Posted by Commander Tello Anaar (Executive Officer) in Holodeck - Dinner in the Snow (Tag Tello)
Jennifer paced around the small room, checking to make sure the food was cooking well. She hoped that this went well. Ghubari had said that doing so had been a tradition of hers, helping her get to know her XOs and vice versa. She hoped the woman didn’t mind her stealing the little tradition. The holodeck was made up in the facsimile of her childhood home, a cozy cottage-type building, one and a half stories with the upper story being more of an exposed loft than an actual story. The main room was large and included a kitchen and dining area on one end as well as a cozy fireplace and sofas on the other end. The front door had been replaced with the holodeck arch. The back of the room, under the loft, was where the fireplace was, and a door on one side of the fireplace led to the parent’s bedroom while a door on the other side led to the bathroom. The loft was where she and her siblings slept.
Jennifer adjusted her glasses and checked on the food once again, resisting the urge to pace anymore. Tello would be here soon. she had sent out the invitation, hadn’t she?
The XO entered the holodeck and took an appreciative look around. “Captain. Thank you for the dinner invitation. This is really nice—somewhere from your childhood?” The basics looked familiar, she’d seen enough photo vids and had visited Earth a few times. It was different than her own days as a child because she’d grown up on Betazed, but the two worlds shared a lot.
“My childhood home on Parvok 3,” Jennifer stepped over, a spring in her step. “Thank you for coming. You can have a seat at the dining table,” she gestured to an old looking table that had clearly been hand crafted from wood. In fact, much of the furniture in the building seemed to be hand crafted, and there was little evidence of modern technology. A small computer terminal sat against one of the walls, but that seemed to be all.
She rushed back over to the wood stove and checked on the food, grinning as she saw that the timing had been almost perfect. On went the heavy oven mitts, and out came the casserole dish. “I’ve been perfecting this recipe since childhood, and I didn’t want the replicator messing it up,” she said with a small grin to Tello. There was a small mess of dishes in the sink. The joy of cooking in the holodeck was how little clean-up there actually was.
“Now, it’s been a few weeks since the last time I asked you this question, and last time it was a little too early to tell. How are you settling into the Athena?” She asked as she stepped over to the table, which was practically in the middle of the kitchen.
The first officer took a seat at the table and watched Wallace as she dashed around with the final preparations of the meal. The casserole smelled wonderful and elicited a response from Tello’s stomach. “I’m settling in fine. Everyone has been very professional and accommodating so there haven’t been any issues yet. How about you? Are the crew responding to you properly as the Captain now?”
There was a strong scent of cheese coming from the dish as the lid came off, and a quick glance would reveal a simple macaroni and cheese, with chunks of sausage mixed in. “Ah. I forgot to ask whether you’re a vegetarian,” Jennifer realized with a start. She smiled sheepishly, pulling cups from a cupboard and cartons of milk and orange juice from the fridge. “Something to drink? I can get water if you prefer.”
She finally sat down. There was an odd energy in the woman when she was here in the kitchen. A vibrancy that she seemed to lack out there on the bridge. Perhaps it was the reminder of childhood, or maybe it was just the fact that Jennifer found joy and comfort in cooking.
“As for your question, I’m still not sure. I think I’m settling into the role well enough, which is part of the importance for me. You know, being comfortable in your job? Well, never can be too comfortable with a job like this, but you know what I mean. The crew seems to have accepted me surprisingly easily… I’m pleased with that.”
As Tello didn’t care for milk or orange juice, “Water would be fine, thank you. It must be somewhat of a relief to know the crew are accepting you as their trusted leader. Sometimes everyone gets used to you in a single spot and the transition can be more difficult than it should be. It’s almost simpler to step in from another posting and be new to everyone at once.” Like me, she thought.
“It might help that I was only XO of the Athena for about three weeks, during station time, and Ghubari was gone for most of that time. The senior staff got used to me being kinda in charge before I was actually in charge,” Jennifer replied, pouring Tello’s drink, then finally settling in her seat.
She served herself a big spoonful of mac and cheese, then started to eat. “This fantasy planet we’re flying towards is the first mission I’ve been on.”
