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[Round 2] This Is a Date? This Isn't a Date...


kvdbreem
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JP: Lieutenant J.G. Kevin Breeman & Ensign Zita Sesilia - "This Is a Date? This Isn't a Date..."

((USS Independence-A, Ventral Module, Deck 15, Hydroponics))

Zita: So, um... oO What's he feeling? I know that guy down the lane is very interested in the girl he's here with, but... Oo are you fond of foliage?

::What could this question mean? Foliage. The word was almost alien, a more sophisticated term from a level of abstraction Kevin had left behind on his downward plunge into his own fears over the course of the past few minutes. Fear didn't need language or abstract phraseology. They were plants. That was it. But they could help. Yes. Stare at the foliage. No! He couldn't do that. If he did that he would lose the contest he was having with himself Could he face his fears of meeting a woman, of being rejected by her? For him dating had been some sort of activity that only the 'normal' people did, not him. Dating? Who had said anything about dating?::

||The question served two purposes for the Invernian. First, it was a distraction, meant to buy her time to read him emotionally. Second, it was exactly what it seemed, an honest attempt to get him to tell her why she'd been invited here instead of somewhere else. Did he like staring at slow-growing flora? By the time he'd answered, though, she'd almost forgotten the second purpose. His emotions were proving quite... perplexing. If he were Invernian, she guessed he'd have been a mix of dark greens, blues, and purples. He seemed to be feeling 10 things at once, not to mention the way he was acting physically, as though unsure whether he was allowed to look at her or not. All of these signs seemed to point to one source: trepidation... which lead to trepidation on her account - not because she couldn't keep her emotions separate from his, but because she didn't know how to interpret it other than by assuming that he thought this was a zohai (roughly translated "date")...||

Breeman: Well, I thought it was an interesting exhibit.

::Idiot. She asked about foliage. No, wait. He couldn't think like that either. He had to... Wait... Was he actually being honest? So far he'd checked himself repeatedly in the presence of a woman who would be able to feel his own emotions. Would she detect duplicity? Or would she detect honesty? Was his saving face in front of himself a lie or an expression of strength? What impact was the performance of this curious inner battle having on her perception of him? Now he was philosophizing.::

||Bizarrely, what appeared on the surface to be a simple (if subtly non-sequitur) response elicited in him a flutter of doubt and self-verification. It was as if he didn't trust himself. This too suggested to Sesilia that she had somehow given him the wrong impression. Feeling unsure of how to fix it and even a bit defeated, she turned deep violet. Somehow, though, she managed to hang on to some form of surface self-assurance, at least physically.||

Zita: Well, I'm actually somewhat familiar with the exhibit already. See, I was part of the crew assigned to oversee the beam over from the station's Arboretum.

||She hadn't meant it to slip in there, but in her mind at least what she was really saying was, "this exhibit seemed boring to me even before I got down here just now," but she desperately hoped he wouldn't pick up on that.||

::Perhaps small talk would calm him down a bit. After all, the deep violet looked like a good sign.::

Breeman: Really? Did you arrange it as well?

Zita: No. That was up to our hydroponics crews and the crews from the station. I just made sure we beamed over everything on their list.

Breeman: Interesting. Do you like foliage?

::Really it wasn't interesting. In fact, he was falling into old habits and mannerisms. Interesting was a generic word like 'like' or 'hem' or 'fantastic'. It was one of those words that one commonly inserted into a conversation the way one might add flowery decorum to a chair: not in order to provide greater comfort for the person sitting on it but rather to create a superfluous artistic device.::

||Now that she was tuned into his emotions, it was immediately evident that he spoke the word "Interesting" with more than a tinge of sarcasm. So... he found this place boring too? Then why did he suggest they come here? Still, she reminded herself, she had to be polite. So she smiled, while trying to decide if she should be honest or accommodating...||

::Now he was feeling a bit more comfortable. Indeed, she was smiling and that suggested that perhaps he was not making as much of a fool of himself as he thought. Still, however, he worried about what sort of message it would convey if he said that he had thought she would like the plant display. The fact that she was an Invernian hung over his head, occasionally making itself known to him by demanding to know just what the hell he thought he was doing thinking this or that. That triggered something he'd read in the ancient Terran philosopher Diogenes. "The coin will tell its own tale." He had to embrace complete honesty and stop trying to check himself. In this case Zita could see right through him.::

Zita: Actually... I find it rather boring, for the most part. But...

||She'd gone for honest, given his apparent disinterest in the plants through which they were strolling. As soon as she'd done it, though, she realized that it could still hurt his feelings, so she tried to qualify it quickly by pointing out random bush just up ahead.||

::Perhaps she was detecting his being bored here. Was this projection? He decided to leave such speculation alone for now as it was very easy to get into wild loops of such thinking and to project ultimately one's own warped conclusions onto the other.::

Zita: ...that one's rather pretty, don't you think?

||Catching a glance at it just after pointing, she realized that it was, in fact, rather revolting. Its leaves looked as if they were consuming each other and then frothing at the mouth (or whatever those rounded pink things at the base of the brown leaves were). She instantly looked up at him with a look that begged for pity as she turned a deep, deep, midnight blue.||

Breeman: Well some of these plants I like. But I was never much of a botanist.

