Blue and Spots
Episode 4: Whispers In the Dark
Tara walked along leisurely, her destination the arboretum. At her side was her faithful companion, Sage, a great white beast of a dog with unparalleled gentleness and affection; Tara and Sage had been together for a long time, long before she was joined, and having him with her through her transition had been the only thing that really helped her get through it.
Coming down the hallway in the opposite direction was the spunky Meibei, her own destination being the ship's lounge. Oddly, though, the Andorian girl wasn't dressed in her uniform but instead civilian attire: a short, flowery dark green sundress that left her blue arms bare. She was set for a pleasant evening socialising, an evening of getting to know her shipmates, and that plan went right out the window the moment she set her eyes on the gorgeous individual that she saw in the hallway.
"Is that a DOG!?" Meibei cried, her mouth agape in wonder. Her eyes flicking up to the dog's owner, she beamed in pleasure. "Oh my, he's gorgeous! Uh...he is a he, right?" With that, she promptly dropped to the deck for a proper view. "Yup! Definitely a he! Oh wow! I haven't seen a dog in years!"
Tara just stood agape at the woman, surprised by her level of excitement, but also... there was something familiar about this woman... Of course, Sage loved the attention, especially when the little blue woman started to give him a good rub, and she gave good ear rubs!
"Sage!" Tara exclaimed when he dropped to the deck and rolled onto his back so he could get a belly rub. "You traitor," she said with amusement as she watched her not-so-faithful companion accept lovin' from another woman. Sage's only response was the hearty wag of his tail as his tongue lolled out of his mouth, definitely a happy pooch!
"Aw, you're not a traitor," Meibei teased merrily as she rubbed Sage's belly. "You just like a good belly rub, don't you, hm?"
After Sage got back on his paws, Meibei stood back up as well, suddenly supremely self-conscious before the elegant Trill woman. "Oh...ah...sorry. I get real enthusiastic sometimes...I'm Meibei, though most call me Mei. Pleasure to meet you."
Tara stared at Mei's face, possibly even long enough for it to be considered rude, but there was just something about this woman...
"I know who you are!" Tara suddenly exclaimed. "You are Meibei zh'Khessi and I met you on the shuttle bound for Starbase 375! I caught you in a compromising situation with, ahem, another passenger..."
“What?” Mei said in confusion, thinking back, before smirking in nostalgic amusement. “Oh yeah, that was weird. Fun, though. But that wasn’t you. That was some creepy pervert who walked in on us.”
"I was not-" Tara cut herself off to clear her throat. "He was not a creepy pervert, you were doing... THINGS! On the warp core! How do you expect a grown man to react?!"
Mei looked down at the deck sheepishly at Tara’s outrage. “Um...close the door and let us finish?” she said meekly.
Or ask to join in!
Tara sighed as she rubbed at the bridge of her nose; one... two... three...
Alright, I'll be quiet! But you do have to admit, it was pretty hot.
Maybe it was, but Tara wasn't going to give Arjin the satisfaction of saying so.
"I apologize for my outburst," Tara finally said to Mei, much more calmly this time. "I am Commander Tara Neprem, but you would have known me then as Ensign Arjin Neprem; he died recently, I now have his symbiont," she explained, folding her hands neatly behind her back in an attempt to regain a sense of decorum. "Interpersonal relations are to be conducted in private; please see to it you keep that in mind, no more sex on the warp core."
“Commander?” Mei repeated with horror, eyeing Tara’s very civilian clothes and friendly dog, before she snapped to attention, her antennae standing as ramrod straight as her back. “Oh...oh, yes sir! No more sex on the warp core. Promise!” Realising what she had just said in a public corridor, Mei looked around in panic before she confirmed that nobody had overheard her. “Phew. Kinda glad no one heard that.”
"Indeed," Tara said with a hint of a smirk. "And at ease; we're both clearly off duty, you've learned your lesson, so there's no need to stand on ceremony," she continued with amusement. "And since Sage seems so fond of you, I invite you to join us; we were just on our way to the arboretum so he could run around for a bit."
It took Mei a moment to relax from the whiplash between stern Tara and friendly Tara, but she smiled again. It was rather like her default setting. Turning around to join Tara in step as they set off for the arboretum, she glanced down at Sage curiously, seemingly fascinated by the animal, although her focus was secretly elsewhere.
“So your symbiont,” she said idly, “that used to be in Arjin? So you remember everything he did? Literally everything?”
"Yes," Tara said with a faint blush. "Why? Is there something in particular you would like me to recall?" she asked in return.
Blushing herself, Mei couldn't help a small giggle. "Aw, okay, this is awkward," she said, grinning. "I mean, it's not like I can stop you from remembering..."
"I don't remember everything," Tara said as they walked. "No being remembers everything about every day of their lives, Trill hosts are no different, and sometimes even the symbiont can forget things, so not absolutely everything carries over, but enough... What really carries over the most are feelings and a grander sense of self."
