Academy Flashback - Soup for Two

Posted Nov. 26, 2021, 9:35 a.m. by Lieutenant Emily Fox (Counselor) (Kate O'Neill)

Posted by Lieutenant Commander Ethan Nash (Chief Engineer) in Academy Flashback - Soup for Two

Posted by Lieutenant Emily Fox (Counselor) in Academy Flashback - Soup for Two

------ Original post here: ------------------------------------
“Start again? Noooooo…” Ethan began to laugh and shake his head.

“No,” she said back in a playful hurt tone. “I mean or would let us spend a lot more hours together. Are you saying you don’t find the thought of hanging out with me appealing Cadet Nash?” She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. Even on his shoulders he would feel her change in position and being his age would know the look she was giving him he couldn’t see. She was having far more fun with Ethan Nash than she probably should be. There was something fun teasing his proper officer side. She waited to see how he would break. Being in command meant dealing with the unexpected. Was he going to laugh it off? Would he protest and stumble over his words? Would be go all command and slip into the role of giving orders like it was second nature as those in command easily did. Emily was really going to enjoy her next 6 hours with him whatever the reply was.

“I’m not here to hang out with you,” Nash answered, matter of factly but not harshly.

“Of course your not,” she said with a hint of a smirk. “Nor are you easily distracted by me.” Emily had no idea why Ethan Nash was fascinating her so. Maybe it was the way he looked at her with those blue eyes and really believed what he was saying.

“I have a job to do and we should be doing it, no matter what I think of that or of hanging out with you. We just decorated it, there’s no way we have time to take all that down to paint it red to increase anyone’s appetite.”

The problem was Emily heard his tone. “It’s just,” she waved her hand around like she was trying to think of something as she talked, “well I hear what you’re saying but I almost feel like you are trying to convince yourself and not me,” she teased him in a soft tone. “I mean if you were more like Cadet Fox I am not going to put you on my shoulders and tote you around for thirty minutes,” she adopted a deep bad imitation of a man’s voice. “I am here to work so please escort me to the kitchen. I have something to do.”

“No, no.” Nash shook his head. “No I’m not trying to convince myself, at all. I mean seriously, we don’t have time for that, and I was helping,” he said the last word emphatically. “Ain’t nobody got time for repainting.”

“Yes like because it is four pm and dinner time,” Dulin called out. “Being hungry increases your appetite not paint or banners,” he grumbled.

“Oh shiiii....” Emily tapped Nash’s shoulders rapidly. “I totally forgot to start dinner,” she whispered in his ear. “How good are you at whipping up a dinner for three hundred in under thirty minutes.”

“Um,” his face went blank. “I once made soup for the Federation Scouts, I was nine, maybe?” He tilted his head and looked up at her, “It can’t be that hard, start a fire, add water and food, cook till it’s soup, right?”

“Exactly. I mean soup is soup right,” she bit her lip trying not to smile.

Taking his hands, she popped off his shoulders far easier than she ever got on. Looking at Ethan and then the clock Emily bit her lip. “How is your neck,” she pulled a chair over and again stood on it. “Come here and turn around.” Putting her hands on his neck, she slowly used the tips of her fingers to work out the small knots she could feel.

“Oh, ok wow that feels good.” Ethan nodded, letting his head drop down. She was tiny and weighed almost nothing, but the woman had buns of steel and thighs that could crack a mans skull if he wasn’t careful. He had been holding her with his hands but in truth, she really did have her legs and buns wrapped around him like a limpet. He had simply been the horse to her jockey.

“I am so sorry I was not paying attention to how long I was up there,” she moved her hands down to his shoulders and began working those muscles. “You know if you took off that coat I might be able to do a better job.”

Emily Fox

Looking at the long table of cooking gear, Nash though a moment and then nodded. “Why not, It’s going to get pretty hot in here soon with everybody arriving and we’re going to have to get cooking. I shouldn’t get the tunic dirty or the hairy hogfather will have a field day with snap inspections.”

