STF

CO quarters 2000 hours

Posted Nov. 11, 2022, 8:45 p.m. by Captain Calvin Marius (Captain) (Luke Hung)

(Snip)

Putting her hands in her lap, Vanessa opened her mouth and waited. Her comment about mixed signals again played out in her head. Calvin was interesting and fun. One minute he seemed to be playing Captain Marius and the other he was Calvin the romantic. The bump bumps in her chest were her body thoroughly enjoying the ride, not knowing whether this date was going to be a ten on the Richter scale of weak knees walking home or a one indicated by a gentle ride on a moving sidewalk.

As the spoon entered her mouth, Vanessa closed her eyes and savored the bite of custard on her tongue as she let out a deep moan. It was unexpected just like him. Parts of it were silky and smooth gliding effortlessly in her mouth. Other parts were rough and bumpy from the sugar crystals providing an interesting texture and some resistance. It was not plain old cooked vanilla pudding but a culinary experience that made her want to grab the bowl and scream ‘it’s mine go get your own’. Opening her eyes she smiled at him. “Okay, it is official. I am definitely a multi-foodgasmic kinda girl. Everything has been amazing and like all desserts, this capped off an amazing meal. You are going to be sorely disappointed when you come over for dinner at my place.” Picking up her spoon she dipped it in the dessert and held it out waiting for Calvin to reciprocate her previous gesture.

“And get your head out of the gutter. A foodgasm is the euphoric feeling of utter happiness that one gets when they eat something, particularly satisfying like a cold beer on a hot day or that one thing your mom makes when you come back for shore leave because it was your favorite as a kid.” She winked at him with a big smile. “So what is your go-to comfort food that says ‘damn life is good.’“

Vanessa Slade CNS

“I know what the difference is.” He answered. “Creme Brule is one of my real cheats. There is absolutely nothing about this that is good for you. Cholesterol, fat, sugar and fire, but its like swallowing Joy.” He smiled as he ritualistically cracked the shell of the creme and spooned a mouthful. There is nothing, nothing, healthy about this.” He closed his eyes, “it’s all sensual sensation of pleasure.”

Marius

“Like me,” Vanessa commented, “well except for the cholesterol and fat.”

“So just fire and sugar,” Calvin countered. Vanessa had a very particular self image or was it just a straight flirtatious presentation. She didn’t have anyone to impress. Calvin was already sold and in a way she was bought.

“Absolutely and if you doubt it there is that childhood rhyme about sugar and spice and everything nice to confirm it,” she winked at him.

Scooping up another bite she smiled, “okay this is really good. We don’t tend to get stuff like this back home. My mah and grandmah’s cook the old-fashioned way. Replicator credits were used for things that were harder to come by. It has gotten easier as we have grown up although most people think I am crazy for sending half my check back home to my parents. When I was living with them it was like rent. Now that I have a free roof over my head and the mess hall it is more just a habit.” Vanessa made sure she stayed on her side of the dessert as she scooped up another bite. It was too early to say that they needed a second or a larger bowl but that day would come.

“You can make anything with a good enough replicator and enough programming power.” The cost of food was all the same once the replicator and program was paid for. Power was power. “Making food from scratch, can make more flavorful food, but it can be really expensive. Not to mention with 12 brothers, that’s a lot of mouths.”

“True but the programming credits are what kills the lower classes. Sure you can replicate diamonds and gold and luxury items but then what do you do when your shoes wear out? People always think replicators only pump out food but it also produces clothes, shoes, soap, toothpaste, socks, birthday presents, Christmas gifts,” she let her voice trail off some. If we are not replicating those things we are stuck buying them and clothes cost a lot more than a bag of flour, milk, eggs, and hamburger. Don’t get me wrong. We bought things but not a lot. For what my mom skipped on ingredients for dinners, we got other things.”

“Oh yes, the shoes and socks Christmas presents. Always a big winner with the kids.”

Vanessa let out a laugh. “They are the worst second only to pajamas and a new winter coat. Although one year I got a bubble gum pink one. This normally wouldn’t be something a kid was thrilled about but when you have siblings you always get the hand-me-downs.”