"A grander sense of self?" Mei repeated, intrigued. "Like your soul and your place in the universe?"
"Ah, well..." Tara's eye s squinted slightly as she thought on this. "There definitely is a certain feeling that comes with being part of a legacy like this, that you are contributing to something bigger than yourself, but then the experience of the symbiont provides greater confidence and makes the host feel... I don't know how to describe it except... 'more', I just feel there's more of me."
They arrived at the arboretum, and Sage quickly darted off to go water some bushes. Tara reached into her pocket for a small length of thick rope that had a couple of knots and the ends were frayed.
"I'm not sure I can explain the feeling properly. I'm sorry if it's confusing," Tara said while she waited for Sage to come back.
"Naw, it's alright," Mei said compassionately as she watched Sage go about his doggy business. "it's just so fascinating, you know? Like you've got a whole other person inside you." As Sage returned, she ruffled his ears happily. "So do you ever talk to him? Or is he absorbed into you and stuff?"
"Technically, I have three distinct consciousnesses inside me aside from my own," Tara said as she threw the knotted and frayed rope so that Sage could go chase it. "The first host, Kareel, then Arjin, then of course there's the symbiont itself, but the symbiont feels different than the others." Sage came running back, and after a bit of a fight he released the rope for Tara to throw it again. "And I do talk to Kareel and Arjin, though it's not supposed to work that way; they're supposed to be blended into me, but the circumstances of my joining were complicated, so my relationship with my symbiont is not what it's supposed to be."
"Uh huh," Mei replied with an awkward smile as this time she took the drool-covered rope from Sage, throwing it a fair distance. Wiping her hand on her dress, she just stood there in silence, twirling her foot in embarrassment and purposefully not looking at Tara. What could she possibly say to something so complex and intricate? Mei wasn't exactly an intellectual, not like this beautiful Trill...
"You are uncomfortable," Tara observed. Mei had asked a question and Tara answered it to the best of her ability; was this not what Mei wanted? Sage came back one again and Tara threw his rope. "Is it me in particular or all joined Trill that make you uncomfortable?" she asked as she watched Sage lose interested in rope, instead running around and rolling in the grass; there was no offense in her words, only curiosity.
"Oh no, it's nothing like that," Mei said quickly. "You're just so elegant and all, and you've got three whole minds inside you, and I guess I'm just a bit plain. If it's warp cores, racing or ice sliding, then I'll talk your ear off as much as you like, but I'm not really one for deep spiritual stuff."
Tara chuckled. "Well you asked!" she insisted with amusement. "Honestly, Trill don't view joining as something 'spiritual' at least not in the same way other races would view it, it's more cultural than that."
Sage was having so much fun rolling around in the grass, he yipped and growled as he wriggled around. "Oh, real nice, you goof, now you're covered in grass!" she called out to her companion. "Guess who's getting a bath when we get home!"
Sage took exception to this and ran straight into the little pond in the middle of the garden, then he ran straight for Tara and Mei.
"No no, don't!" Tara exclaimed just before Sage started shaking, spraying them both with pond water, albeit very crisp clean pond water, but pond water nonetheless. "Guess we're all in need of a bath now..."
Mei cried out as Sage unleashed his aquatic assault, dancing away from the dog as she laughed. "Aw, that's it, you're done for!" she shouted, running right at Sage while heedless of her dress, although the Great Pyrenees easily outmanoeuvred the small Andorian. After barely avoiding falling into the pond after Sage jinked to the left, Mei gave up, giggling as she stopped next to the pond.
"Yeah, I think we're all gonna need a bath," she laughed at Tara. Looking down at her dress, which was starting to stick to her stomach, she scowled. "Aw, this is my favourite dress too."
"I'm sorry, sometimes he can be quite the troublemaker," Tara said as she walked towards Sage. He considered playing chase with her as he had done with Mei, but he had already pressed his luck enough, so he sat down and let Tara give him an ear rub. "If the garment processor cannot clean your dress to your satisfaction, then I will gladly take you shopping for a replacement the next time we make port," Tara offered.
"I'd like that," Mei replied with a dazzling grin as she bent down, washing her hands in the pond. "Want some help giving Sage a bath? I've got nothin' else to do tonight. I was gonna hit the lounge, but I can always do that tomorrow."
"Well, how about you help me, then we can hit the lounge together?" Tara offered in return. "The lounge manager saves the good stuff for the late evening anyway."
Mei made a low sound of revelation as she wiped one of her antennae. "Ooh, that's a good tip. " Taking another look down at her splattered dress, she shrugged nonchalantly before glancing up at Tara. "So do you have any friends onboard or...ya know? I'm a new transfer, and since I'm supposed to be chief engineer, it can be hard to meet people..."