Emily let out a small chuckle at the nickname for the officer who had more nicknames than Beelzebub himself. Only the brave ones said his name three times and then looked in the mirror. Only the stupid ones ever took the man directly on. It was clear this cadet had spent a lot of time with the man on some level. “Buuuut,” she easily slipped into counselor mode, “when have you ever seen a captain strutting around with coffee dribbles or a big glob of ketchup all over their shirt. Going command my friend means always traveling within arms reach of a shirt. Now those science people,” she let out a laugh. “They always have something somewhere. Especially the engineers. I dated an engineer once. That man had more grease on him than a bottle of canola oil.”

His hands quickly loosened the zip at the front and he slid it backwards off his shoulders, revealing a pair of broad and well built shoulders in a regulation Starfleet exercise tank underneath. Ethan may have been a runner at heart but he clearly enjoyed other past times, and if Emily wanted to hold true that challenge of rock climbing then the young Cadet definitely had the physique to make a go of it.

“Now it doesn’t it feel better losing your shirt,” she could not help but smile. Ethan Nash was so serious. Seeing him Emily decided that the man needed more in his life than studying and obviously working out at the gym. No one had a body like that just from PT sessions.

“It’s fine,” he replied.

“Yes it is,” she murmured seeing his shirt come off and his body underneath. It wasn’t a very professional comment on her part but the tone showed it was a compliment

”You were up there that long,” he looked at her as much as he could, “You were right, the place does look better with a few decorations, even with the nasty wall of sorrow behind it.”

Cadet Ethan Nash

“You really have something against beige,” she laughed slowly working the top of his right shoulder with both hands. “You know its a great neutral color. One day you will learn to love it. You will come home and your fiancée will have announced she used it as the neutral for the wedding, you wife will have painted your bedroom in it, you kid will have found a beige maniac on four feet you will be walking proudly down the street,” she ran off a litany of objects that the color could be represented on.

“Fiancee? Honey that is a long time away, I am career Starfleet. Not to say I won’t find that special someone but that is way down on my list and,” he paused for effect, “that special woman is going to know that beige is a no go topic for me. Seriously, if I turn up for the wedding and she’s plastered beige on that reception area or the cake is a Marital Depression Beige, I’m just gonna hand her that big ol ring and say goodbye, she definitely isn’t the one for me and has no idea who I am.”

Moving her head to his ear, Emily spoke in a low tone just above a whisper. “You are wrong Mr Nash. When you find Mrs Nash one day, you will be so in love you would do anything and everything for her. Maybe even wear beige to your own wedding just to see her smile.” Emily moved back and began to work the muscles slowly but firmly with a smile on her face. Men like Ethan Nash did not fall in love easily but when they did it was hard and fast and permanent. He could spin a yarn about what would happen years from now but it would be all lies. One day he would move the stars for someone and never ask why if they wanted it done.

Tilting his head one way then the next as she spoke, he focused on her touch for a bit but shook his head slightly. She really didn’t grasp how much he despised beige. “Damn, you have magic hands. Where did you learn to do that?”

“No where. Just a knack for knowing where people hurt and trying to make it feel better. Stiff muscle, bruised ego, or broken heart it’s all the same. Paying attention to something wrong, or good, does wonders.”

After rubbing his shoulders for a few minutes Emily got off her chair and sat on the table behind her. “Come here,” she said pulling a chair around so it was between her legs. “Sit here. It will be easier. Sitting is the great height equalizer. If you need to be eye to eye you can raise you chair and no one will know the difference from behind a desk. Sitting also makes people feel more comfortable because you are not stuck with having to keep up your perfect posture,” she replied. Working his muscles she completely ignored that she had forgotten again about starting something. The man was so easy on the eyes but so on the straight and normal. If she was going to have to spend the next few hours she had to loosen him up. “So Nash, Ethan, some year cadet,” she laughed not remembering how many pips adorned his neck. “How are you going to change the world when you graduate here.” Her hands were slowly working out all the tension in his neck and shoulders which was not all caused by their circus act.

