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Officers Mess - Dinner with the Captain

Posted June 2, 2020, 11:14 p.m. by Captain Alexander Cochrane (Commanding Officer) (James Sinclair)

Posted by Lieutenant Commander Zef Rollo (Counselor) in Officers Mess - Dinner with the Captain

Posted by Captain Alexander Cochrane (Commanding Officer) in Officers Mess - Dinner with the Captain

Posted by Lieutenant Commander Zef Rollo (Counselor) in Officers Mess - Dinner with the Captain
Posted by… suppressed (6) by the Post Ghost! 👻
Zef entered the officers mess promptly at 1900 hours and looked around for the Captain. As her eyes surveyed the people there, she noted a mixture of uniforms and civilian clothing. The uniforms made her second guess her decision to wear a dress. It was very simple, long sleeved and maxi length in a rust color. Nothing about it said ‘come hither’, but still…

She’d taken time with her appearance knowing she would have Cochrane’s undivided attention, and truth be told, Zef wanted him to notice that she was a woman and not just the counselor—but in a very subtle way. The stark, white hair that she usually wore up, was now down and brushed into a soft, cloud that hung halfway down her back. She’d also applied a transparent blush and lipstick in an apricot shade that gave her a natural hint of color. She’d bypassed Bajeen traditional jewelry which consisted of thin, gold, winding ornamentation on wrists, ankles and throat, in order to keep it simple and not look like she was trying to impress him.

Zef pulled in a deep breath and focused once again on the patrons. Where was Alexander Cochrane?

—Rollo, CNS

A larger Bajoran man came out of the kitchen and approached. “Ms. Rollo? I’m Chef Harv. The Captain sends his apologies, but he’s running a few minutes behind, but he will be here shortly. Please, follow me. I have set a table aside at his request.” and he turned and led her through the main dining area and around a gentle bend in the interior bulkhead.

Surprised, she followed the man, not sure if she was glad she was the first one there or not.

A small table for two had been set up near a window. Harv walked behind one of the chairs and pulled it out for her. As she sat and he pushed it in slightly, he moved to the side and poured two glasses of water. “I have some ideas for your dinner, but if there is something you would particularly like, just let me know. And if you have any dietary restrictions, well… now’s the time.” and he smiled and chuckled softly.

Harv, Chef

Zef thanked Chef Harv as he seated her. The specially set table and the privacy it afforded were a bonus she hadn’t counted on. “I’m sure your selections will be delicious and I look forward to being pleasantly surprised. As far as dietary restrictions, I have none.” Which was an understatement.

—Rollo, CNS

Harv nodded and gave her a small incline of his head as he turned and left for the kitchen. As he did, Cochrane appeared from around the bend. He gave Harv a silent ‘Thank you’ and patted the man on the shoulder in a familiar and friendly way as they passed.

“I’m so sorry for being late. I had something to attend to and didn’t want to show up without freshening up a bit.”

He had changed from his uniform to khaki colored slacks, a pale blue shirt with a muted white check pattern, and a navy blazer. His hair was combed as normal, but his skin had the glow of freshly washed. As he leaned in to take his seat, the faint hints of the smell of leather and wood was barely noticable.

“Had you met Harv before? A most amazing chef, and a good man.”

Cochrane, CO

He looked great. Zef smiled with pleasure at the thought of spending the next hour or two with him. “Well, I’m glad you took the time because you look very handsome.” And he smelled wonderful. She caught a whiff of cologne or soap as he bent low over the table and sat. “I haven’t actually eaten in here before, so I hadn’t met Chef Harv until just a few minutes ago. He seems very personable though.”

“Well, thank you. I clean up okay from time to time, I guess. But I must say, you look amazing. I’d suggest modified uniform standards going forward, but I imagine you would distract more than a few of the crew.” and he smiled at her.

Her feelings of delight at hearing his compliment were stronger than she’d anticipated they might be, but she did a good job of hiding them. Her cheek did dimple with a smile though.

Zef reached for her water glass and took a sip. “I’m glad you agreed to dinner, Captain. I thought it would be good if we had an opportunity to address the awkwardness of our meeting in my office and to have a chance to get to know each other in a neutral setting.”

—Zef

“Agreed. And, if I may, I want to apologize if anything I said sounded… dismissive. I do value your insight and opinion.”

Cochrane, CO

“Why don’t we get a drink before addressing the heavy stuff?” As if he’d heard her comment, Chef Harv approached with a bottle of pale, yellow liquid. “A little something to prepare your pallets?” He held the bottle in a way as to display the sticker.

