SIM:Jaxx-The Dinner

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((Counselor’s Office - USS Apollo))


::Sidney leaned against the wall in the corridor, jacket folded neatly over her arms. Despite the fact that this dinner had semi-formal tones, she was off-duty and damned if it wasn’t warmer in the corridor than it ever was in her quarters or office. Apparently the off-duty crew had all gone on a little Holodeck vacation while she had been working on her paper. This was no different than crunch time at the Academy, where Sidney could always be found hunched over her desk, surrounded by take-out trays and replicated mugs of coffee trying to get a turn of phrase just right for the extra half mark. It had paid off in her GPA, but several professors had mentioned their concern that she did not seem to be socializing as well as the other students. Sidney had been offended that socialization was still a major concern at the collegiate level. She was pretty sure that she knew which of the doors was her new office, but the Captain had been so intent on showing it to her. It must be some little formality in his mind; the gesture was nice, though, and Sidney had decided the vacant office would make a good setting for a dinner to discuss the work ahead of them.::


:: Jaxx moved down the corridor toward the counselor’s office. He was meeting Sid for dinner, and it was time for her to make that transition. As he moved closer, he spotted her standing with her jacket in her arms. It was good to see he was not the only one in a casual mood. ::


Jaxx: Sorry for being late...::pointing toward the door:: I had a thing...


Pierce: ::opening the door:: Yes, well, that’s a problem we all have from time to time.


::Jaxx smiled. In the back of his mind he knew that he was her commanding officer, but at the same time, he felt as if they were colleagues as well. His counseling background served him and the crew well. Many officers learn a lot in one field before joining the Academy. The fact that Betazoids learned quickly and did not spend as much of their early years in school as other species did, allowed that to happen. They finished secondary school at the age of fifteen, and their college years were half the time others spent. It was a different form of education. On Betazed, the class learned at a collective rate. It was due to the telepathic abilities. Those that did not have that edge, took a bit longer to learn, more along the lines of Terrans. Their learning conventions were very similar. Jaxx got his PhD in Psychology just before entering the Academy to major in Tactical, and Intel. It had been many years since he counseled anyone. Sidney would be the first, and his exclusive patient, even though he really did not consider her as such. It was near impossible to counsel oneself. He felt he was doing what she could not. But having dinner with her was more than just business. It was an opportunity to learn about someone that had spent much of their time aboard, below decks.::


Jaxx: So...what are we having? Nothing with any form of fungus I hope...


::Blessedly, there was a replicator in Pierce’s office. She hadn’t been sure if it would be larger or smaller than the office on the Aurora - some ship designs placed a different focus on counselling. The designer for the Apollo had clearly taken into consideration the need for food, drink and other things that might be involved in the counselling process. As she worked in the set-up for dinner, she looked over her shoulder.::


Pierce: Mushroom soup followed by a portobello and cremini salad is right out, then? I worked on this program all day...


Jaxx: ::laughing:: I hope you are not serious...


Pierce: ::laughing:: No, no. Nothing at all like that. Your medical file didn’t say anything about food allergies, but then I know there are some things you don’t keep open in your file.


Jaxx: Not an allergy, I just hate taste and consistency of them. ::making his best “yucky” face::


Pierce: So steak sandwiches are okay? I talked to my Dad and got his barbeque sauce recipe.


Jaxx: Ah...now you are speaking my language!


::As he stepped into the room and the door sealed, he ditched his vest onto the sofa. He was content just wearing the command red turtleneck. It had dual purpose. The first was more comfort. He was off duty and felt like dressing the part. The other was that if he got something on his shirt, the vest would cover it up when he was done. He moved over toward the desk and picked up a PADD.::


Jaxx: So, I bet in all of your time, you have never had an office like this one.


Pierce: ::plunking away at the replicator:: That is an understatement.


Jaxx: ::smirking:: When we launched Avar Luna requested holomitter upgrades to the room. The EMH has ship wide range, and he wanted to piggyback on that make it so he could essentially change the scenery of the room. It was not as in depth as the holodeck, as to the fact your movements were limited, and the desk and chairs would always be in place...but you could be on a beach, mountain peak, or just about anywhere.


::Pierce turned fully around, dinner temporarily out of her mind. The room seemed larger than typical, true, but the idea that the surroundings could be changed? The possibilities were endless. This was more than just an office, it could easily be a sanctuary.::


Pierce: That’s... well, honestly that’s amazing. I’ve never seen something like this before. It’s a good use of the emitters.