Emily Fox

“Cadet 2nd Class Nash,” he replied immediately with a frown that she had forgotten or ignored it so quickly. He could feel his body relaxing as she worked her hands down his muscles, but he worked to keep that perfect posture that the tutors demanded of the Command Cadets. “Oh I’m going to go all the way,” he said. “Fast tracked for Starship Command and the advanced courses, Admiral Perkins himself has been offering me positions on his Staff, once I complete the Academy.” Looking back, Ethan smiled at her lightly with obvious pride that wasn’t bathed in overconfidence. She was easy to talk to and had a way about her, even if it was barely contained in chaos that Ethan seemed to be able to sense.

“Starfleet is what my family has always done, now it’s my turn. I took Command because cleaning holodeck filters isn’t my thing, you know? I belong on the Bridge of a ship or at the head of an Away Team, that’s me. Not serving soup on some mercy mission. How about the mysterious Emily Fox? How come you’re here, other than to rescue dull soup kitchens from the horrors of boringness before making soup for the masses? What’s your game here?”

Ethan Nash

“I like People and I like People to know there is always someone there for them. Do you know what is worse than not having someone to talk to when you are sad? Not having someone to share something special and meaningful. Everyone always wants to focus on those that are sad and lonely but at least to me having something wonderful and amazing to share and no one to share it with is almost sadder.”

Nash nodded and listened, Clearly she wasn’t in any of the regular divisions like Operations or Security, he considered Medical for a moment, she had the hands for it but talked too much. He smiled very slightly when she spoke about sharing things wonderful and amazing. That would be nice in an ideal world but nobody serious about Starfleet had time for that, people moved about too much and that meant any connections would likely be fleeting and too much of a distraction for a career Officer. “So where do you come in with that?” He asked her.

“I want to be the one person on the ship or station people can come to tell me how badly their life is falling apart but also how absolutely amazing it is. Not every session needs to be braiding hair and handing out Kleenex. It can also be high fives and congrats on achieving a goal or a dream.” Emily had drifted a bit rubbing his neck as she spoke. Everyone in her profession wanted to focus on fixing people but Emily saw it more as being a Life coach in a way. It was why she chose Inter ships like the soup kitchen. These people didn’t want a twelve step therapy plan. Just a little companionship and a full belly.

“Oh, has Starfleet added Bartenders to their list of Academy Courses?” He teased her. “Sob stories, life coach and advice, congratulations and high fives. Is Bartending part of the Sciences with Mixology or did they add that to Operations after all?”

“You got me. I moonlight as a bartender to help me with my current path and for the record no one leaves me sad after a Friday night liberty adventure. Just saying,” she laughed off his description of what he saw as someone who ended up sprawling on a counselors couch.

“If you haven’t guessed I am in the engineering program. Total focus on warp cores,” she teased Nash before starting to rub his lower back. “My biggest challenge in counseling is trying to understand some cultures and not be all judgey and not well hell now I see where all this is coming from.”

“You’re feeding people in a soup kitchen on a desert planet and decorating their buildings so they aren’t dull,” Ethan raised his hands to the decorations around them. “Explain to me how you struggle not being judgey, would you?”

“Well for example I have no idea how I am ever going to do marital counseling with the Mintarans. I am not sure if you know them.”

Nash paused, suddenly more interested in the conversation. “I’ve heard of them,” he admitted. “Tell me about them, why do you think they would be a challenge?”

“They have a thriving system and don’t typically join Starfleet. Any jobs in the Federation held by them tend to be analytical because they have this crazy system of marriage.” Emily moved from Nash’s side to in front of him.

