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[Round 5] Stop Before the Smart- Part 2


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((Vetri's Office))

Vetri: You've mislaid your humanity? That will certainly be news to a lot of


Tash: ::one eyebrow rose, honestly curious:: Do I *look* human to you?

:: The nanites made that one harder for even him to clearly answer. ::

Vetri: Tash, you look like a semi-evolved ape that's only just decided walking

upright might be a good plan. ::smiling:: So yes, you look human to me. The

metal just makes you more eye-catching.

:: Again with the pathetic attempts to lighten the mood. Perhaps it was just a

law of nature that if Tash was in a room, bad jokes had to happen... Perhaps

luckily, he seemed more intent on his own thoughts at this moment than what was

coming out of her mouth.::

Tash: ::he glanced back down at that nowhere spot, taking those fervent eyes

off Della:: I do wonder if this is part of their progression. As they advance

through my system, more of my involuntary and voluntary functions are dependent

on them. I could wake up tomorrow and not be me. I'd sound the same, act the

same. But it would be them. Considering they've little regard for human social

structures, it wouldn't be too much to assume they just don't need that human

part of me to become more complex. But then, it's just a theory... I've no

evidence. Haven't mentioned the idea to Doctor Virgo. She'd have me in a

containment field for good. But if she comes up with the thought on her own...

::he thought to her warning against his being near Cruise::... she has this

annoying trend of being right.

:: Silence again as Della just sat there and looked at him. To be more accurate,

her eyes where pointed in his direction, but she wasn't really focused on what

they were reporting to her brain. Thoughts running down conditioned paths,

within a short time she'd cleared her mind of all the baggage that had been

called up, and a few ideas for helping Tash had taken their place.:::

Vetri: Then let her be right. She wants to help, give her the chance. That'll

only really cover the physical side, though...

Tash: Isn't that part of the...

:: He stopped as she raised a finger, a pretty clear indication she wasn't done.


Vetri: Ssshh. Thinking. ::after a moment:: I think you may find the following

helpful. First up: Living with this junk until it's gone. It may have escaped

your notice, but we have someone that's lived her whole life with artificial

parts. She may be able to give you some insight into getting used to it for as

long as it lasts.

Tash: Virgo...?

:: Yet again he stopped, suddenly aware she was on some mental track to

somewhere. Natural curiosity peeked through the depressive tone he'd taken on.


Vetri: Still thinking. Second, reasons to give a frak about keeping yourself

together. You have relationships with others, so keep them going. Example, would

you have come to me with this if you didn't know me?

:: She didn't actually give him a chance to answer, but at least she was now

looking *at* him, rather than focusing somewhere a few feet behind his skull.

But she was right, wasn't she. It had been difficult for him to come, but he'd

seen the hints of his own dishevelled mindset and come to her, regardless. Was

he making things overly bad without sound reason? ::

Vetri: There's one, however, that will be especially important to work on


Tash: ::genuinely not following:: I'm not sure I know who you mean.

Vetri: I have eyes, Tash. I know what I see when the two of you are together.

:: A short hesitation... slightly widened green eyes, though just barely...

she'd caught him off guard, but he instantly tried to compensate. ::

Tash: I don't know what you think you've seen, but I'm not with anyone right


:: Bad liar. ::

Vetri: Really? Huh... I was under the impression that you and Sariel had

something more than a purely platonic relationship.

:: He nearly flinched. How the hell did she know? Was it... surfing at the

beach? He knew that had been a bad idea. But this was a brick wall with him,

one he wasn't prepared to run face-first into. It was too close... closer even

than the nanites inside his flesh. His only response was unprepared and

instinctually protective... deny, deny, deny. He wanted to leave, but that

would be a dead giveaway. He forced himself to sit perfectly still. Reveal

nothing. ::

Tash: ::harder now... almost convincing... but his eyes betrayed the

desperation he hid:: You're mistaken.

Vetri: About a great many things, no doubt. ::giving him a tight smile:: But

somehow I think this isn't one of them.

:: Why couldn't he lie?! Everyone else could!! He smiled softly, shaking his

head "no" more at his own inability than at Vetri knowing what she knew. She

was sticking with it despite his protestation, testament to her strong will. ::

Tash: Even if it's true... ::avoiding the admission entirely::... that would

only make things more complicated. Don't take this the wrong way, but you're

*Trill*. Your people don't have the hang-ups Terran's do about alternative

relationships. You're raised with the idea you might bond with a symbiote, then

become an entirely different gender in another life, so to speak. Then on other

terms, there are those who find that sort of thing to be a...::he hated using

the word, but he had no other to replace it::... perversion. Fire and

brimstone, and all that Hellfire.