Jaxx: I approved the request, but never got a chance to see it in action. As a matter of fact, I am not sure he ever used it. I think his longest session was three minutes. ::laughing slightly::


Piece: ::embarrassed:: I might have known about the installation of the emitters if I had been here for a session with him.


Jaxx: ::moving back over toward her:: If you want to give it a try, there is no time like the present. Pick something out from the list and we can give it a test run.


::Sidney was sure that her excitement showed on her face. She tried to contain herself, but knew that it would be difficult and turned to face the emitter list. Scrolling through it, there were quite a few pre-programmed locations; it also looked like she could pick out anything from the Holodeck’s location sub-routine as well. That opened up a world of choices.::


Pierce: ::murmuring:: I’m not sure what to pick...


::Jaxx was curious what the system could do, even though he knew it was just for scenery in the background. He was more curious with what she would choose. It was one of the little things that he would observe while he was with her. He was doing many things at once. There was the initial evaluation to push through, and he wanted to get to know her a little better. He tried to think of a time that she “let her hair down” and relaxed, but nothing came to mind. He was not even sure if he had really seen her anywhere but Sickbay, or the Bridge. Too much work could not be good for anyone, and he found it a bit ironic that he was at that conclusion. In his career he had been ordered a couple of times to step away. If it was not by his commanding officer, there was always a doctor, or counselor that thought he pushed a little too hard.::


Jaxx: So, tell me about your father’s barbeque sauce?


Pierce: ::squinting at monitor:: It’s something he’s pretty proud of. Cooking was never his strong suit, but when I decided to stay with him he worked hard at improving.


::Jaxx was well aware from her file that her parents had separated while she was young. He also knew that she elected to stay with her father. In the interest of the evaluation, he chose to play dumb and ask questions. For him, he could tell a lot more by making someone talk about their experiences. By making her voice it, she had to think about it. If she had to think about it, she felt it If she felt it, then he felt it. It was a process and so much easier to Betazoids. He had a higher respect for non-telepathic species that chose to become counselors. It was like they had to work ten times as hard at it then Betazoids did.::


Jaxx: Stay with him?


Pierce: Ah, yeah. My parents separated when I was young. My mother’s a terraformer, so she was always away. My father is a doctor, so he was always at home. They asked me to choose.


::It was something that could have gone either way. Some kids would have loved to get out among the stars at a young age. Other wanted a stable home life. While he was out exploring the stars now, he could not imagine growing up that way. Jaxx was appreciative of his stable home life growing up.::


Jaxx: I can imagine how tough of a choice that must have been for you.


::Looking through the Holodeck file, Sidney ruled out a great deal of outdoor locations as being too noisy. Her hand hovered over her personal file: they could have dinner at her family home, where she knew everything. She gave as subtle a sidelong look at the Captain as she could. He was analyzing this dinner, as he should be, but there was a nagging counsellor part of her brain that knew every tactic to be used when someone was picking her brain. It had helped her through the worse parts of her hospital internment, when she became aware that some of the doctors didn’t believe her no matter how open she was being. And that did raise a question. How open would Jaxx be expect her to be? A psychologist could have a field day with the choice of home in an infinite list of locations. Was he interested in getting to know her personally, or was he more concerned with the stability of one of his medical staff?::


Pierce: It could have been a hard choice, but I’d always been closer to my Dad.


::Jaxx could tell she was a “daddy’s girl.” He kept his eyes on her as she mulled over the selection for the holomitters. He wondered if she was over analyzing the choice because of her company. He would only know by doing the one thing he did not do, invade her thoughts. It was a courtesy he extended anyone that wore the same uniform as him. If the Apollo was in trouble, he would not hesitate to enter the thoughts of an adversary.::


Jaxx: ::smirking:: So was I, so I can understand.


oOThere, that’s the one.Oo ::Hidden inside one of her favourite novels was a house on a hill. There were still traditional homes like this in Ireland and Scotland today, but none quite as nice as this one: it was old wood and glass, made for a small family. There were benches and a table outside, and a town maybe five minutes down the hill. Most impressively, though, was its view of the coastline. She had swam in the waves half a hundred times, and not all of them while going through the book. If the display was stunted, they’d probably get to see the table at least. The rest would all be background, but a pretty one. She inhaled and stifled something that was almost embarrassed snickering. Hopefully, the Captain wouldn’t realize this was from a paperback romance novel. Hopefully.::


Pierce: The shift is going to be a bit drastic, so brace yourself.


