((Starbase 118 Ops - Alora’s Quarters))
Alora stared at the cards in her hand. Normally, the silly and often strange depictions of various kittens, including potato cat, cattermelon, and tacocat would have brought a smile to her face and kept her amused. That evening, however, despite having Ashley over, despite enjoying a pleasant meal, despite entering into a game of Exploding Kittens, her mind wasn’t on what she was doing. Rather, her mind wandered to something else. Someone else. Two someone elses.
He set down a green card with a cat chasing a laser pointer, amethyst eyes rising to check on his card partner… who had thus far been *very* distracted. He’d hardly seen her in days… a week? She’d been hiding out here in her quarters, and had insisted they do their weekly session here as well. He’d agreed. Now he waited for her to respond to his played card.
Despite speaking to her, Alora didn’t hear. Her eyes stared at her cards, but they didn’t read what was there. They didn’t see the pictures, or not what was awaiting her on the table.
Yael: … Defuse? Alora?
Her mind was elsewhere, images springing into view, not on the card. One was a memory of someone lost, the other of someone who remained. In many ways, they were opposites. Kalin was dark where Sal was fair. Kalin was introverted where Sal loved people. Kalin was sarcastic where Sal was sincere. Their eyes and their heritage seemed to be the one thing they had in common. Both faces swam before her, and inwardly he heart twisted as her hand tightened its grip on the little slips of holographic cardstock.
Yael: ::whistling lightly, a concerned grin on his face:: Alllooora…? Anyone home?
Those two faces stared at her. Both had their smiles, Kalin’s crooked, almost careless in its expression. Sal’s was more tender, gentle, a merrier sentiment. Both warred for prominence in her thoughts, first one coming to the forefront, then the other. Alora’s eyes closed, but the images only seemed to intensify.
He set his cards down now… face down in front of him on the table. She was a thousand AU away.
Yael: ::sharper now:: Alora!
Alora jerked back to reality, eye widening in startlement, then relaxing as her thoughts caught up with her senses.
DeVeau: Oh...I’m...I’m sorry. Is it my turn?
Yael: What’s going on? Usually you *love* Exploding Kittens.
DeVeau: Oh, sorry, I’m just distracted.
Was it her turn? Had he already gone? What card had been played last. Yes, she usually loved that game, but her mind wasn’t on the game, but on other things. People.
DeVeau: Did you go?
Yael: Yes, but… let’s set it down for a moment. What has you so distracted?
DeVeau: Nothing important. Just...processing recent events.
It wasn’t a complete lie. The mission had put them all in a rather strange set of circumstances. For some, it had been something to laugh off. For others, the consequences had been a bit more serious.
DeVeau: I’m...I’m hungry. We haven’t had dinner yet. What do you feel like?
Yael: I could go for something light. But… you seem *awfully* distant. I’ve hardly seen you all week.
DeVeau: I’ve been busy.
That also wasn’t a lie. Even with the announcement of shore leave, Alora had been keeping herself very busy with work. It helped turn her mind away from other things.
Yael: Are you alright? ::pausing:: This isn’t about… the things I told you in the holodeck, is it? ::then more quietly:: … or the whole drunken stupidity…?
He was still feeling extremely awkward about everything he had told her, everything he had done, but was trying to be as normal as possible. It had been a weird week.
DeVeau: What? Oh no, not at all, I promise.
Alora leaned forward, offering a small, but sincere smile.
DeVeau: It’s not you. I guarantee. If it were, I would tell you.
Yael: ::quietly:: Okay. Then...
Alora rose and turned to the replicator, her back to the Denobulan.
DeVeau: Something light. Salad? What kind? Chef? Chicken Caesar? I particularly like chicken caesar with fries.
Yael: Caesar, for me.
DeVeau: Computer, two chicken caesar salads from program number 12, extra caesar dressing on one, add onions and tomatoes to that one as well. Two sides of fries from program 42, add pepper to one.
He turned in his seat to watch as she replicated the items they needed for a meal. Alora took the tray that appeared with the items and carried it over. She set it on one hand, then pushed the cards aside to make room for Ashley’s dishes.
DeVeau: This is my favourite of the chicken caesar and french fries programs. The caesar’s very light, not overwhelming or too heavy.