“Pelpenian wine.” Zef read. “I’ve never heard of it. Is it fermented?” She looked from Harv to the Captain and back again. Chef Harv was smiling. “I’ll take it that’s a yes. I’d love some actually.”

The Bajoran filled two crystal flutes half way and made his exit. The counselor lifted hers and waited to clink with the Captain. “To no more misunderstandings…”

He clincked his glass against hers and smiled. “Indeed.” and took a sip.

It was splendid and had hints of lemon and mango except she knew the fruits were not those from Earth. “This is excellent!”

—Zef

Cochrane paused a moment and said “I like it. I dont often go for ‘fruity’ in wine, but for this I will have to make an exception.” and he took another small sip and set the glass aside. “I asked Harv to make his specialty, Risian saute. I hope that wasn’t too presumptuous on my part, but I didnt want a menu to take time from our discussion.”

Cochrane, CO

“It isn’t a problem and I appreciate the consideration.” Zef set the flute down and took a deep breath. Although she’d been eager for this dinner, she hadn’t been looking forward to breaching the difficulty of their last meeting. “There is a chance this will sound unimportant to you, Sir, but its a concern for me. As the Captain, I need you to be clear in what you want from me, what you want from the Counselor on the Manhattan.”

She moved a hand from her lap to brush at the delicate skin on the side of her neck, shifting a small tendril of hair that was tickling her. “When we were discussing my presence on the bridge, I got mixed information from you. First, let me say that every ship I’ve served on as counselor, welcomed me on the bridge. I’ve never had to support my presence there with a need of some kind.”

Closing her eyes, she pulled the memory of their meeting up in her mind and tried to quote his words as closely as possible. “‘I have no issue with you being on the bridge, provided there is a need. But your priority should be the crew.’” Lids lined with long, white lashes, lifted and her gaze found him across the table. “Those were your words, Sir. I understand my job and know the crew is my first priority, but in only a few conversations you have reminded me of it more than once.” She took the time to have another sip of wine.

“I may have misunderstood, Captain, but the result of some of the things you said was that I felt chastised in some small way for no reason—and I didn’t like it. That’s why I pulled back and ended our meeting.” Time for a deep breath and a larger drink of wine.

Zef was clueless as to what Cochrane’s reaction might be. It really seemed such a little thing now, but it was important to get it out in the open so it didn’t fester and become more than what it was. People expected a counselor to be above any kind of miscommunication or resentment, etc.—emotions in general, in some cases, but they weren’t. She had the same problems with hers as everyone else. Well, the possible damage was done now…even there was more explaining to do.

—Zef

Cochrane watched as well as listened to her. His words rang true, and he nodded as she repeated them. When she was done, he took a drink and nodded. “That is what I said, yes. And for it coming across as a chastisement of any kind, I am sincerely sorry. It was not meant in that way at all. In fact, it was more an admonishment of the bridge than of you.” and he took another sip.

“Bridge duty is monotonous by nature. And any distraction is latched onto. So… I said what I said more thinking about the rest of the bridge than you… does that make sense at all?” and he chuckled a bit. “I feel like I’m floundering a bit here, if I am being honest.”

Cochrane, CO

“I’d like to think that makes more sense than admonishing me, but why would I be a distraction? I wouldn’t be singing and dancing or doing card tricks. I would simply be sitting there quietly observing things.”

Zef twirled her wine glass by the stem as it sat on the table. “So much of my work is trying to interpret what others are trying to tell me, even when they don’t use the right words or phrases to get the idea across. I have to try to glean the real meaning from body language, eye contact, breathing differences…etc.” She met his bright gaze with the blue-grey of her own. “I don’t want to do that with you.”

—Zef

Alex looked at her and nodded in appreciation of her desire to not analyze him. “Well, don’t we all do that anyway to some degree?” he said with a grin. “And by that I mean, all sentient humanoid species communicate so much outside of verbiage, that it’s simply ingrained in us to do so.” and he chuckled and leaned forward slightly. “I know you wouldnt be doing card tricks on the bridge… although that would be absolutely hysterical during a briefing from Command.” and he laughed softly. “No, the reason I said what I did and asked what I did was to make sure you were aware of the responsibilities that come with being on the bridge in a situation, because many Counselors, frankly, are simply not.” and he leaned back. “And you were candid and honest and set my concerns to rest. And now I am quite certain that while many Counselors may not realize the impact they could have on the bridge…” and he raised his glass and said “… you, Miss Rollo, are most certainly not many Counselors.” and he smiled and took a drink.