Jaxx: I am all set.


::The scenery shifted, leaving the desk and chairs in the middle of a grassy hillside. A few steps away were the benches and table. Smiling slightly, Pierce went back to work at the replicator.::


Pierce: ::offhand, over her shoulder:: You can go ahead and sit down, if you want.


::Moving over toward the table, he took a seat. For some reason he thought they would be less stable than the holodeck. He was surprised that it seemed to hold the same integrity. Folding his hands in front of him, he watched the dark haired woman toy with the replicator. There was so much to see with her selection, but yet he kept his eyes on her. There was something different about her that he could not put his finger on. Instead of looking around at the scenery, he was more intrigued with the woman in the room.::


Jaxx: It is nice...as long as our plates remain on the table.


Pierce: ::laughing again:: It is a mite windy, isn’t it?


Jaxx: It is not so bad. ::laughing slightly::


::He took a moment to let his eyes drift from the woman in front of him, to take in the sight of shore. The house looked simple, yet elegant. He wondered where she came up with the idea. It was something he did not remember seeing in the initial programs there were to choose from. From what he could sense from the woman, she was familiar with the place. With a smile he continued.::


Jaxx: Where is this place?


Pierce: It’s supposed to be the Irish coast. Around the seventeen hundreds? Chronological knowledge of Earth history has never really been my strong suit. I did some studies of the architecture, but when you’re this far away from main cities, some of the work never changes.


::He thought about the location. Unfortunately, he did not spend much time sight seeing while he was on Earth. Most of his time was spent studying, and hanging out with other cadets in San Francisco. He was never worried about the sights on Earth. It was not his home, but while he was there he did get a chance to see some places. It was just never a priority. Seeing her selection, he realized there was much more he probably missed by limiting himself.::


Jaxx: Come here often?


::She laughed, albeit a bit nervously.::


Pierce: Yes, actually. Not nearly as often as I used to. It’s good swimming, and unlike the actual country, the weather stays pretty pleasant most of the time.


::As she made her way over to the table with their food, he slapped his hands together mockingly. He did his best to keep a smile on his face and disregard the fact that he was slightly evaluating her. Being honest with himself, he realized he would be passing her unless a red flag was raised. He knew there would be more of these evaluations, and there was no sense in going too far on the first one. Besides, he like having an excuse to see her more often.::


Jaxx: Did you spend much time on Earth as a child? I know your father was on Betazed, but you are after all, Terran.


Pierce: I spent hardly any time on Earth. We didn’t have a large family on either side, so there was no reason to go back. I did a few trips to see relatives, but honestly my first experiences there were during my time at the Academy. ::nervous laughter:: I was too scared to go outside of my dorm room for the first week. I really wanted to know what was outside, but I’d had so few experiences with other Terrans, I knew I must look stunted.


::It took a minute to remember that feeling the first day she’d been truly on her own, parents back to work. Sidney had been rail-thin and worried about making friends - she hadn’t even spoken to her roommate apart from the occasional question about where something was located. The actual first days of school on Betazed had not been nearly that bad. She had grown up quickly under the watchful eye of friends and well-meaning professors. A few extra pushes here and there, and soon she was out exploring the coastline rather than holed up in her bed.::


Jaxx: ::smirking:: I can only imagine how that was for you, growing up on a planet that was not the homeworld for your people.


Pierce: I think that’s what a lot of people have tried to do. To imagine, I mean.


::Taking a break from the barrage of questions, he grabbed the sandwich and took his first bite. It was delicious and the barbeque sauce did not disappoint. He could see why her father was proud of it. Being able to make something like that with little experience was a major feat. As he chewed the food, he thought of her father and what it must have been like for him, raising a little girl on his own. Not only that, but he did it while balancing his research. He was perhaps the most respected non-telepath in his field on Betazed.::


Jaxx: ::smiling:: This is good. Send my compliments to your father.


Pierce: I’ll do that in a day or two, when we talk next.


Jaxx: How is he doing these days?


::Sidney smiled up at Jaxx. There was a lot at work here, and he was definitely asking some questions that he knew the answers to. Still, nothing had been too hard to answer. Having talked to her father short hours ago gave her extra strength, something that she needed after the past few days.::


Pierce: Hiding in his office from work, from what I hear. I know that he doesn’t enjoy consulting as much as actively working, and that’s all he has at present.