“How crazy exactly? Tell me more.” Ethan replied, and this time leaned back and put his elbow on the table she had just been sitting on. “I mustn’t have been paying attention when they went over them in Social Sciences.”

“See they take this test. It’s like 10,000 questions I have heard. Afterward they get a compatibility match and get hitched. I mean they don’t date or anything. They just go for it and take the plunge.”

“Just like that? No dating?” His voice had an edge of awe and amazement to it, “They really took that Married At First Sight show to heart didn’t they?” Smiling, he shook his head at the thought.

“Just like that,” she repeated his words with a smile matching his. Leaning back in her seat she kicked off her shoes and propped a docked foot Into his lap. “Your turn,” she said and continued without missing a beat.

“You want me to touch that?” Ethan asked her, raising an eyebrow and pointing to the foot on his lap. Looking from her foot to the soup tables and considering he was going to have to start cooking at some point, Nash decided to stall for time and picked up her foot. Commanding Starships was one thing, but cooking turnips was not in his job description and he could wash his hands later anyway.

“Come on you know you are dying to. Don’t hide it. I mean you took off your shirt. I took off my shoe. We are basically playing 1880’s poker. If you are good I might up my ante and show you my elbow,” she slowly raised her arm up flashing him like it was far more risque.

Holding the heel of her foot in one hand, he ran one thumb solidly up the sole of her foot and over the pad under her toes. Once he felt the muscles he moved both hands so his thumbs could both begin to follow the curve of the muscles in her foot, rubbing firmly up and out in a back and forth motion. “Careful, there might be a question in that Mintaran questionnaire about elbows and body parts. You never know, you might have just proposed in an ancient dialect.” Nash teased her but his tone was flat and careful so that he sounded far more serious than he was.

“Can you even imagine getting married sight unseen,” she leaned back further and closed her eyes as Nash rubbed her foot. “It would be like us today. You walk in out of the blue and find out that we are supposed to be together forever and not ever knowing my name or face until an hour ago. Can you imagine?”

“Maybe,” he said as he looked at her foot and concentrated on working the knots out. A moment later, he raised his eyes to hers. “What if the moment you saw me you knew in your soul I was the one you were supposed to be with? Maybe they trust the system so completely that they have total faith and confidence that the person they match with is the one,” he threw out the thought as if it was random. “Maybe they only take that step when they are honestly ready to have someone they can share their amazing and wonderful experiences with in their lives, without the sorrow of having a broken heart by falling for the wrong person who isn’t there to truly adore and cherish them. Can you imagine trusting the process and the system so much that you know the person you meet is your soulmate? Can you imagine that first night of the honeymoon, when it’s the rush of being with your match for the first time as a partner, the passion of being with someone you just met physically, the tenderness of being with someone you love and someone you trust with your heart all in one moment? Can you imagine the bond that creates when both people are willing for the same thing and committing themselves completely to each other physically, emotionally and spiritually?” Then, Nash shrugged. “How would I know though, I missed that class, Mintaran’s are weird. So are their mating rituals.” Now he grinned, glanced at her in the eyes and then slowly at her foot again as he massaged it.

Emily held her breath as he spoke. There was so much under that hard academy shell. Might take a jackhammer and a stick of dynamite but she would get to the soft squishy later underneath it all in the six weeks they had until everyone returned back to campus.

“Cadet Nash,” a familiar voice echoed through the room immediately after us reply to Emily’s musing. “What in the back woods Kentucky moonshine mentality has you thinking your assignment here should involve being half dressed and playing footsie with women on my time,” Hornsby’s voice bellowed.

“Oh S%!t!” Nash said, dropping Emily’s foot instantly and springing to his feet, coming to a semblance of parade ground attention and then looking around wildly for his shirt, before just standing straight again as he realized it was far out of reach and Hornsby would get to him before he would ever reach it. “Sir, I am simply following my orders to assist the staff of this Kitchen as and when instructed. Removing my shirt and massaging her foot was an instruction, Sir.” Ethan raised his head and his reply came out with confidence. It was a risk with Hornsby but he wasn’t exactly lying, he had been told to do those things and his orders were to do as he was told.