Cochrane, CO

Zef felt heat moving up to her face. Was she blushing? Well, that was very unprofessional, wasn’t it? But then again, unprofessional were the thoughts she toyed with occasionally during lax times, and lately, the man across the table starred in them with her. “You were very open and honest with me during our first visit. I don’t have many conversations like that being the counselor because people think I’m always looking for a way to trip them up. I’m not, of course, but you can’t convince everyone of that.”

Tossing back the last of the wine, Zef then folded her hands on the table wondering when Chef Harv would be back with more. “I don’t want to have to edit myself with you and I’d like for you to feel relaxed enough to speak freely with me…all the time. I don’t want you to be the diplomat…we have someone else on board in that capacity.” Raye’s face surfaced in her mind for a split second and she brushed it away. “You and I both need someone to talk to ‘off the record’ and I thought we could be each other’s…easy conversation?”

—Zef

Alex smiled at the suggestion. “You know, I dont think I have ever had such a thing on a star ship. Yes, absolutely. It would be my pleasure to be your ‘easy conversation’.”

At that moment, Harv came around the corner with fresh baked dark bread and a cold gazpacho. Setting them down on the table, he cast a critical eye at the wine bottle and walked away, taking the empty with him.

Cochrane, CO

Zef stayed quiet while Harv set the appetizer in front of them and hoped he would bring another bottle to replace the one he took away. “It wouldn’t be a one way agreement, Captain. If you’re going to allow me to speak freely with you about anything, I would expect the same from you. I think maintaining a strong, unperturbed facade has got to be one of the more difficult roles for command staff. So many of the crew look up to you and Cmdr Creed, that you feel responsible to not allow yourselves to be rattled by anything. That’s where an ‘easy conversation’ comes in. You can bring your worries and concerns to me and I won’t hold any of it against you or think you weak for having feelings. Its nearly impossible not to give in to ones emotions for an extended length of time. Everyone needs an someone to talk to.” Among other things she thought.

She finally tasted the gazpacho and was surprised to find it cold. Her experience had taught her that soup was a hot dish so the tomato dish was a pleasant surprise. “Mmmmm, this is different. Is it something you’re familiar with?”

—Zef

Alex nodded in agreement. “I could not agree more. And the opportunity to simply talk with someone without having to… well… still be the Captain? That would be a welcome respite. A… ‘safe harbor in tumultuous seas’, as one of my ancestors wrote while commanding his own vessel.”

“‘A safe harbor…’ I like that.” She nodded. “Yes, think of me as your safe harbor, any time, any day, any where.”

He smiled at her reaction to the soup. “It is. Gazpacho is a staple in my family’s house. My mother and sister hold true to their vegetarian diet, despite having adopted some of the more… esoteric… human likes and such. My father and my mother had it on their first date. Been a Cochrane family staple ever since.” and he laughed.

Cochrane, CO

Gray-blue eyes squinted in thought. “Vegetarian? That means no meat?” What an unacceptable thought. “They eat things grown in the ground, right? Do they avail themselves of harvested food from other planets? What about eating things from the water or the sky?”

She tore off a small chunk of the dark bread and took a bite. It was warm and chewy and delicious. It had more flavor than other breads she’d eaten, but it was still very tasty and she found herself wondering what it would taste like wrapped around a chunk of meat.

“Are you vegetarian too?”

—Zef

He shook his head. “I am not, but my mother and sister… step-mother and step-sister are Vulcan. Part of their culture is they become vegetarians many centuries ago. They eat foods from other worlds, yes. And my step-sister actually loves Earth sushi. My twin sister, father, and myself are not vegetarians all the time. But on the rare occasion when we are all together, we don’t eat meat out of respect and love for them. Hence… gazpacho.” and he smiled. “What about you? Do your people have any specific culinary customs?”

Cochrane, CO

A shadow passed behind her light eyes at the question. “Do you mean something other than than the Cho Khai? Because that ritual is pretty specific.”

He looked at her and simply shook his head. “Of course not.”

Deciding Cochrane wasn’t attempting to taunt her, Zef thought about the question. “We eat a lot with our bare hands. Utensils are for things like soups and stews although we also use balaa, which is a kind of flat bread, as a scoop for them too. We don’t have many desserts, although what we do have are very enjoyable, and the main fermented drink on Baj is made from the sap of the Kolai tree.” Her brows drew together a bit and she bit her bottom lip as she tried to think of a Terran taste she could compare it to. “Its like a mixture of the flavors honey and orange with a bit of…lemon? That’s the green one, right?”