Alora eased back onto the couch and took the bowl that had onions, tomatoes and extra caesar. After allowing herself a couple of bites she took a small handful of fries to place them on one side of the bowl, then dipped single fry into the dressing and ate it.
DeVeau: I used to get this a lot when I was at the Academy.
Yael: Ahh. Good Cadet food.
He eyed the chicken suspiciously, having meant a *plain* Caesar, but not wanting to make a fuss over it he poked his fork into a piece and popped it into his mouth. It *was* very good, but that didn’t stop him eyeing the fries with equal suspicion.
Yael: That didn’t answer the question though.
DeVeau: You should try dipping the fries in the dressing.
Yael: ::he gave her a disbelieving look:: The more you deflect, the more curious I get.
DeVeau: I’m just...busy. Thinking of all the stuff going on, and like I said, still processing what happened.
And trying very hard not to think about certain things. Certain people. Certain captains.
Yael: Who better to help you process than me? ::pausing, he got a bit salty:: Unless you don’t *like* me.
DeVeau: I love you and you know it. Don’t make me throw something at you. I will.
Maybe after he finished his food, though. Alora didn’t relish getting oil out of her couch cushions.
DeVeau: Or I’ll sic Sachiko on you.
At the sound of her name, the cat, who had taken a perch upon the desk on the other side of the room, paused in her grooming to look up, blue eyes staring at the two humanoids. She studied them a moment, then resumed, as if she had never been spoken of at all.
Yael: Alright. I suppose. ::he ate a leafy bite with a small piece of chicken:: But it seems like there’s something bothering you.
DeVeau: Seems like you’re being nosey tonight.
Yael: It’s quite literally my job to pry. Captain Taybriim wouldn’t keep me around if I didn’t do it.
Alora winced. Everywhere she went, he was there. Well, why wouldn’t he be? He was a fleet captain,...no, a commodore, and commanding officer of that very Starbase. Which meant she couldn't’ get away from him. She couldn’t get away from Kalin. She couldn’t get away from anything.
Suddenly, the fries and salad didn’t seem quite so appealing, and her response… and the expression on her face… didn’t go unnoticed.
Yael: Okay. Something *is* bothering you. I mentioned the Captain and you went *white*.
DeVeau: No. I’m fine.
Yael: Did something happen? Oh…
His amethyst eyes lit up and he thought back to their rather strange week, and the compound used on them at the Gratitude Festival.
Yael: Alora. If something happened, you really should tell someone. You were affected by the compound…
He was trying to find a nice way to ask “did it make you do something you regret?” without using those harsh words. But he persevered even when he thought perhaps it might be absolutely none of his business.
Yael: … and Sal? ::more quietly now:: Did you…?
DeVeau: What? Oh! No. No...we didn’t...I mean...I didn’t stay. I left.
Alora couldn’t. Every time she turned around, she found herself looking for the red hair, the dark eyes, a single glimpse of his visage. Every time his same was spoken, it set her stomach clenching, her heart beating. And every time that happened, another face appeared, haunting her, eyes eerily similar, watching her.
DeVeau: I...I couldn’t stay.
Yael: … right.
He clearly didn’t believe her entire story, though he was sure she did leave at the time.
Yael: You didn’t get treatment. Did you.
Yael: You’re *blushing*. And *stammering.*
That didn’t help. The pink that had flushed over her cheeks only deepened and she leaned forward, half dropping the bowl back on to the table.
Yael: I can go with you to sickbay.
She had made the same offer when he needed help, and had escorted him to sickbay when he was terribly hung-over… now he offered it himself.
DeVeau: I don’t want to talk about this.
Yael: Is it Sal?
Alora didn't answer. Rather, she rose and turned to walk to the wide window frames by some of her flora and offered a view of the stars outside the station. She reached out to fiddle with a small tree, a bonsai of a maple, that leaned and stretched out, as if seeking her touch - one of several that she’d worked on. A juniper stood nearby, a bonsai cherry tree was over on her desk. She was trying to think of anything. Anything at all. Except him.
Yael: ::testing the theory:: He *is* pretty handsome. That red hair? Those *eyes.*
DeVeau: Ashley, please stop…
Ensign Ashley Yael
Starbase 118 Ops
Lt. Cmdr. Alora DeVeau
Chief Science Officer
Starbase 118 Ops