“Has your family ever come to the ship and beamed about how proud they are of their baby boy?” The more she hung out with Calvin the more she was interested in things past the surface. It was hard to imagine the man across from her wearing footie PJ’s and carrying a bear or blanket but everyone was young once. Those stories and images only came out when mom’s showed up and broke out the baby pictures.

Vanessa Slade CNS

“My birth parents are dead.” He said without emotion.

Vanessa did say anything but picked up her coffee to hide the expression on her face much like she did when she was in a session and was surprised by a confession. Her mind however ran with a multitude of questions. It was natural when someone dropped a bomb like that. “I am sorry that happened to you. Were you young enough to remember them?”

“Well, I was the oldest survivor of a colony world. My parents, all the parents of that world packed everyone under eleven into a Constegoa transport and shipped us back to the Federation. Theoretically, I was in charge of that ship. But we were in stasis for the entire trip.” He paused that didn’t answer the question, “yes, yes I remember my parents.”

Vanessa let the moment hover between them. Until now she had no idea that Calvin was an orphan but that sort of information didn’t typically pop up in casual conversation. She pondered on whether Calvin’s response was a good thing or bad one. Kids that lost their parents tended to either create a hero mythos about them or were consumed by feelings of abandonment. Neither option was ideal or one someone hoped for but they each had their own baggage. While Vanessa was not going to turn this into a counseling session, it was helping her understand Calvin Marius more. She had always assumed his slight separation from the crew was from his rank and needed everyone to see him as an authority figure. Now she suspected he partially used his command rank as a shield from letting anyone get too close for fear of losing them again. Losing those that served under you was difficult. Losing someone you cared for was tragic. Vanessa let the pause linger long enough for Calvin to lead the conversation in the direction he chose.

“My adoptive parents and I don’t have a very strong relationship. That’s all my fault, I wasn’t the best child. Lots of rage and defiance from losing my parents.... so the therapist said. Well all of them said.” He confessed.

Vanessa opened her mouth to refute this but did not. Calvin probably was filled with rage at the unfairness of his parent’s death. It was a normal reaction and phase of mourning that ranged from anger to fury. There was also the idea of survivor’s guilt that some bore especially when they were so young to understand the sacrifice made by his parents was out of love and hope for his future.

“They were right, we’ve made amends, but even though you can take things back and be forgiven. You can’t unring some bells. Well that got heavy fast.”

Marius

Setting her cup down she leaned forward resting her elbows on the table. “Okay, I am duty bound to say this not as a Lieutenant but as a human being. Teenagers are arsehats in general. My mom always says that is why god makes babies so cute. So when you are ready to throw them through the wall you see the baby picture on the wall and think twice.” Reaching out she took his hand and gave it a squeeze. “I have no idea what kind of arsehat you were at six or sixteen but I know the man sitting across from me is someone they are damn proud of.” It was hard for Vanessa to contemplate being estranged from her family. Sure they fought like cats and dogs but that happened when you knew someone close enough.

“Well then I was a perfect teenager.”

“No you were a arsehat. Comes with puberty,” she tried to lighten the conversation slightly, “it is just sometimes teens remove the hat and others wear it like a suit of armor. In the end, however the hat always comes off when we learn our parents are not dithering dipstick and were not blindly stumbling about until we made our appearance at thirteen to guide them.”

Calvin was right the conversation got heavy fast but it was not as awkward as one might think. There was a comfortable thing going on between them. This did not mean she was ready to demand closet space and half the sink in the bathroom but it took the dinner from a one-time thing to the possibility of a regular occurrence.

“You know if you ever want to bring your parents aboard I could time it where I bring mine. Lord my mother would have your mom on her knees thanking god you are her son and not one of the Slade boys.” Moving the bowl of Brulee closer to her, Vanessa took the last bite without even offering it to Calvin. The move was tactical and purposeful. Calvin had wanted to tell her but he was also a man and probably had no desire to dwell on it specifically. Stealing his dessert allowed for Calvin to gracefully exit the conversation or continue it. She had left the last sentence open for Calvin to throw in a quip, change the topic, or share more. Vanessa was actually on the edge of her seat seeing which direction he went.

Vanessa Slade CNS

“An ideal child by comparison. ” He shook his head, “I could always parade Khan Singh in front of old mom and dad too.” He started, “I suspect you aren’t guilty of mass murder.”