“I am sorry. Do you think you are Cadet Knight or Cadet Shultz?” He began to pepper the poor cadet with questions.

“No Sir, I am far better than and able to follow orders as instructed better than Cadets Knight or Schultz.” Again the answer was quick and confident, mostly because he knew that he could follow orders far better than either of those two glory jockeys.

“Good Mary mother of God are you blind Cadet Nash,” Hornsby followed up his question with another one. Dramatically he threw up his hands and waved one in front of Nash’s face as if checking his ability to see.

Nash stood at attention, his head still in parade ground regulation rigidity but that was belied by his eyes racing back and forth trying to keep up with Hornsby’s hand. “No Sir, I am not blind.” He shook his head slightly.

“Because even with my old eyesight I can tell she is a junior rank to you so what possibly made you take an order from an officer junior to you? Was it her attire or you understanding that sometimes someone knows a bit more than they earned the rank for,” Hornsby leaned in as if daring Nash to chose the wrong answer.

“Under Starfleet general orders Sir, an Officer placed in command of an operation is in command regardless of rank. A higher ranking Officer assigned to support that operation is under the command of that lower ranking Officer in regards to that operation, Sir.” Nash finished his reply that was textbook perfect, and then frowned. He had no idea if Emily was in charge of this operation. He had simply taken her suggestions and helped out, and now he realized that he hadn’t even done the most basic requirement of arriving at an assigned station, that of reporting to the commanding officer. That sudden realization made Nash highly annoyed at himself and at the same time, Emily for distracting him.

“Good answer. So answer this. Do you think I brought you to this backwater world to play spring break with the fairer sex or to get you away from those two numbskulls and save your career?”

Ethan blinked for a second, not expecting that question. “Save my career, Sir?” This answer sounded not so sure of itself. Clearly it was the right answer, but what Hornsby meant by save his career gave Nash pause. He thought he was already doing a fantastic job. Admiral Perkins already wanted him as part of his Command Advancement program!

“You sir clearly have no idea who you should listen to and who you should tell to go jump off a cliff.” Hornsby moved next to Emily and raised an eyebrow as he waved around the room.

“Ms. Fox,” he said in his still thunderous voice but with a distinctly softer quality, “Was this you?” Waving around the room at all the decorations he looked back at her crossing his arms but uttering none of the same type sentences questioning her sanity or eye sight.

“Yep and Cadet Nash here volunteered to come back and help paint the walls. We decided on a nice red,” Emily replied not making eye contact with Nash. She knew if she did his expression would probably make her double over laughing. Lucky for her, however, the idea that Nash would be coming back for after-hours fun had the completely opposite effect on Hornsby.

Nash’s mouth dropped open, but he shut it again in an instant so that if Hornsby looked back at him, he was still standing where he had been. His brow frowned however and he shook his head violently but slightly, trying to make contact with Emily and get her to stop talking. She was setting him up, he knew it now, for whatever reason she was trying to stitch him up with Hornsby.

“Well cadet Nash I am confused,” Hornsby paced the room acting with a very poor expression of being confused. “How can you answer so many questions correctly but still make so many piss poor decisions?”

Emily fox.

Nash paused before answering again, but only for a fraction of a second. “Sorry Sir,” Ethan said and stood straighter. He really didn’t have an answer, his Hairy Hogfather and maneuvered him into a position where he really couldn’t answer anything to that without it sounding impertinent and sarcastic, and although his early answers could have been viewed as smart assed, they were honest. “I will do better next time.” As he spoke, his eyes settled on Emily and it was clear that if he could mutter things under his breath at that moment, he would be.