"I'm friendly with the Captain, but I'm not sure we are really 'friends'; however, she did get me drunk at a welcoming party she held..." Tara said with some thought, then looked down at Sage. "Come, let's get you cleaned up," she said, then continued to ponder Mei's question as they began walking. "I'm also on friendly terms with the Counselor; I have been in therapy because of my joining, but he is an interesting person, I would be willing so socialize with him." Then she blushed. "He also helped get me drunk... at that party..."
"Oh yeah?" Mei teased, catching Tara's blush. "Did you do anything stupid? Sing any songs? Dance on a table?"
"I would like to exercise my right to not answer that question," Tara replied, trying not to look embarrassed.
Mei laughed, a bright and innocent sound. "Aw, so you did do something! Did you and the counselor get smoochin' in a corner? Wake up the next morning after a secret bedroom rendez-vous?"
"Oh goodness, do people really do things like that?" Tara asked as she looked at Mei with shock.
I've done it!
Hells bells, he was not suppose to sound proud of that!
I've done it, too. Really, Tara, you need to learn to live a little!
"Oh great, apparently my previous hosts are double-teaming me; I'm really starting to regret saving Neprem..." Tara said in a dull, flat tone.
"What are they saying?" Mei asked curiously.
"Just that I need to 'learn to live a little'," Tara replied. "Apparently, I am the only host of Neprem's who has not woken up in a strange bedroom after a drunken rendezvous."
At that, Mei couldn't help but giggle, giving Tara a friendly elbow as they entered the turbolift with Sage. "Aw, you're adorable," she said reflexively, before her eyes widened in brief alarm. "Oh, I don't mean to be inappropriate. You're just real cute, being embarrassed like that. That ain't too forward, is it? I don't mean to be flirtin'. We barely just met, and we're both senior staff..."
Her words trailed off, and as the turbolift doors closed, Mei grinned nervously, again looking everywhere except at Tara. Despite her previous assurance, the Trill woman did make her uncomfortable, but certainly in a pleasant way.
Tara sucked in a breath. "I have... never flirted with or been flirted by a woman before..." she admitted reluctantly. "Please don't misunderstand, I have nothing against women, I've always been open-minded, but I have never been attracted to... women... before my joining..." She cut a glance to Mei. "So... this is adorable to you?"
"Sure," Mei said with a grin, her hands fiddling behind her back. "I mean, for me, at least. You seem real honest and forthright, and I just love when people like that get flustered. Dunno why. One of my pops used to say that if I see someone with a stick up their rear, there ain't nobody better to reach up there and yank it out."
Tara's eyes went wide at her statement. "Oh... Oh my, is that really how people see me?" Tara asked, somewhat astonished by the revelation. The lift came to a stop and Tara continued walking, Sage obediently at her heels. "I've been called eccentric before, but that's just my upbringing; I was raised as a Guardian in the Caves of Ma'kala, we naturally have a reputation as being eccentric, but I never thought of myself as, well, uptight as you suggest."
"Naw!" Mei insisted with an adorable noise of her own as she kept pace alongside. "There's nothing wrong with that! It means you're strong and certain, you're grounded. Those are good things."
"If you are certain," Tara replied, relaxing somewhat. Her quarters were not far, and when she opened the door Sage went right in and tried to go straight to the oversized cushion on the floor beside a nice armchair.
"No, bath," Tara said firmly, and Sage tucked his tail slightly and went to the bathroom. At a glance, Tara's room wasn't very 'personalized', she had very little other than the stock accouterments, just a few books on a shelf and a strange round stone on her desk.
"So fair warning, Sage is usually well behaved during the bath, it's the afterwards where I typically have a problem: he likes to run and, um, rub his face all over the floor," Tara said. It was actually quite amusing to watch, but it was still an annoyance trying to catch Sage to prevent him from shaking water all over the place.
Having given the spartan quarters a brief lookover, Mei nodded in acknowledgement, grinning at Sage's reluctant obedience. "Consider me duly warned, Commander," she teased. "I'll go start up the bath, then."
And then, without even a hint of self-consciousness, Mei started unhooking the buttons on her sundress. After finishing the buttons, she reached behind her neck and yanked the sundress off in a single movement, dumping the garment on a chair, leaving the bubbly Andorian clad only in her cyan undergarments. Completely ignorant, she then promptly disappeared into the bathroom, soon accompanied by the sound of running water.
"You comin', Tara?" she called back innocently.
Tara stood completely stunned at the Andorian's brazenness, her cheeks set aflame at the sight of naked blue beauty. As much as Tara wanted to scold Mei, she was finding herself oddly turned on.
"Uhhhh, yes! Yes, I'm... coming," Tara stammered out, but she remained clothed in her plain grey robes as she followed Mei into the bathroom. What had she gotten herself into?!