—Zef

“That sounds amazing, but I think you may mean lime. But both sound fantastic, however. There are several cultures on Earth that eat in that manner. Ethiopian food, in particular, I find amazing and it is eaten with hands and a type of bread.” and he smiled. “I think if everyone took more time to find the similarities rather than differences between peoples, we’d be a much different galaxy… a better one.”

Cochrane, CO

She nodded. “I’m sure you’re right about that, even though I find the differences more interesting.” Zef spooned in the last of the gazpacho, said. “That was really delicious.” and smiled at Cochrane. “I can’t wait to see what else is on the menu.” She lifted the napkin from her lap and dabbed at her lips.

“I believe we already established that you aren’t married, but were you ever? Any children?

—Zef

He shrugged slightly and said “No to both. I came close once… but it didn’t work out. And with the demands of this life, well, it would have to be a most remarkable woman to want to take that on. That is what happened to the ‘close’ one… she simply couldn’t accept that she didn’t come before the crew.” and he took a larger drink than normal. “And as one of my instructors at the War College said…” and his face scrunched up and he did a remarkable impression of a Klingon accent, “…If the Empire wished you a mate, we would assign you one!” and he smiled, but it had a hint of melancholy to it.

Cochrane, CO

She watched him closely and noted it was the first time she’d seen and heard his emotions slip out of his control. It wasn’t much, but Zef noted a shadow of pain or regret in his word choices and the tone of his voice. Also, although his impression of a Klingon was very good, she thought there was a layer of sadness laced into it. “Relationships can be difficult for those of us who have chosen Star Fleet as a career and worked our way up the command ladder. We aren’t supposed to fraternize with just anyone, but space can be lonely. I think most species were designed to share their lives with another, so I’m of the belief that you take what emotional and physical satisfaction you can get out of life, using ‘the rules’ more as a guideline than something written in stone.”

Chef Harv arrived with another bottle of wine and poured each of them a glass, then removed their empty soup bowls and the plate of dark bread.

Zef tasted the new drink and silently gave her approval. It was very good. “There are several beautiful women on board, Captain. I’m sure any number of them would be quite happy to spend some time with you. You’re a handsome man, intelligent, a good conversationalist and have a sense of humor. What more could a woman ask for?”

—Zef

Cochrane laughed and took a drink, waving off the compliment with his wine glass. “You are correct that there are, indeed, beautiful women aboard… present company included in that category, of course.” and he smiled a genuinely warm and friendly smile. “And while I will absolutely expect that compliment as part of my official file -” and he paused and grinned, “- I think that stability and having a partner who believes such a woman comes first before anything else is something that woman should not only ask for… but expect as a matter of course. And that, unfortunately, leaves me and my ilk to stand watch by ourselves. But that isnt necessarily a bad thing. It allows me to focus and remember that, while personal companionship would be a wonderful thing with the right person, I have almost a thousand people on board who also deserve that opportunity to find someone. And they didnt volunteer to be responsible for everyone around them. I did. So I owe them the very best of me. And that is what a companion would deserve as well. And you cant do both.”

Cochrane, CO

“Of course you can.” Zef had listened intently. He was giving her a singular opportunity to peek through a window into his inner being that he kept shuttered from most, she was sure. She wasn’t sidetracked by the compliment that he considered her beautiful, because people often felt it necessary to reciprocate flattery. But as the counselor and as a woman, Zef felt it was paramount to help him understand the dynamic of having a partner.

“What you owe the crew are your abilities to lead, inspire, communicate, influence and empathize with them. What you don’t owe them is your happiness.” She leaned back in her chair, the wineglass still held in one hand. “You can’t give them everything you have within you. It isn’t healthy and it isn’t without consequence.”

—Zef

He looked at her with an expression both melancholic and amused, simultaneously. “I think you might be missing an important component of that, though.” and he set his glass down and leaned forward, putting arms on the table folded over one another.

From his posture and the directness of his gaze, Zef knew he was about to share something he thought was profound.

“I owe this ship, this crew everything… up to and including my life. And what most people don’t understand about me is that… that does make me happy. Knowing all these people trust me, have faith in me to keep them safe and secure and as happy and fulfilled as they can be… that is a feeling unlike any other I have ever had. It… validates, somehow… all of the work and time and missed family dinners and birthdays and sacrifice… it makes it all worthwhile when I walk through this ship and see my crew smiling. Eating a meal and laughing. Holding hands because they found someone special and live on a ship where they feel alive and comfortable and safe enough to express that. And if giving that to them means I don’t have a warm hearth and home and someone to share that with… so be it. That is a price I would gladly pay a million times over just to make sure they can.” and he leaned back and smiled at Zef.

