(( Life Science Lab 5 ))
:: It was very strange, Aron thought. Not as odd as being back on the Mercury, which would have been even odder, but being on a Starfleet ship, working without supervision, without wearing a uniform, was playing havoc with his sense of the order of things. He was a little surprised with how smoothly everything had gone, too; Egan Manno had apparently accepted him as a civilian contractor without a second thought, and except for the slight hitch with his replicator in his new quarters, things had been great. True, most of the Starfleet crew was on leave and he hadn’t seen many of them, but that was just fine: He had the opportunity to learn the spaces, the experiments, and the equipment unaccosted.
Which couldn’t last, he knew, as the door behind him opened. He had been alone, but…. ::
Kells: I’m sort-of busy. I don’t--
DeVeau: Don’t have time for me? I’m hurt!
::She sniffed, but it was done in a way that was so obviously fake that the sound held no true weight.::
:: He turned, slowly. Of course it would be Alora, and upon actually seeing her face, he smiled. ::
Kells: I didn’t expect that you’d come find me before I’d even really started working.
::Aron’s smile was returned with one of her own.::
DeVeau: Well, I couldn’t stay away. It’s a special day!
Kells: It’s what now?
DeVeau: A special day!
::Alora’s eyes glittered and her smile mischievous. As she stood there, she pushed herself up onto her toes then back down again, bouncing a bit with her hands firmly behind her back.::
:: Aron turned fully from the methylated protein sequences dancing before him, wary and more than a little suspicious regarding what this “special day” might be. ::
Kells: Don’t tell me--
DeVeau: Come now, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten your own birthday?
:: Ah. So that was it. Aron slowly traced his mouth with thumb and forefinger. It was, of course, information available to anyone who could call up a basic profile -- which was to say, anyone at all -- and he shouldn’t have been surprised that Alora would go looking. He found, however, that he didn’t have many feelings about it. He hadn’t tried to hide it -- but, maybe, he thought to himself, he’d tried to forget. ::
Kells: “Forget” is -- maybe -- not the best word.
DeVeau: It’s not like it’s a secret - I’ve read your file. Well, I read the other one’s file and then I went back and read the updated version. It was mainly to get your birthday but, you know, it’s kind of hard to stop reading once you’ve started.
:: He shook his head. What on Earth (or off Earth) was squirreled away in that file? He could read it (and all associated documents, which meant information about the doppelganger) at his leisure, but he hadn’t. Why? Probably, he thought, for the same reason he’d tried to forget the day. ::
Kells: I bet it is. You should tell me about it sometime.
DeVeau: You don’t seem very excited about your birthday. Come on, it’s your _birthday_! Time to celebrate!
:: It was hard not to be enthusiastic when confronted with so much enthusiasm, but even the smile on Aron’s face felt false. ::
Kells: I’m not not excited. It’s only that I didn’t expect much this year. And last year -- well. You know.
:: Last year, he’d been locked in the same sort of psychological torture routine that the Ring had decided would be a fun way for him to spend nine months. He could almost -- almost -- make light of it now, but even saying as much as he did flattened his voice and made him look away. He wasn’t ready to say anything about it, not yet. Alora’s smile faded in the wake of his continued flat response. She hadn’t expected him to be so...so...unenthused.::
DeVeau: But….but...it’s your birthday.
::That should have made all the difference in the world. In her family, birthdays were a time for celebrating because each person was special and cherished. Even Adrien’s birthday had never been forgotten, and well wishes had been passed through various channels even if he had been at odds with his parents. Alora never knew if they had ever reached him during those times of his disappearance, but she was witness to the fact her parents never forgot and never would. It should be the same for everyone.::
Kells: Right, my birthday. Well, you know, all the celebration I needed was you remembering. Really.
:: And he tried to smile like he meant it. ::
DeVeau: I even got you a gift…
::Her hands reappeared then and extended a box about two thirds a meter squared rested in her grasp. It was wrapped in purple paper with balloons etched into it and a silver bow tied about it.::
DeVeau: Happy birthday.
::Even if he didn’t seem happy, she was happy to celebrate his life. He’d become a friend and friends were worth celebrating, even if they didn’t feel like it.::
Kells: ::quietly:: Thank you. Are you--
:: He didn’t complete the thought. Yes, she was certain. He wasn’t going to undermine her act of kindness. He smiled, genuinely, as she handed over the box. ::
DeVeau: Go on, open it.
Lt. Alora DeVeau
Chief of Science