“The first mission you’ve been on…with this crew? Me too, what a coincidence.” Tello smiled as she took her first bite. “Oooo, this is so good! Between the food and the room, I feel cozy and very comfortable.”
“With this crew, and as Captain, yes,” Jenn let out a small laugh. “My post on the Equinox was quiet, but it wasn’t that quiet.” To be honest, Jenn still missed her old crew. She’d been with them for 6 years and they’d become like family. She ate some more of her meal, nodding along with Tello’s comment about the setting and meal giving off a cozy and comfortable feeling. “That’s the intention,” she spoke through half a mouthful of elbow pasta and cheese sauce.
They continued to eat and drink in silence until, “This might be impertinent of me, but do you have a family? Husband or children?”
The question that followed the protracted silence caught Jenn off-guard. She hadn’t expected it. “Ah, no,” she shook her head. “But I’ve got siblings and they have kids. And I guess I was, in a way, the team mom on the Equinox, so if you count my former crew as children (which I honestly did sometimes) then I could say yes?” She laughed, looking into her bowl for a moment. “But overall, no. Never really met anyone who I felt a deep enough connection to. Dated a few times in the Academy. They were lovely guys and gals, but it never really clicked.”
She thought back to her early days. “I guess Shess is the closest to a life partner I ever got, but blue-boy is gay and very much not into me, so romance wasn’t really an option,” she laughed. “I got a best friend instead, which one might argue is much better.”
Tello swallowed a mouthful of food. “You know, I believe a best friend can get you through anything life throws in your direction. However, a mate is often times a part of the big problem, so that same thought doesn’t necessarily work if you apply it to them. I don’t have a significant other, either.” She blotted her mouth and then took a drink of water.
“I came close once, but he wasn’t interested in a long distance relationship. In Star Fleet, that’s almost a given.”
“Best friends are incredible. When we were in the Academy… Man. We had such plans. I was going to be Captain, with Shess as my number one. H’morr on the other side as my counselor. Ellie was going to be our CE,” the happy smile faded, sad memories filling her mind. Why had she started reminiscing? Images of black clothing and flowers atop stone ran through her imagination. Oh, Ellie… She had been a good woman.
She snapped out of it, not sure how long she’d been stuck in the past, feeling the loss of one of her best friends. She had been close with the whole Dream Team, of course, but what she’d had with H’morr and Ellie had been something else entirely.
Tello had seen the face of loss before—several times. “The dreams of naive minds. We feel invincible when we’re young and innocent. It’s a shame that we can’t make those dreams come true, but the unpredictability of life is what makes it interesting. I grant that there are some experiences I would rather not have gone through, but I can’t deny that those same experiences helped to shape the person I am now.”
Jenn was quiet for a moment. “Ah, sorry, didn’t intend to bring that up,” she smiled at her XO. Tello seemed far more collected than Jenn felt. She’d get used to this command, she reminded herself.
She took another bit of mac and cheese and swallowed before continuing. “I’ve thought about this many times…if you take away one experience in your life…just one, you might have turned out a completely different person. You might not be a Captain right now. You might not even be alive…its how I encourage myself to accept what happens, no matter what it might be.”
“It’s a good way of looking at life. Doesn’t help much in the moment, I expect. But it recontextualizes it when you look back,” she reflected. There was a quiet look on her face for a moment. “Anyways, enough about my past,” Jenn flipped the tables, looking at Tello intently. “Tell me something about yourself. Your Academy days. Did you have any friends that you still communicate with now?”
Tello always found volunteering details about herself to be problematic. But this was her Captain—someone who actually needed to know her because of their close working relationship. She took a deep breath and searched her mind for what to share. “The academy was difficult for me. The studying was fine, I loved all my classes. It was all the hormones and angst that clouded the rooms like an overpowering perfume.” She shook her head, the long dark curls moving with the motion. “There were more than a few incidences of the ‘wash’ during those four years.” She shrugged now. “In any case, we all survived and only one girl, a human, held a grudge against me because I knew her secret.”
“I do have a few friends I’ve kept throughout the years, but honestly, they’re oddballs too. We felt we had our differences in common. You know what I mean?”