“I should hope so and if it is extracurricular activities you are interested in I am sure I can find you some that don’t involve Ms. Fox and a paint brush,” Hornsby gave Emily a side glance before moving closer to a wall to inspect what the two cadets had been up to.

Looking at Emily, Nash shrugged slightly while Hornsby had his back turned and spoke quietly to her. “What are you doing? Are you trying to get me on sanitation duties for the next month? When did I agree to come back and paint that damn wall red?”

“Just say thank you…ma’am,” she replied trying not to laugh or look at Nash. Doing so would bring Hornsby back and right now she needed the persnickety old career man to move along.

“So, we actually have to cook? We couldn’t bring in the mobile replicators and get this thing done?” He adjusted his tank, leaving his tunic lying where it was.

“Not all worlds have replicators or the ability to repair them when they go down. Yes, we bring them in and support their maintenance but if you are three days out from a supply route and your replicator goes offline, people get pretty hungry in three days. Food has always been a social experience so by supplying a steady stream of food and replicators people trust us more. You also can’t take back food like other supplies so it shows we really don’t want anything back from what we are giving. So we cook and it feels like home and creates a sense of family.”

“Ok, lets do this and get it over with before I end up on report.” His voice had gone back to serious and professional as his eyes took stock of the tables. “What food do we have to cook with and who is actually in charge here? Is it you?” He asked Emily.

Ethan Nash

With a pin point precision, Nash felt a mass hit the center of his back. The impact was strong but it was also his uniform tunic. “Don’t forget your shirt son. I would not want you to catch your death of a cold....or something else,” Hornsby added the last part locking his hawk-like stare on the young cadet.

“Thank you, Sir,” Nash replied flatly, turning and picking up his discarded tunic and shaking it out, putting it back on again while giving Emily an accusing stare.

“Stop,” Emily pointed a finger at Hornsby. “Go terrorize someone else but be back at six. Cadet Nash here is making soup,” she volunteered happily.

“Wait, how…” Nash began to ask softly, but Hornsby had already begun to reply. It was only now that Nash noticed something odd. Emily was giving Hornsby instructions.

“Soup…on a desert world you are making something hot. Son you sure you shouldn’t make something cold…like frigid cold where you think about putting on your academy issued overcoat and gloves,” Hornsby leaned in ask if waiting for another correct answer.

“You have a point Sir,” Ethan agreed, getting the hint clearly and eager to pour cold water on whatever Hornsby thought was going on between the mysterious Ms Fox and himself.

“No he doesn’t,” she directed her gaze at Nash, “and you eat MRE’s,” she looked back at Hornsby. “Now both of you straighten up and fly straight.”

“Go,” she pointed to the door again. “Soup is a great idea and you don’t have to eat here so get on the soup train or go eat in the mess hall,” she crossed her arms.

“Six o’clock then,” he nodded at Emily before looking at Nash. “That is eighteen hundred hours Cadet Nash and no corn in the soup. I hate corn in soup.” Hornsby leveled a gaze at him before turning sharply and walking out.

“What the hell was that?” Nash asked, holding out his hands in the time honored WTF expression. “Have you got a get out of jail free card in there or have some information you’re blackmailing him with?” Ethan was stunned, annoyed and frustrated at how things had gone so far.

“So,” Emily said pulling her ponytail out and shaking her hair out before starting to up it up again gathering all the loose pieces that had fallen out around her face. “How about we make a nice corn chowder,” she put her hands on her hips and spoke in a confident tone.

“You are just gonna ignore my question?” Nash asked, folding his arms and looking at her hard. “First you answer and then we cook. How come he’s not roasting you over a fire like he did me?”

Emily looked at Nash and for half a second thought about answering him. He was so serious and determined to play by the rules and earn best cadet of the quarter for probably the tenth time but there was more to life than snapping to and living in the box Starfleet crammed you in by shirt color.

“First one to the kitchen picks the soup recipe,” she immediately broke into a run for the small kitchen door.