::Jaxx smirked to himself. He felt like he was interrogating her, as the questions just kept flowing. He felt as if he had a great idea of her background, but almost nothing of the situation that got her removed from counseling. It was a moment he had to seize. Hitting her with it out of the blue would cause an emotional reaction he could actually gauge.::


Jaxx: So, what do you remember from the incident that got you banned from counseling?


::There was a slightly serious tone in his voice, but still focused on the food in front of him. He felt as if it took the normal feel of a session right out of the room. Instead it was more like a conversation, just not the kind she could evade.::


::Doors behind Pierce’s eyes closed with a slam. This question had been asked over and over in the six months she had been under intense observation. There had been a point in time where she had made up different versions simply to annoy the inquiring physicians. It hadn’t been taken as a symptom of mental health on her part, but after giving the same evidently unsatisfactory truth, lies seemed like the next logical step. Any answer she gave would be in the same fashion as every other one before.::


Pierce: ::deadpan:: I was sitting in my office when I had a feeling like the walls were closing in on me. I blacked out, and when I woke up I was on a shuttle heading towards a Starbase.


::Jaxx was curious how she was able to gain access to the shuttle and leave without the bridge clearing it. There were plenty of safeties in place to prevent that from happening. Senior officers could access the shuttles if needed, but the bridge still had to open the bay doors, unless there was a command code override.::


Jaxx: And how did you manage that?


Pierce: I apparently overrode a control panel on the Aurora.


Jaxx: Interesting feat for a counselor...


:: Her digital fingerprints had been on everything, from the panel to her office to the shuttle controls. She had worked her way down and off the ship, and the entire trip was floating around somewhere in her subconscious. She was clamping down as best she could. Perhaps Jaxx didn’t know the effect that question would have, or perhaps he’d read some of the medical logs. In any case, she pushed the emotions it brought up to the back of her mind and closed another door on them.::


::Jaxx could sense the whirling emotions, spiralling around in her head. He could tell she was still slightly agitated at the situation, and the lack of ability to recall the entire situation. She did what she could to suppress the emotions she was feeling. It worked for her, to a certain degree. It was much harder to hide them from Betazoids.::


Pierce: I have some skill with simple programming, the algorithm they found in the system was crude.


::She took a bite of her sandwich, feeling mildly pleased at the sensation of eating it. The sauce was just as she remember, although perhaps it lacked a bit of the character that could be found after watching Lionel Pierce slave over the stove to make it. She focused her attention on the food, trying to remain pleasant dinner conversation.::


Jaxx: And you remember nothing from this period of time?


Pierce: ::eyebrow raise:: I remember being arrested, but that was after I’d come off the shuttle.


::Jaxx had shared much with the counselors that had probed her mind. Sometimes it was easy to help the retrieval of data just by pushing a little bit. Another method was to ask the same questions over and over, worded differently. None of those had worked in the past. Jaxx had two theories. The first, was simple...she refused to even dig mentally. The second was a bit more complex. There was always the chance of some outside force at work. He was not sure if it was likely, given her background. But he would not rule it out as quickly as they did at StarFleet Medical. Either way, there was nothing there that led him to believe she could not do the job. From everything he knew, it was an isolated episode.::


Jaxx: Have you ever blacked out like that before?


Pierce: Not ever. I eventually talked to my parents about the experience in full, and they said the same. I wasn’t prone to blackouts or similar issues.


Jaxx: Any lost time you can think of from your younger years? They may be harder to recognize at a younger age.


::During her medical stay, some of the doctors and therapists on staff had been willing to talk to her about what they thought could be the problem. They explained why they were asking about blackouts and “missing periods” in her life. She had hoped it would be explained easily. A blood clot, misfiring neural pathways, or some sort of reaction to a vaccination. These were foolish hopes from someone with any modicum of medical training, but she truly did not want to consider the possibility that she might be seriously ill.::


Pierce: My mom and dad say I was a focused kid. If I lost any time while unsupervised, I don’t remember.


::Jaxx thought once more of her trip to the starbase. He wondered what was so special about that place that her subconscious would lead her there. It did not seem logical for her to head there if she was trying to get away, or truly go AWOL. Perhaps some of the answers were within that destination. He wondered if she had ever been there before.::


Jaxx: Had you ever been on that starbase before?


Pierce: No, it wasn’t even in a sector that I would normally have been in. Remember, the Aurora was on a mission, and it only took my shuttle a day to get between her and the base.