Vanessa paused knowing the comment was figurative but not sure how to answer it. Of course, she wasn’t a Khan but that did not mean she wasn’t a Southie Terror for a few years.

He looked at her, “Right?”

“Mass murder no but the arson charges were dropped,” she replied casually enough. Her tone might give him pause to debate whether she was being playfully flippant or sharing a nugget from her past.

“Or was that a secret way of suggesting our parents meet each other.” He didn’t think that was exactly the plan. “I think that would be a little premature.”

Marius

“Oh,” she let out a chuckle that was suddenly followed by a series of oh’s that changed the chuckle to a full-on belly laugh as if Calvin was the funniest man she had ever met. “That is a hard no. There is no way in hell I would let you meet my family. That encounter is not for the faint of heart. Remember I have nine brothers. Lesser beings have run screaming off into the night never to be heard from again. Besides even with your Marine training you are…are,” Vanessa began to stutter realizing she was about to say something that could nip this burgeoning possibility in the bud. Her eyes looked at him as if searching for something to say as her mind went blank.

“You are in Starfleet,” Vanessa blurted out as if it were the most logical response to his question.

“Yes but I am a girl in Starfleet. Theoretically, I can quit at any time and come back home,” Vanessa said as if this was an unwritten rule in Starfleet and something most women did. “Calvin’s Mom and Dad might be fine with that but Vanessa’s mom and dad think she is on Vulcan and this Starfleet thing is a phase I am going through so how can I just roll in the Captain of a Federation starship at my plus one to Denny’s wedding this Christmas? You might be able to stare down a ship ready to blow us to smithereens but you would absolutely crack the first second my mother says ‘so Calv’n what do you do faw a livin’?” Vanessa made sure she let her Southie drawl spill out over the table utterly imitating her mother’s thick drawl.

“However,” she held up a finger, “aside from your terrible career choice,” she let out a laugh leaning back, “you are exactly the type of guy mom’s go nuts over. Frankly, I don’t think I would be able to withstand the ‘Cal is Great’ brigade.”

Vanessa Slade CNS

“Well that is good to know,” Calvin said, “because Cal is great. It would do you well to remember that.”

“Would it now,” Vanessa flirted back.

“It’s the Captain thing. Mothers seem to think that if you were in the military you are respectful. Which has some degree of truth, but it is often a misleading belief. Some of the worse people I know are great officers. I’d trust them with my life, but not within a mile and a half of my daughter.”

Marius CO

“Calvin Marius,” she teased with a smile, “you know you have gotten within an inch and a half of someone’s daughter and are about a foot and a half from one right now. Does that mean I should keep my one good eye on you?” Vanessa squinted playfully with one eye as she closed the other pretending to scrutinize him.

“Yes, that would be in your best interest. A marine is always a dangerous animal.” Vanessa would quickly bounce from a deep conversation into a double entendre in a heartbeat.

The topic was heavy but so was the tension in the room between them. It felt like the moment between when a match was struck and a fire erupted. Standing up she decided to give the fire a little gasoline. She was playing with fire already being in the Captain’s quarters dressed like she was. While publicly the reasoning would be crew evaluations, she was only interested in being evaluated and doing an evaluation of her own. Moving to his small bar, she moved with the grace and ease of someone who was familiar with the space. Last night Calvin had shared where he kept the good stuff so Vanessa assumed it was an open invitation for use. “Okay, I am gonna give you options.”

“Well, I wouldn’t know what to do with options. Since Captains are known across the universe for being incapable of making decisions.” He said sarcastically.

Coming back to the table she poured them each a drink. Conversations like this with men like Calvin were best with liquor and not coffee. “Tell me about your family or why Cal is Great and I should invest in pom poms for my family to use during your pep rally .” She left it open-ended as to whether he talked about his biological one or his adoptive one.

Vanessa Slade CNS.

“Your pom-poms are fine.” Two can play the double entendre game.

“You don’t want to hear that, this early in the evening.” It really was that his family life was too depressing to discuss early in a relationship and this was turning dark fast. “I used to have a little drinking problem.” He chuckled. “Surprising considering how much real alcohol I have here.”