Emily Fox

“What?” Nash said and dropped his arms. That wasn’t what he had just told her, she was completely side stepping his questions and now he blinked as her rear end made it’s way towards the kitchen. “Hey stop! No Corn!” He yelled as he broke into a sprint after her.

Emily looked like a runner but Nash spent a good amount of time on the track himself. Where Emily moved there were tables between her and the kitchen, and she would have to go around them but Nash, he was a dab hand at both sprints and hurdles and he decided to take the direct route. In the back of his mind he knew she couldn’t make him make corn chowder, but somehow she had booked him in to repaint a wall and had calmed the beast in Hornsby, he wasn’t going to take chances now.

Three tables stood between Nash and the Kitchen, and while Emily had a head start, she was running around them. Crouching slightly into a sprinters stance Nash sprung forwards, took two steps and then jumped the closest table in classic hurdle style. He hit the ground running and tensed for the second table, jumped and took it perfectly. Now, he glanced to see what Emily was doing.

Looking back, he suddenly realized that it wasn’t just a table in front of him at the final hurdle, but directly in his path was the old man Dulin that Emily had spoken to earlier. “Oh Plow me,” Nash said suddenly as he saw the man sitting upright, but still as Emily rounded the third and final table. He was committed now, so he narrowed his eyes and judged the speed and height he needed to have in the next two steps. Then jumped. He cleared Dulin, barely, feeling the scrape of the top of the mans head scrape him as he cleared the ‘hurdle’ and landed past the table between the kitchen and Emily, or would have if his foot hadn’t caught the back of a chair that wasn’t pushed all the way in as he came down. Tripping, he pitched forward with the customary oof sound but put himself into a clumsy roll that he couldn’t quite recover from, coming to a stop on his back at the base of the long tables set up for cooking.

Looking up at Emily, he shook his head and pointed at her. “No corn!”

Cadet Nash

Emily bent over putting her hands on her knees and heaved in a lungful of air. The race was not long or hard but she had never thought it would have turned into what it did. “Wow you are committed,” she laughed as her breathing came back to normal. Sticking her hand out to help him up, she could not stop laughing. “You were practically a gazelle or at minimum an antelope back there. My mentor was right. When you commit you commit. If Duln had been a hair taller you would have decapitated him which would have brought in medical. Now that would have been a problem. People make all sorts of assumptions when they see someone being rolled out of a restaurant and they always circle around the food. No one wants to battle the rumor of food poisoning in a soup kitchen I can tell you that.” Her tone was as serious as Nash had ever heard.

Leaning back so that Nash didn’t topple her when he took her hand, Emily helped him to his feet. “And I kinda lied to you. You can’t pick the soup,” she admitted. “Nutrition plans the menu and it is Vegetable Slig Soup. If you want to make an impression you can handpick Uh,” she stopped herself from adding the rest of the sentence she had planned on saying. The large pause in the conversation was the first time she had stopped talking since Nash had met her. It was also the first time, she looked slightly uncomfortable staring up into his eyes. Her mind went blank as every topic of conversation left her mind except for the one she was trying to avoid.

“Yeah yeah,” she waved her hand brushing off his hint of concern or confusion in his question. “Just lost my train of thought there for a second. I have been here since 5:30 am setting up for breakfast. Turning abruptly she entered the kitchen. “So we have most of the vegetables over there cut up in prep. The Slig meat is cubed and ready for the pots in the fridgeration units. We try to keep it simple so we just dump it all in the pots, stir these ten-gallon bad boys until our arms are going to fall off, and dish out dinner. Those two are ready so if you want to start dumping the stuff in those other three drums of broth, I can start plating up dinner. Oh and take that shirt off. It’s hotter than Yak balls when the ovens get going. Hornsby is just being a pill. Trust me you would be in far more trouble if you passed out and had to have medical show up from heatstroke than you would being out of uniform.”