The counselor’s demeanor was unperturbed, but her mind was working quickly, sorting the things Cochrane said and what they possibly implied. His view of the relationship between a Captain and his crew was unrealistic. HE wasn’t responsible for the happiness he felt from the officers on board. Other people were. The ship had close to one thousand people on it—many of whom had never met the Captain, so their emotional welfare was the outcome of other relationships.

“I love my crew. They are the single most important thing in the universe to me. Their happiness is my happiness. And I don’t know a single woman who would willingly put herself in a position where she’s not only coming second to my duty… but behind a thousand other people she doesn’t even know.” and he took a drink and he smiled. “And I would be highly suspect if a woman willingly took that on. She’d probably need your attentions more than mine.” and he laughed.

Cochrane, CO

Well, it was time to test whether they could truly be honest with each other like she’d suggested when she’d referred to them being each others sounding board or ‘easy conversation. Zef hadn’t expected it to happen so quickly, but you just couldn’t plan some things.

“I’m sorry if this is hard to hear, Captain, but it sounds like you are giving yourself more credit than you deserve when it comes to the crew. You are not the center of their universe. You are a man in charge of the ship they live on. Are they loyal? Yes, I believe most are. But are they loyal to you or your rank and position?” She wanted to take the conversation slowly, covering many points he’d mentioned, but they had to start somewhere.

—Zef

He looked at her and smiled slightly. “Counselor, for someone trained in the art of listening, I think you might want to try again. Or maybe I need a language refresher, I dont know. All I know is we always seem to find the most inopportune times to have a miscommunication.” and he chuckled. “I never said I was the center of their universe. To think that would be the height of arrogance and conceit. No, that isnt what I said at all… or at least, not what I meant.” and he looked at her intently.

Zef calmly quoted him. “‘Knowing all these people trust me, have faith in me to keep them safe and secure and as happy and fulfilled as they can be…’ It sounds like you are taking credit for all the good vibes on the ship.” She quieted then to let him explain.

“I am not the center of their lives and happiness… right nowthey are the center of mine. Theirsuccess is my success. Their happiness is my happiness. Them. Not me. They are the reason I do this. All of this. To give them the chance to see things and do things at least as amazing as I have had the chance to see and do.” and he smiled at her. “I know, I know… you think I’m crazy. But that’s how I feel… how I operate. I take time every day to walk this ship. To meet people, talk to them. To make sure they know they always have access to me. That I’m not locked in my office or on the bridge away from them. I may not know every name, but I know a lot. And I know who is struggling and who is excelling. Who is making a name for themselves… good or bad. I know who is having an especially hard time adjusting to being so very far from everything we know.” and he smiled and leaned back, looking at her.

She still wasn’t convinced. “Do you think way back when you joined Starfleet, that your motivation was to lead a crew so they could supply you with happiness? I doubt it. But you said ‘they’ are the reason you do this. You took a command path because you wanted to captain a star ship. I doubt you gave any thought to the crew at all.” The more he explained, the more concerned the counselor became with his point of view.

“I read a quote once. Old Earth mariner, his name escapes me at the moment. But he wrote in his ship’s log ‘I ask only for the chance to show them that the ship doesn’t sail by wind, or currant; map, or compass. It sails because they give it wings… It is through them that it flies.’ He wasn’t wrong.” and he took a drink.

Cochrane, CO

Zef shook her head trying to dispel unwelcome thoughts. She wanted to believe Cochrane was as wonderful in person as he was in her thoughts, but…slight doubts were forming in her mind.

—Zef

Alex shook his head in frustration. “What is it about the way you and I speak that seems to miss the mark, hmm? I see you shake your head and your body language change… so I know that I’m not being clear. I will take the hit for that. But honestly… I dont know how to explain it. Maybe I should make you Captain. See if that helps.” and chuckled self-deprecatingly and then sat back and picked up his drink.

The entree arrived at that time: steaks and grilled asparagus. Cochrane nodded a thanks to Harv, who left and came back with another bottle of wine and set it on the table. Cochrane’s brow furrowed slightly and he looked directly at Zef. “Can I ask you a personal question?” he asked over the rim of his glass.

Cochrane, CO


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