Jennifer listened quietly, tilting her head slightly as Tello spoke. It sounded like Tello’s time in the Academy had been a struggle, particularly in regards to her abilities. She nodded at the question about oddballs. It had felt like she and her own group had been a bunch of oddballs, for one reason or another. Most of them Colony Kids, born and raised far from their “home” planets. “Has it gotten easier since then?” she asked, then gestured towards her head. “Handling all the emotions of the people around you? You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to, of course.”
“I don’t mind. Yes, the frequency of a wash is almost nonexistent now. At least, it has been for the last few years. I’m positive it was bad during my academy years because most of us were teens and a lot of species experience hormone storms during those years.” She finished her mac and cheese and pushed the bowl away. “Everyone there had rough times so I don’t feel picked on when I think back on it. It could have been a lot worse.”
Tello turned a bit in her chair so she could look directly at Wallace. “One Ensign in my beginning year had an unfortunate bodily response when he was nervous—he would burp and fart repeatedly.” She chuckled at the memory. “He was teased relentlessly by most who witnessed it, but he eventually warmed up to our group and became one of the oddballs. He’s since had a few medical procedures and takes a supplement that keeps him calm.” She nodded, “Yes, Frank is a highly respected diplomat now—no joke!”
“Thank the Great Bird of the Galaxy for being able so grow up and become less awkward,” Jennifer said with a small laugh, lifting her glass as if in a toast. Using her spoon to get the last flecks of cheese from her bowl, Jenn glanced up at Tello. “I’ve got desert if you want to stick around. It’s just Ice Cream and technically I replicated it, but it’s fairly tasty. Have you ever noticed how replicated food always tastes odd compared to home-made? Even just replicating the ingredients and baking the meal manually improves it so much.”
“Sorry, that was a tangent,” she realized. “Ah, I’m not very good at being the confident Captain I’m supposed to be,” she grinned sheepishly, but the subject was already changed. “It all seemed so simple in theory, but I guess there’s a big difference between the Command Training course and a real command…” Jenn scratched the back of her neck. “I’m glad burping and farting isn’t one of my nervous tics, though.”
Tello erupted with laughter. “I felt so BADLY for Frank!!!! Now you would never know that he had such a bad go of it. He’s very handsome and dignified, but still remembers what it was like to be the awkward kid, so is extremely generous with his positivity. I’ll show you a pic of him sometime.”
She turned back to face the table. “I’m always open for ice cream! I think its one of the greatest inventions ever made.” Truthfully, it was her favorite thing to eat, all flavors and at any time of the day or night.
“As far as you not being the confident Captain you’re supposed to be? I won’t tell anyone if you won’t. It will be our little secret. It takes time to grow into the big chair—some people never do, but I have a good feeling about you’re abilities.”
“I think I just need to experience an actual… mission. You know, get my feet wet. So far all I’ve done is manage shore leave on the station. I’m looking forward to being able to show myself just what kind of leadership chops I have,” Jenn replied with a hopeful expression on her face. She was grateful for Tello’s words. The confidence and encouragement of others wasn’t required for self-confidence, but it certainly helped!
She got up and walked over to a large chest-freezer and opened up the top, tugging out a small cloth bag and letting the lid of the freezer thud as it fell back down into the closed position. Grabbing a box from the counter, she made her way back to the table and placed her treasures down before Tello. “Okay, this,” she tugged out three tubs, each with about a quart of Ice Cream and put a finger on the first, labeled as ‘moose tracks’, “Is NOT the replicated Ice Cream. It’s from home. Well, my Cousins’ place in southern Canada. Old Ice Cream company that’s been going for nearly 5 centuries, they still make everything natural. Real cows, real cocoa beans, real vanilla. All that. They say it’s way better this way, but I can’t really tell the difference.”
She then put a finger on the second tub, labeled ‘mint chip’. “This one is from Parvok III, the planet where I was raised. The place this program is based on. It’s my favorite. The milk it’s made from isn’t replicated, but the chocolate and mint flavoring are. And the final tub,” she put a finger on the final tub, labeled ‘cookies and cream,’ “Is replicated. I think it’s not as good as the other two, personally, but that’s up to the taster.”
Jenn sat down, looking at Tello with anticipation. “Which one do you want to try?”
Wallace, CO and lover of Ice Cream
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