Moving to the area where the clean dishes were replicated, she pulled half a dozen bowls out but not before turning on some music. Her face lit up as a soft song began to come from her personal communicator. She did not look at Nash but slipped into her job of starting to turn out dinner. Her movements however matched the rhythm of the song as she walked. Ripping off a hunk of bread, she set in on the tray and in perfect time, spun around with two bowls ready for Nash to fill with his laddle. Nash might have heard the song. Right now it was very popular but mainly with the ladies. “Play that song, The one that makes me go all night long. The one that makes me think of soup. THat’s all you gotta do,” she sang along with the lyrics changing the words slightly as he filled up the bowls and turned around setting them on the trays.

“Oh god Em,” a voice said hurriedly running into the kitchen and standing next to her taking over the job of getting dishes and setting bread on the trays so Emily only had to worry about the soup. “Out of nowhere, the line has erupted into something unbelievable It’s winding halfway down the street.” It was then she saw the man behind the counter and did a double-take. Who is that, she mouthed. The new guy did not look or act like the others that had been rolled in over the past few weeks. He definitely did not seem as if he belonged behind a soup pot and yet he was not complaining like all the others either.

“Hey, when you gonna plate that soup. Why you gotta hesitate. When you gonna plate that soup and make my day,” a voice sang the lyrics to the song again but with twisted words. The man’s voice was a bit gravely but surprisingly Dulin did not have that bad of a voice.

His comment made Emily look directly at the man behind her. “Come on Nash, the job you are going to be doing all night long. The one that gives them soup. That is all your gotta do.” She gave him half a wink before turning back and finding the pace of the line. It only took half a chorus before she and the girl next to her found the eat and the speed to enjoy the song and do their job.

It became rhythmic with little time to talk but enough time to sing and lighten the mood. Most of the people seemed edgy and gruff, taking the plates and giving Emily and the girl next to her suspicious glances as they took the tray and walked over to a table. The people talked amongst themselves in hushed tones occasionally appearing agitated as they waved the spoons back at the kitchen. Someone at the table quelled the murmured conversation before it escalated yet it created a weird environment. The endless line showed people were willing to come. The slightly aggravated mood showed, once they got the soup they didn’t necessarily want to stay. After finishing his food, Dulin moved about the room reminding one of a lunch monitor putting an end to most of the simmering hostility. No one seemed to question or challenge him.

“Glad we served soup,” the girl said to Emily nodding at one man who threw his spoon down with a clatter before storming out.

“Dulin has it under control,” Emily said confidently. “It’s fine and security always increases their patrols during the first two hours,” she replied in a calm, assured tone. Turning back to Nash, she raised an eyebrow and said in a firm tone. “It is fine. Stop looking worried. You are too young to get crows feet and that expression alone is enough to make me frustrated so smile and stir,” she tried to be light as before only there was something different in her tone and manner.

“Em....we good here,” a starfleet security officer asked poking his head through the door to the kitchen. From Nash’s scope of view, he could make out a third of the dining area but not the corners or the door. The man appeared to know here based on the use of her given name but his manner was far more professional.

“We are good Chad,” she addressed him by his first name also. “Just watch the line outside and pass out water if it gets tense. That always works, The shipping crates are on the side out back.”

Chad let his gaze drift over Nash as if sizing up an opponent. His scanning of the perimeter let Chad notice the more senior rank and command colors of the tunic slung on a back counter. “You got them,Sir,” he looked for confirmation from Nash before moving from his spot.

“Okay, then water is it. =/\=Start passing out water in the back and middle sections of the line. It will keep them focused and behaving.=/\= he spoke into his comm badge before tapping the wall a few times as if debating to say more. Instead, he settled with, “I will circle back around in sixty but use the comm badge Fox. I am serious. Don’t be all hippy-dippy the galaxy is saved by a bowl of soup.” The hint of familiarity was now gone as Chad moved from his spot in the door to back on patrol.

Emily Fox

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