:: Sure, she was a Trill, and joined with a symbiote, at that. That made some

things much easier to accept - by necessity, if nothing else - but it wasn't all

smooth sailing. "Alternative relationships." One way to describe it, certainly,

and she wondered for a moment whether Tash had any idea that the woman he was

talking to right now had been having her own concerns about that sort of thing

just before he'd walked in.::

:: Sighing, she settled back in her seat as he carried on, apparently uncaring

whether she had any input on the matter right now.::

Tash: But even if I'm smart enough to know that's all nonsense, it's hard to

walk away from how you were raised. I'm about as spiritually inclined as that

targ... ::he motioned to it half-heartedly::... but that doesn't stop something

from being dangerous. Being inclined to hide it would only lead to more strain,

not less. It wouldn't be smart.

:: All this said without one iota of admission to the truth, even though he was

explaining exactly how and why he felt about it. If "guilt" wasn't used, it was

certainly implied, as if he were justifying why he shouldn't even have a

relationship at all with Sariel. He spoke as if it were all theoretical,

however absurd that might be, considering he knew she knew, and knew she knew

that he knew she knew. All part of the game. ::

:: Then he did something that might have been unexpected. He laughed. Short,

softly, almost to himself and lightly enough not to hurt his back with the

internal reverberations. ::

Tash: Guess I'm a lemming too, now that I think of it. We're all playing those

parts we're expected to play. How would *I* be exempt? Am I just full of


:: He leaned forward a bit more onto his elbows again, ignoring the pressure in

his spine and biting a nail thoughtfully. It wasn't really a question at all.

The contemplation was honest, if not useful, but the laugh had gone some way to

reassuring Della about how good a grip he still had on himself.::

:: Resisting the urge to answer "always" to the second question he'd just asked,

the counselor decided that, if nothing else, the old cliché's of her profession

where still around for a reason.::

Vetri: Ignore what other people might think of the situation for a moment, how

does it make *you* feel?

:: A simple question. How did it make him *feel*? He couldn't answer right

away, but he seemed to give up on the pretence of it not being true. His answer

was quieter than his brutally realistic assessments earlier. ::

Tash: Like... breathing with no air. I can't breathe when...

:: He shook his head to clear it. Romantic [...], that wasn't him. But he'd

said enough. He couldn't breathe when Sariel was near... his lungs literally

burned at the idea of seeing him again. Was it really so serious? Wasn't it

only such a short time back that he'd found himself suddenly awake in an

unexpected fog of hangover in his quarters, and run for dear life at the short

term memory? ::

:: The conflict between what he wanted and what he thought was wrong was even.

At least, when Sariel wasn't around. When he showed up, it swayed dangerously

into the realm of "I don't care if it's wrong." Of course, that only

complicated the guilty feelings when Sariel was no longer around, which led to a

sense of needing him around *more* to not feel guilty. ::

Tash: What we want is usually bad for us.

:: Again, he'd expressed a thought that had run through her own head a time or

two of late, and she had a feeling he was about as resolved about it as she was

- not much.::

Vetri: But it *is* something you want? To have someone in your life like that?

Tash: Can't always have what you want. ::almost correcting his own comment by

amending it with another:: But then... if I thought I had *something* close by,

everything else might seem... smaller, at least.

Vetri: From the sounds of it, Tash, you've *got* something, some *one*.

Tash: An infatuation. It'll go away, then I'll be left with the consequences.

:: Another bad lie. Not that he didn't expect consequences, but the first part.

Every justification he was smart enough to see through was getting the better of

him. ::

Vetri: That's called "life". Deal with it. If you want my advice - which is

presumably why you came here - then take the chance. If it all goes horribly

splat, then you'll face what happens next, but I'll guarantee you that whatever

comes of it, one thing you won't feel is Borg-y.

:: And it looked like she'd finally lost the last of what she'd felt for him.

Not that long ago, she'd have been fighting an urge to drive herself in between

Tash and *anyone* else, but now...::

:: They'd spent far too much time on the topic of romance for Della's liking

right now, so she changed tack, deliberately not giving Tash a chance to dig out

more lame objections to doing something he actually wanted to do.::

Vetri: How's Ella?

Tash: ::a little stupidly at the sudden shift:: What?

Vetri: I did get it right, didn't I? That *is* your daughter?

Tash: Yeah, yeah... she's on Earth with the family.