::A low pressure was starting to form between her temples. It seemed like the same pain she’d been experiencing earlier. The next dose was still a few hours away, if she was sticking to a schedule. She took a slow, calm breath and shifted her focus back to the table.::


::There was no familiarity with the location. It completely ruled out the possibility of her instinct taking her there. It was a literal mystery. There were much more invasive ways about finding out what happened. Memory retrieval was an option, but the risks outweighed any of the benefits. She would completely lose the ability to block out the feelings it brought up. It would set her so far back in her recovery that he would not even consider doing that to her. It was more than just as a professional in the business...it was more than that. He cared more about her well being than he would have someone he did not know. It was an obvious thought, but over the course of the day there was something much different about her. He could not put his finger on it, and until now he had attributed it to her being able to return to counseling. It was almost as if her emotions were stronger.::


Jaxx: That is interesting. I can see why nobody has been able to get to the bottom of it.


Pierce: ::soft smile:: It made it difficult to convince the doctors of my sanity.


Jaxx: I know how difficult it can be to lose a portion of your life, and not having the ability to recall it. It is similar to losing control, a subject feels vulnerable.


::He made the comment without thinking. He was not referring to her as a subject, but he meant it in the way two colleagues would talk about a case. He shook his head and immediately corrected himself.::


::There must have been a visible tic somewhere on her face, or perhaps some of her stifled emotions were coming loose. She saw her reaction reflected in his, and she reminded herself again that he was just doing his job. He cared about her. That was something she was sure of, although what the trigger was for that certainty of feeling she had no idea. oOBody language. He’s sitting towards me with an open stance. That’s it.Oo ::


Jaxx: I meant anyone, not you specifically.


Pierce: I know what... ::changing tone, calmer:: I know what you meant, it’s alright.


::She tried to put an easy-going smile as she finished her meal. Attempting to keep herself calm was adding another layer of stress to an already tense situation. Her focus shifted to the skyline, and the rush of the waves beneath. Salt hung heavy in the air. She took a few deep breaths.::


Pierce: It frustrates me just as much as it does anyone else, I promise. Few people in the world go through something like this without so much as a shred of satisfactory information as to why. I had mild claustrophobia when I was quite young, but the Academy drilled the rest of that out of me. Claustrophobics do not do well in space.


::Jaxx laughed slightly at her comment. That they did not. It was not a place that they could escape quickly, and even if they did...the escape pods were even smaller. He was glad that it was something she was able to overcome. He took the final bite of his sandwich and looked to the sky. He was satisfied that she would be fine, the question was...was she?::


Jaxx: Do you feel that there is anything that would prevent you from being responsible for the mental well being of this crew?


Pierce: Only another incident like this. I’m not sure I can communicate when it occurs, but if I start acting strangely and trying to leave... someone needs to stop me. And I think this crew can stop one lone Terran on her way to the shuttlebay.


::He nodded slowly. He was certain she was the best person for the job. And if she stumbled along the way, he would be right there to catch her. He had a vested interest in her success. It was odd that he was feeling so strongly about the change. It could be that he was happy to have someone with experience in the position. Luna and Ramos were fine, but they could not compare to Sid, at least not in his eyes. He put a smile on his face as he felt a slight throbbing pain develop in his head once more. This one was slightly mild and without the sharp pain the other two brought along. He was ready to submit the paperwork and get her back to work.::


Jaxx: Well, I think that is all I need...you are clear to start first thing in the morning.


::Sidney let out an audible sigh of relief. The vote of confidence meant a lot to her.::


Pierce: Thank you.


::With the business done, he changed the subject to something that he was curious about. He had asked a ton of questions, but none were for him. The rest had been on her behalf and on behalf of the crews mental status.::


Jaxx: So...dinner was your idea. What would be the reason someone would want to sit down with the most intimidating man on the ship? You know, people everywhere may question your sanity over that choice, more than anything else...


Pierce: ::smiling:: I think you’ve realized by now that I’m not afraid of you.


::He remembered the officers dinner he had when they first launched. Sid was the only one that was not afraid to speak to the man behind the pips. The rest of the junior officers clammed up and ran away as fast as they appeared. Jaxx always attributed it to the fact that she was friends with his XO. Being close to the XO, makes you close to the people he was close to. By default, they were almost friends through Liam. It was an odd way to look at it, but he also wondered what dirt she had on Liam...teasing him was his second favorite thing to do.::


Pierce: I can speak frankly, sir? ::The honorary sounded almost sarcastic.:: We’re at the point where I don’t have to worry about your inquisitive formality?