::He could see her growing darker, almost to the same blackness she'd been on Desperot. What was wrong? She'd looked that way when he'd handed her the tricorder... If the coin would tell its own tale then in theory he needed only feel a certain sympathy and she would discern that he felt that way. But, on the other hand it would be truer to his human nature to express it as well.::

Breeman: Are you.... okay?

Zita: ||frowning|| Sorry. I'm just... a bit nervous I guess. Um... ||She stopped walking and lightened to something more akin to a dark steel blue|| Can I ask you a blunt question?

::Kevin himself stopped walking and said,::

Breeman: Sure.

Zita: Did I give you the impression that this was a... ||looking down|| what do Humans call it? a... a dat?

::At first he thought she was discussing some aspect of computer programming. However, it soon dawned on him with an air of disappointment that she meant 'date.' Parts of himself certainly thought it was. No. That was a lie. There was a general ethos within him that thought it was. The dress was probably the largest factor in generating that particular air.::

Breeman: Well, your dress did make it look a tad formal, yes.

::He found himself looking down now too. He resisted the temptation to think about commonalities in expressions of embarrassment across species and continued,::

Breeman: And by formal I mean not in the dress uniform way.

Zita: ||Swelling to a decidedly purple hue, she frowned.|| So you thought I was flirting with you. oO Great... Oo

||He didn't need to answer. His emotions told her that was exactly what he thought... And now he'd begun to feel embarrassed that she wasn't interested in him. Was there any way in which this situation could get worse?||

::She was transitioning out of the black colour, so that was a good sign. Kevin laughed nervously. He hadn't really thought she was trying to flirt with him. In the past whenever he'd flirted with women the experience had been decidedly more playful, a trading of jokes or insults.::

Breeman: Well I wouldn't exactly say flirting. But it looked.... ::He could feel his face changing to red:: ...well it looked like you were dressing up for some reason.

::He resolved not to let the disappointment and the embarrassment get the better of him. Still he knew that he had set himself up for a damaging blow just now. He wanted desperately to hide again in the neurotic refuge from his own emotions that his grandfather had sought, using science as a twisted shield against his feelings. It would have been easy for him to do that. He could have adopted the manner of the Vulcans, as he had as a child whenever things had become too painful or difficult. But, forgetting why he was so resolved now, he simply stood there and waited, being himself.::

||The ensign looked down at herself, confused (which turned her a light green). This was hardly abnormal attire for an Invernian. In fact, it was about the most relaxed and... well, unfancy, thing she could've put on. It made her wonder what he would consider dressed down. She looked back up at him and crinkled her lips before speaking.||

Zita: If you say so, Lieutenant. This is just what I wear off-duty.

::Now he had made a supreme fool of himself. Not only was he acting like this was some kind of coming of age experience but he was also criticizing other people's attire in the process.::

Breeman: Well I mean it's fine. Uh. If that's how you normally dress.

||And now she didn't know what to say. It was a simple cultural misunderstanding, but... where did that leave the conversation? A part of her wanted to just shrink to the size of a pitona (roughly, a flea) and sneak away unnoticed. She opened her mouth... then closed it again.||

Breeman: I -- I am sorry if I misread that.

||She looked at the ground and frowned a little, remaining an uncomfortable forest green. As she spoke, she tried to look up into his eyes... or at least at his mouth, but it was so far above her and she felt so awkward.||

Zita: Um... so, do you want to keep looking around, or... oO just leave me and find someone better to talk to? Oo

Breeman: Well we could... um... ::He could not simply leave on account of his misperception. That would have been petty.:: Go somewhere else.

||Sesilia smiled and brightened up... literally. She was now a soft baby-blue in color.||

Zita: Where?

::That was a good question. He considered a holodeck program. That would be too intimate. Perhaps simply walking along the DS-17 promenade would help. Help what? Anything he thought of could be construed as a date. This was peculiar, frightening, humiliating, and bizarre all at the same time. In a sense he was trying to out-maneuver himself. He was always caught in with the glaring eye of guilt and the stench of embarrassment. So that made them both the perfect things to ignore.::

Breeman: Would you like to go for a walk along the DS-17 promenade?

Zita: ||Smiling, she became medium orange.|| Sure.

::The two strolled along in silence. For Kevin this was growing increasingly awkward. Perhaps he should engage her in some form of conversation. The orange seemed more positive. Still would it be appropriate to ask her about it? After all, he hated it when people pointed out his own expressions. "Why are you so red?" was a great question to embarrass a human.::

::But what could he ask her about? He thought of something.::

Breeman: Have you read any books lately?

Zita: Um... besides text books and navigational journals?

Breeman: ::He laughed. This was another person who talked shop a lot.:: Yes, recreational reading.

Zita: Well, my roommate's been listening to old Earth books by some guy named Chesterton, and she makes me talk to her about them, so... I guess that counts. Aside from that... Not really.