Vetri: Why?

:: Okay, so she knew a whole bundle of reasons why he'd choose to have his

daughter living safe on Earth, as opposed to floating through space in a tin can

like this one, but she wanted to see what reason's *he'd* give.::

Tash: Our missions aren't exactly child-friendly. Not that any other ship

would be better. More though... she stayed of her own asking. She wanted my

sister to teach her how to ride. I've never known a little girl that could

resist the horses.

Vetri: ::lifting a finger:: I was one. Never could stand the smelly things.

That can't be the whole story, though.

Tash: Well, it was more than horse play. I wanted her to experience Earth the

proper way. Couldn't imagine being raised solely on a starship, no feeling of a

home to go back to. She's been there about a year now.

Vetri: Makes sense, I guess. I know I've thought about the same kind of deal

for Gina, though that's a very different situation. ::thinking for a few

moments:: Wouldn't you like to have her here, though?

:: It was true, they were good reasons in and of themselves. But he'd then

experienced the nanites exploding from his body. His daughter had seen him over

a vid-screen communication many times, but she hadn't *seen* him. He'd stopped

thinking about taking her back from Earth entirely on the basis that... ::

Tash: I'd scare the living daylights outta her, Della. I still get panicked

looks from *adults* in my own crew. I made a woman cry just by walking into

10-Forward... don't think I'll forget that one. ::obviously a little disturbed

by the reactions he'd experienced:: I can brush those off, but if Ella *really*

saw me... in what little flesh is left...

:: The insinuation didn't need saying, though perhaps it was a twofold issue.

He didn't want to scare his own daughter. But equally potent was the idea of

her reaction terrifying him. ::

Vetri: So... what? You're just going to leave her there? Cut yourself off


:: And if her tone didn't tell him what she thought of *that* idea, he really

wasn't paying attention...::

Tash: I was going to wait until the nanites were taken care of to bring her


Vetri: They may never be completely gone, Tash.

Tash: That's true...

Vetri: I repeat, so what? She's your child, Tash. She deserves to know her

father, and if something major is happening in his life, doesn't she have the

right to know that too?

Tash: I suppose... ::not sounding nearly as sure as he liked, despite


Vetri: Kids are tougher than you'd think, I've found. And I think that spending

some time with her would help you. Combine that with the relationship you're not

having, and I reckon you've got a couple of very good reasons why you'll stay

the Tash we all know and occasionally want to slap silly.

:: He glanced at her at the "not having" part, a little perturbed but moving

past it, raising a slightly amused, singular eyebrow at the "slap silly" part.

He *knew* it! He was sport to these villains! But he didn't have the energy to

fight this particular villain off at the moment, and she was making too much

sense. ::

Tash: It won't be easy, getting her a flight to Risa in time to meet us


:: He was almost fishing for an excuse to put it off. ::

Vetri: Of course it won't. Nothing worth doing ever *is* easy. Does that mean we

shouldn't try?

Tash: ::he gave her a half smile:: Now you're just patronizing me. I get it,

I get it. ::he stood slowly, almost painfully:: Ella, inbound. I got it


:: Accepting the idea was less difficult now that he had said it out loud. ::

Tash: I'm going to need new quarters... ::somewhat to himself, already

planning ahead::

Vetri: ::ruefully:: Tell me about it... I'm still getting used to having had to

upgrade myself. It's easily enough done, though.

:: The idea seemed to be getting itself nicely settled into his head now, and

the objections had been replaced by an expression that said he was thinking

about how he could make it work.::

Tash: If this blows up in my face, I reserve the right to blame you

exclusively. Risk of the profession.

:: His words were hard, but his expression was more peaceable, tired but

friendly green eyes catching hers as she chuckled in response. ::

Vetri: I'd hate to think there was anyone else you *would* blame, Tash.

::standing to rest a hand on his shoulder:: I sincerely doubt it'll come to

that, though.

Tash: I imagine I should go now before I make more of an [...] of myself. After

all, I have to discuss some major changes with the relationship I'm not having.

:: A little embarrassment at the vague admission sent his feet moving toward the

door, though she likely couldn't miss the small smile he had. However defeated

he had felt before, he'd known Della would set him straight. ::

Vetri: Don't try and push it too hard. Just make sure he knows how you feel,

and let things evolve from there.

:: As he headed for the door, she sat herself back down on the couch, waiting

until he was just about to leave before speaking again.::

Vetri: Tash?

:: As he looked over his shoulder at her, she gave him a reassuring look.::

Vetri: Good luck.

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