Jaxx: ::smiling:: Of course.


Pierce: You’ve always struck me as interesting. Liam I know like a well-read book. I was frightened to see him again coming onto the Apollo. What would he think of me, would we still be friends, all that sort of thing. But you... we have a lot of the same history. Betazed and its inhabitants can get under my skin, but they can’t frighten me anymore. ::laughing:: Not that you’ve tried very hard.


::Jaxx nodded slightly. Betazoids made many people uncomfortable. The fact that you could sit in a room with someone that could look into the deepest darkest corners of your mind without you even realizing it...it had a tendency to put people on edge. He never really felt as if they scared anyone, but they were definitely intimidating...even more so to those that had something to hide.::


Jaxx: ::smiling:: I am not sure I even tried at all...if you want me to give it a try though, I am game. ::winking::


::This dinner had the same comforting feeling as her evening with Liam and Cayden was filled with several nights before. Now that the evaluation was over for the time being, Pierce felt relaxed. It was strange. Rare that she could feel this calm around a relative stranger, but almost as if he wasn’t entirely as strange as before, although he’d said nothing about himself the entire time. She pressed two fingers to her temple and winced.::


Pierce: But I wouldn’t have asked you out to dinner before. In the mess, maybe. And perhaps I would have invited you to the Holodeck in our spare time, but...


::Trailing off was the safest option for the time being. Sidney found herself completely at odds with her feelings, unsure just where her mind was trying to take her. She felt closer to the Captain then she had before, but in the here and now, anything changing with her mental state could easily be chalked up to the experimental drugs. They were certainly the source of her headache, perhaps that explained what she was trying to verbalize now.::


Pierce: ::awkwardly:: I’m sorry. I’m not fully sure I know where that was going. I guess you have the upper hand there, in you may understand things where words fear to tread.


::Jaxx shifted in his seat slightly. She was being as direct as she felt she could be. It was part of the confusion, and the fact that you never really know much about your feelings. It was always something that intrigued him about other species. They were fully capable of saying one thing, while feeling another. Folding his hand in front of him, he decided to be vague, with massive amounts of implications.::


Jaxx: You know those Betazoids that do not scare you...well, we understand the feelings of someone else, long before they do. There is a reason that many of us are prone to go into psychology. We are able to decipher in a moment, what could take months for a...Terran, for instance, to bring themselves to realize.


Pierce: Terrans seem to be one of the most stunted. We have only a handful of ways to be able to tell what someone else is feelings, it’s why we rely so heavily on words. Someone could be blushing, but that’s an innate reaction to what they’re feeling and could have nothing to do with what they’re thinking.


Jaxx: There is a huge difference between thoughts and feelings. Terrans, and Klingons, and Trill men and woman dance on that line. They allow the two to affect each other. It takes longer for them to reach an understanding between the proverbial heart, and the mind. ::smirking:: And that is why we intimidate people. It is the fact that we know what someone is feeling, long before they do...and they do not like that. Playing dumb is not my style...but I have had negotiations with enough Klingons to learn the art...if you prefer?


Pierce: Ideally I’d want you to just speak your mind when it strikes you. My emotional state isn’t always stable, but it puts me on edge to know you have that advantage. It’s nothing personal, it really isn’t.


::Jaxx thought about the situation. It would not be the first time he saw a member of the crew socially. He also knew better than to interfere with Terrans and their process. He looked at them, emotionally, in the same way he looked at pre-warp civilizations. There was no Prime Directive in place when dealing with Terrans. But telling them what they were feeling defeated the purpose of their free will. Besides, Terrans...women especially, were prone to allow their feelings and thoughts to pull them in different directions. It was what allowed something that was wrong, to feel so right. Of course, there was nothing wrong with anything in their conversation. But on top of what he could sense was a strong sense of confusion. And while he was intrigued to see much more of her...he was not sure she had gotten to that point yet. Pushing it could only harm the development of what she was feeling. It was not his place to do so.::


Jaxx: Well...from what I can tell, part of you seems to want to see a little more of me in ::pointing around the room:: a social setting. But you seem conflicted as to if that is what you really want. How did I do?