::Was that the voice he'd heard before?::

||There was more awkward silence, and Sesilia couldn't think of anything to say... besides the obvious,||

Zita: ... How about you?

||It sounded forced, probably because it was forced, but... at least they were talking. She was becoming more uncomfortable, though, so she slowly became more of red than orange.||

Breeman: Hm.. Well for recreation I like to read philosophy, sometimes psychology.

::The hue of orange was now transitioning toward a red.::

Breeman: Your room mate makes you discuss this Chesterton guy? ::Where had he heard that name before?::

Zita: ||shrugging|| I think it helps her process it or something... but, yeah, sometimes she won't let me leave till I do.

Breeman: Isn't that... mean?

Zita: Um... maybe? I guess I could just leave instead of humoring her, but... that just feels more mean, you know?

Breeman: Good point. Was he the guy talking in the background when you contacted me earlier?

Zita: Yeah. Well, some guy reading his book - I mean the man himself lived centuries ago, so... But, yeah, it was his stuff.

Breeman: I see. He certainly did sound interesting. It sounded like he was talking about epistemology or religion or something like that.

||They reached the station and began passing various people. A Xenobiologist might've gotten distracted by the numerous lifeforms there, but Zita refused to let her mind dwell on anything related to biology... no matter how much it wanted to. She knew it wasn't her field, and she would never let doctors belittle her for being intrigued by it again. She turned green once more as she tried to push those tendencies away.||

Zita: Huh? Sorry. I got distracted...

::He could imagine such a scene being somewhat distracting. Still, the sound wasn't terribly loud. He remembered what Da'Pan had said to him about becoming interested in people.::

Breeman: ::with a cordial tone:: Distracted?

Zita: It's nothing, I just... ||sighing|| I get intrigued by all the different species and how their bodies must differ, and then...

Breeman: Well that makes two of us. I loved xenopsychology class at the academy for that very reason -- well the psychology part of how the different species differ.

Zita: ||laughing and going back to orange|| Yeah, but then I remember how badly I failed my biology classes when I tried to become a doctor.

::He thought of the times he'd believed himself to be a profound writer only to come back to his work years later and find it terrible. Then he offered,::

Breeman: To be honest biology isn't one of my strong points either.

Zita: I shouldn't let it get to me. Helm is really where I'm best suited, it's just...

Breeman: Part of you still... ::He tried to determine the best question to ask:: wants to be a doctor?

Zita: Wants to? I don't know... oO would I have to be horrid to people? Oo I just...

||She didn't know how to explain it. It wasn't that she wanted to center her life around it. It just randomly popped in her head and she couldn't stop it. Maybe it was because one of them might be more like her people than any other race ever had been, and then... well, then she'd be the one who found the Originators. But, not being able to actually learn enough to discover that sort of similarity or difference kind of put the nix on that idea, didn't it?||

::Would it have been a good idea to commiserate? And besides being a writer did not save lives, while being a doctor did. Okay, to be fair some great writers did indirectly turn lives around with their prose, but Kevin had wanted only to be a famous writer of some kind. That desire was very low and selfish, not lofty and selfless like a yearning to save lives.::

Breeman: Have you tried to look back into biology in your spare time? Sometimes the course just doesn't help as much as teaching yourself...

||Sesi was honestly surprised by his suggestion. She'd had such a horrific experience in the Academy, she'd never dared give it another considered thought. But... maybe he was right?||

Zita: No, I... I guess I never realized I could do that. ||chuckling|| don't ask me why not, I just...

Breeman: I know what you mean. Sometimes it just feels like learning isn't legitimate unless it's in a school.

Zita: ||Again, she chuckled.|| Something like that, yeah. Um... I don't suppose you'd be able to help me figure some of it out, would you?

||She knew she was reaching, but... she doubted herself in biology so much that she just wouldn't be able to trust that she was learning correctly without a guide.||

Breeman: I could, sure. I've had to brush up on it a lot lately anyway, actually.

Zita: Really!? That would be so great!

Breeman: ::Chuckling:: Cool! Yeah, there was this creature that laid eggs on the hull and then there was some weird incident with a drug. This has actually been a pretty eventful shore leave.

Zita: Wow! And here I was just sitting in the Reception Hall staring at the stars all leave.

::He thought of the sun on the way to Desperot, when Zita had sped toward it, making it go blue, and then gestured toward it.::

Breeman: You... like the stars a lot, don't you?

Zita: ||Smiling, she turned sunshine yellow.|| They're... well, they are the ones who guide and protect us wherever we go. How would we navigate without them? How would we know night from day? How would the plants give us air to breathe? They are... our ever-faithful companions!

::He'd never heard someone speak so poetically about stars.::

Breeman: That's very... poetic.

Zita: Then, perhaps I shall have to give you lessons on the wonders of the stars while you teach me the wonders of people?

Breeman: I look forward to it.

||Sesi smiled and glanced out a viewport, through a restaurant, where she could just make out Eratis, the old neutron star of this system. In her heart, she knew it was Eratis who had granted her this new beginning with her new friend...||

((The End... But the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship))

----------------------------

Lt. Jg. Kevin Breeman

Chief of Science

USS Independence-A

and

Ens. Zita Sesilia

Helm/Comm/Ops

USS Independence-A

Edited by kvdbreem
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