“Well, that is better than a big drinking problem.” Vanessa tried to infuse a bit of humor into the conversation since Calvin chuckled. This was a heavy topic and she did not want to come off as if she was mentally ticking boxes on the therapy checklist instead of listening as someone that was not a therapist.

“The difference with me, unlike most alcoholics, was that I could stop at any time, and I don’t like being drunk. It was a straight escape. So, once I dealt with trauma… no drinking problem” He took a sip. “The other advantage, now I have a ridiculously high tolerance. So, I’m not a cheap date and all those ensigns that think they can put the old man under the table are in for a big surprise.”

“You have not met my Funpa Fred. He is my grandma Gert’s beau. We call him Funpa because Old Gert still pretends he is a courtin’ instead of being one of those guys the church ladies feel should stay a mile and a half away from the ladies.” Smiling at Calvin, she let out a small laugh. “File this footnote but if you don’t want to bruise Funpa’s ego give up at four shots. It will win you brownie points.”

“Oh, that might be tough. I’m not renown for throwing contests. If funpa pokes the bear, he’s going to get the claws.”

“Maybe you should tell me about your huge family.”

Marius

“Oh where does one start,” she let out a full-bodied laugh as she took a sip of her drink. “As you know there are twelve of us proper Slades. With my grandma’s Gertie and Connie it makes 14 of us. My mom started with the D thing with my brothers because she hated the name Doug but wanted to name their first son after his father. It became a joke when she had the next three boys that if she kept having kids one day they would run out of D names and have to use Douglas. Now it s just a tongue twister. Dalton, David, Daniel, Duncan, Dane, Dallas, Dylan, Dexter, and Dennis. Yes,” she held up a finger, “there will be a quiz later.”

“Not a chance of passing.” He said with honesty, “but the ally D thing will help a little be.”

“We live in what is called the Irish Battleship. The term is a Boston colloquialism referring to back when an Irish family had a ton of kids and when they all poured out of the house it looked like a ton of sailors departing a ship because the design of the triple-decker house looked like a warship. The house has been in our family for generations but leave it to the Slades to take it one step further. My three oldest brothers bought the house next to my mah’s so we are slowly taking over the block and turning the battleship into a fleet.”

“A close-knit family. In the long run it is a great resource. In the short run a great source of comedy.”

“We are loud and noisy when we all get together and yes we all get together a lot. We would drive you crazy because you like order and we have a distinct lack of it. My family is not for the faint of hearts but your Marine training might help you survive it,” she smiled looking down at her glass and running a finger around the rim. It had been really hard transferring to the Genesis and even harder not seeing them for the past six months. Homesickness however was not just a cadet thing.

“It can’t be harder than basic.” He said aloud as he thought about it. “Although fourteen on one is a tough ratio to win.”

Snapping out of her temporary daze she blinked and shifted in her seat pretending she wasn’t lost in her thoughts for a second. “So outside of the Slade proper, we have the outlaws aka my sisters-in-law. It has been a family joke for a while that the poor schmuck I convince to marry me won’t be an outlaw however but the head of a harem because all he will have for support against us is a posse of women.” Silently she mused as to how well the potential Starfleet outlaw she might bring home one day would fare with her family.

“Ever been to Earth past Starfleet command,” she asked. Two hundred years ago the question would have sounded crazy. With the vast number of worlds now open with the use of warp drives, Earth was no longer important except as the home planet for the Federation and the birthplace of Earth’s humanity.

Vanessa Slade CNS

“Yeah, a couple of times since the Academy,” He paused to think, “There was command school for two months and then every time I got leave to visit the parents.” They were his adoptive parents, but he didn’t make the distinction anymore, but he might have to clarify that since he just told her that his parents were dead. “Adoptive.”

“Not as often as I should,” He mused. “The ship rarely was close enough to Earth to make it an effective location for leave. “We’re relatively close now and it would take 3 weeks to get there at warp eight.” He shook his head. “Star Fleet would frown on having a star-ship without it’s captain for a month and a half. I’d have to wait for a re-fit and then, hope the don’t demand I stick around to watch it.”

“You get home often?” He knew already that she spoke to them often enough.

Marius


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