::In the hallway of doors in her mind, a smaller version of herself was sitting on a chair, head in her hands, laughing at the ridiculous nature of it all. Rarely had Sidney found herself in a situation where both she and the person she was spending time with were so keen to speak of emotions as a logical function and talk clinically about whatever was passing between them. That was not Sidney Pierce, the girl. That was Lieutenant Junior Grade Sidney Pierce, the counselor and doctor.::


Pierce: ::smirking:: Are you asking for my professional opinion?


Jaxx: ::putting on his best cocky grin:: Nope. I think I am asking as an interested man, based on the feelings of an apparently interested woman...I think? ::shrugging:: To be honest, we Betazoids are not all that powerful. We have a major weakness...verbalizing our feelings, and emotions is not something we are great at. ::laughing slightly::


oOThat cleared things up nicely, now didn’t it?Oo ::The whole evening was serving to be a long-needed relief of tension where her career was concerned. This, though, had been something mulled over in private in the last week. Would she have had the courage to speak up about it? Unlikely. For possibly the first time ever, Sidney was grateful to be talking to a Betazoid. There was something to be said for filling in the gaps.::


::It had been part of Jaxx’s history as long as he could remember. Things were much easier when the other party could sense what he was feeling. There was never a question as to what was there. But when it came time to use those words that Terrans relied upon...he felt awkward, and socially deficient. It was the one way to take someone so strong willed, and bring them down to the level the average Terran child could master.::


Pierce: Since this evaluation has been concluded, I suppose you might want to follow this up with a second one to check on my progress?


Jaxx: It will be required, but it will not be something we get to right away. The first one is out of the way, that was the important one.


Pierce: I mean, at your earliest convenience, of course.


Jaxx: I do not think we need to use that as a reason to see each other, or have dinner...or anything else you may have in mind.


::Jaxx smirked. There was no need to beat around the bush. He was a big boy, and if he wanted to have dinner with Sid, or anything else...he would. The question was, did she still need the professional reason to justify seeing him? It was an odd thought to have, even more so for someone at his age.::


Pierce: ::joking:: I think that might be a conflict of interest, but I won’t tell the counselor if you don’t.


Jaxx: ::smiling:: I do not need to make up a reason to want to see you, or enjoy your company. But if you are more comfortable mixing business with...pleasure...we can go that route too? ::winks::


::He found himself being oddly direct, without being direct. It was something that he usually avoided. Part of what made him intriguing to people was the sense of mystery he often projected. It was clearly unexpected. She had always intrigued him from the moment he learned of her upbringing on Betazed. It was the first thing that peaked his interest. There was much more to the woman than just that fact. He found himself wanting to learn more. At the same time, he knew she was still slightly conflicted. But it was not like they were deciding on a future, they were just in the moment thinking about the possibility of something being developed between them. It was innocent in a way. Even if innocent was not usually an adjective that anyone used to describe Jaxx.::


::Not often used to having this sort of attention, Sidney found herself mildly flustered by it. It was a typical reaction, but a small part of her had hoped that as she became older and more mature, that would fade away. Nevertheless, she was certain her shy gaze did not conceal how secretly pleased she was.::


Pierce: I’m not opposed to the idea, as surprising as that might be.


::Jaxx picked up their plates and moved toward the replicator to get rid of them. He took another look at the shore, and listened to the water crashing. It was perhaps the most enjoyable dinner he had experienced in quite some time, even if his head was killing him. Once the dishes were gone, he looked over to the woman in front of him.::


Jaxx: The way I see it, we can start by you allowing me to walk you to your quarters. ::with a sarcastic tone:: Unless that is moving too fast?


::He could not help but laugh at himself. The truth was, he walked many people to their quarters. Most of the time, he had to pass them before taking the turbolift up to deck three. He even walked with male officers to their quarters. Of course his attention was usually on duty, and ship operations, instead of smiles and pretty eyes.::


Pierce: Do you even know where my quarters are? Wouldn’t I end up walking you to my quarters?


::Pierce was in a good mood - a much better mood than she had started the day in, and that was making her bolder. This was the sort of attitude that Liam and Oliver had taken her out to bars for; they would watch her sass ruder, older boys in their attempts to seem tough. She had never been one for false faces, and this situation was no exception. It seemed to the younger woman that Jaxx was being quite upfront with her, even more so than usual. It was both noted and appreciated.::


Jaxx: That is a pretty good point...but I am the Captain, I can ask the computer and poof, I will know right where you sleep. ::laughing::


Pierce: I suppose at some point I’ll have to call you by your first name, rather than ‘Jaxx’ or ‘sir’.


