened," he admitted as practiced fingers lifted the cup again. Steam and the scent of green tea caressed his face. Ideally not a bad way to spend a night. Even one that had nearly derailed as badly as this one had come perilously close to doing. A subtle chill ran down his spine as reality savagely intruded and sent the fog scurrying from his mind.

"Then opt for butterscotch." The eyebrow went up again, "And for the record, no one would really give a greater damn were you to have a peppermint." Valeese scoffed, and tucked back into her cup. Anyone watching, especially the bleary eyed... Whatever-the-man-was... would likely never have guessed that the two were anything more than sharing a cup of tea and trying to remain friendly instead of hostile - especially given their current line of conversation. Sadly, the little ship just wouldn't lend itself to much of anything else. The Campbeltown was suddenly her very least favorite of all of Starfleet's vessels.

Had he known her sudden feeling on the subject of the ship, he would have been both amused and in full and wholehearted agreement. This ship was good for many things. On the subject of 'personal recreation,' however ... it was sorely lacking. Small wonder her missions were typically short-duration, he suddenly realized as epiphany struck. Too long-duration a mission and resentment would breed in all corners. Jealousy, hatred, madness of the sort that had nearly struck him down. Sympathy for the crew welled up in his mind before subsiding as soon as it had come. He focused in again on her. "Really? Smells travel rather swiftly through that bridge. I can just imagine it now: nine people all sniffing the air and wondering where the smell was coming from." The corners of his mouth quirked in amusement. A silent part of his mind pleaded for the interloper to leave. Wisely, however, he kept his fingers glued to the sides of the cup and forced them to remain relaxed.

With a contrite roll of her eyes, the Vorta huffed a sigh and leveled her gaze on the spook sat across from her, "I said carry hard candy, not pass gas. No one's going to care if you need a lozenge." It seemed quite simple, at least to her. Granted, she wasn't exactly situated hot on the bridge and definitely had the luxury of her own private office tucked away out of nose-shot of whoever or whatever might have cared that she enjoyed a peppermint while working, "If you're feeling guilty, you can share. I've heard that sharing is caring."

His chest rose up and head dropped slightly, much like the way certain religious figures in ancient Earth's history were portrayed in the various historical dramas. "I prefer to think of it as the ancient and well-established tradition of bribery," he piously intoned. "Thou shalt bribe the bridge crew with hard candy. So sayeth the book of Starfleet." A moment later he realized the interloper had stiffened at the replicator, no doubt having heard the words. Has to be a junior crewmember, he thought to himself as he relaxed his posture back to its normal, comfortable, way of being at ease. Fingers wrapped around the handle and lifted the cup to his lips. He eyed the back of the still-unknown individual across the rim as he took a sip.

"You know what I just heard?" Valeese queried, choosing not to pay attention to their unwitting third wheel, "I heard 'blah blah blah, excuses excuses, blah blah blah... Starfleet. You really should listen to medical professionals. Some of us actually know what we're doing, oh mighty grey collar, it's a true story. Follow the clues and you'll be able to see for yourself." To any one who didn't know them, and no one truly did, it may have seemed as if they'd caught one another up in a battle of wits or some other form of mocking irritation in which buttons were pushed - and it seemed likely. She was the general persona non-gratta of Starfleet and he was a great big giant Marine turned Ghost. It worked. If only that was all that was there. Beneath the surface the line of flirtatious fuckery ran deep and she'd simply found another way to push buttons that shouldn't be pushed while the two of them remained aboard that particular Gods forsaken ship.

From the way the amusement seemed to dance around his eyes, he seemed to be acutely conscious of the game she was playing. But it really was no great surprise: spend enough time with someone and you eventually get used to their ways. The words, the hidden innuendos, the behaviors and mannerisms. The way the light hit them. The scent of - He coughed, abruptly aware that he was on the verge of going down a rabbit hole which he'd barely skated past once before. That gave way to another sip of tea, before he replied. "It sounds as if the next installment in the Starfleet Medical textbook is already written. Prescriptions of hard candy as standard-issue to all Starfleet personnel. Discarded plastic wrappers everywhere. But on the bright side - no more people getting lost. Follow the wrappers to get back to civilization." The corner of his mouth was quirked upwards in amusement.

"I know it's hard to believe that there could be anything better than a freshly molded crayon to soothe your ills, Commander, but the rest of civilization recycles the empty wrappers." She scoffed sharply, wriggling her fingers as if to dismiss an idiotic notion or something else as equally displeasing, "The use of throat lozenges has been implemented for thousands upon thousands of years, if we want to get technical, the use of tea is more or less in the same class." Her words, she realized, were downright disdainful - but just perfectly so and just enough to disguise the way her own lips curled in mirth before she hid behind her tea cup.

He snorted in half-part amusement, half-part feigned irritation. "There are times that I believe the crayon is an improvement over the lozenge, Commander. At least the paper is edible. Waste not, want not, as they say. No recycling even necessary to begin with." The cup waggled in her direction before being set down with a barely-audible clinking on the plate. "Maybe they should make edible wrappers for lozenges. A case of the Marines teaching something to the rest of the Federation."

"They did," She retorted with a smirk, "It prompted Terran teenagers to start consuming washing fluid back in the twenty-first century. Of course you could always replicate them without the wrapper, you know." With the intruder slowly skulking off from the replicator, it didn't take much for Valeese to realize said person was most definitely listening to their little banter. Her ears disappeared into her hair and her nose wrinkled with a roll of her eyes that said, simply, that play time was over as her cup met its own saucer and her legs unfolded. "I'll leave you with that thought, Commander, do try and enjoy your evening." She offered with a half-hearted two fingered feigned salute as she got to her feet and moved to recycle her cup.

It didn't take more than a few seconds for him to process what had happened, to localize the source of their troubles, and to express his own opinion on the subject. Under pressure his lips compacted into a thin line. His brow squatted lower, eyebrows bristling as those perceptive eyes swung to peripherally regard the intruder. It was gone almost as fast as it had appeared though; within mere seconds things outwardly appeared to be much the same as they had been before. His voice was even - shockingly - still quite level.

The chair scraped the floor as he stood up and followed her to the replicator. Her own cup was just shimmering and disappearing in a hum of energy when he got there. "Yes, you as well Commander. Really, Terran teenagers and washing fluid," he added in a far lower tone, muttering to himself as the plate and cup slid into the open receptacle. "Who the hell thought that was a good idea."

"Apparently the teenagers." She sniffed smugly in response, casting a quick smile and wink at him from over her shoulder as she began to beat her hasty retreat - a cheeky reminder that her ears were perhaps the finest tuned listening instruments he'd ever encountered... And that was saying a lot given the nature of his work. All the while it left her giddy and a touch flushed even though her eyes flashed displeasure in the direction of he who had killed her evening fun.

He watched her go - to the point where looking in her direction any longer might constitute staring. Tearing his eyes away from the sight was one of the more difficult things he'd had to do in recent weeks, but he did it anyway. It brought with it an acute feeling of personal loss. Like he'd given up on something beautiful. Unfortunately there would be no further sight of her tonight: his quarters were in a different direction and a wholly-different area of the admittedly-cramped starship.

As he started moving that way a thought came to mind. I really need to get the hell off this fucking tin can. It almost made him smile.


Commander Valeese
Chief Medical Officer

Lt Commander James Stacker
Chief Intelligence Officer


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