Jaxx: That would be nice. ::smiling::


::It was something he rarely got the opportunity to be. He spent so much time being a senior officer, or one of the guys, that he often forgot his own first name. Every now and then Liam would use it, and there was his family...but outside of them, there had been very few.::


Jaxx: And boy are you lucky there are no other empaths on the senior staff...they would be able to sense your gooey side.


::He decided to let the teasing begin. They had made quite a bit of progress throughout dinner both professionally, and personally. He found himself not wanting to see her smile disappear. It was something he was not used to seeing from her. She was either busy with work, or had some other reason that she kept the straight face firmly in place. He was a bit happier that with her new position, she would be on the bridge much more. Of course, he did not know what that would do to the development of whatever this was.::


Pierce: That would be dreadful, though it’s pretty easily excused as bedside manor. ::slight frown:: Although that does explain some pretty confused patients I had in the Academy. I must have been sending them some very mixed signals.


::Pierce stood up, walking to where Jaxx... oOAndrus.Oo … was standing, and looked out over the ocean.::


Pierce: Maybe... maybe don’t look up what this scenic vista is from.


Jaxx:::looking out at the view:: Why, I may want to visit this place more often?


Pierce: I think you are having a fair amount of fun at my expense already. I don’t want to arm you.


Jaxx: See...you cannot tell a man ‘do not do something’ and expect them to listen! ::laughing::


::Terrans always said that curiosity killed some of their animals. He never really understood the phrase except for the fact that they could get themselves into trouble if they were not careful. It made him wonder where the program originated. It was something that would obviously make him laugh, and give him more ammo to pick on her. He would let it go for now...but as soon as the doors to his quarters were closed, it was on! ::


Jaxx: Tell you what, I will forget about it for the time being...but only if you tell me which quarters are yours, so I get to walk you to them.


Pierce: How about I show you where my quarters are, and you take some time to appreciate how lovely I am and perhaps why you might not want to tease me. :: laughing:: You don’t know me yet.


::She crossed over to the display panel and hastily closed the program before he could follow her search pathway in. Turning back to Andrus, she waited for him and started to head out the door. This had not been the way things looked like they would go when this day had started out, all paperwork and meetings and changing of the guard. This was a different thing entirely, one that Sidney had not expected to find and certainly had not expected to walk home with.::


::Jaxx grabbed his vest off of the sofa, proud of himself that none of his sandwich ended up as a uniform decoration. As she moved toward the door, he moved in right beside her. Chances were that the walk would be short, unless she decided to get lost along the way and lead him in circles. But even a short amount of time with her was good enough for him.::


Pierce: Don’t think this gets you out of reviewing my paper, either. You promised.


Jaxx: I suppose that I can allow you to show me where your quarters are, and even admire how lovely you are...as for not teasing you, there are no promises. But there is no way you can get me to not look over your paper. Your smile is not the only thing that interests me. ::pointing down the corridor:: Lead the way...


::Braver than she had been hours before, Sidney took a light hold of one of Andrus’s hands and began to walk away from her new office. This opened up an entirely new realm of possibilities, once that she sensed her Captain was just as willing to explore. oOStrange how a few hours could change something so much,Oo she thought, oOand what a break to not be misreading something for a change.Oo She looked sideways at him, aware in the back of her mind that he must be sensing some trace of whatever she was thinking, be it her slight nerves regarding the whole situation or her determination to make sure he would ask her back out again as soon as they both had the time. It was a good feeling. A good night.::


::As they stepped into the corridor, he felt her hands slowly find his. It put a genuine smile on his face as they moved away from her office. He was not sure where it would lead, and he was not in any hurry. But if any of it was half as fulfilling as the night had been, there would be no stopping him. The only way he would not want to do this again would be over his dead body. Though the prospect was not a fun one, he was not anticipating his death anytime soon. This would be the first night of many to come. He really enjoyed this side of Sid. She seemed more in control, more confident. Her emotions were projecting stronger than he had ever realized. It took very little effort to know what she was feeling. And in those matter of minutes, there was less confusion mixed in with everything else. It was a huge relief. It was the best night he had in a long time, he hoped for many more of them.::


TBC


LtJG Sidney Pierce
Counselor
USS Apollo

&

Captain Andrus Jaxx
Commanding Officer
USS Apollo

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