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[JL Deniaud/Swift] The Art of Procaffeinating

USS Hermes Lounge

by Ensign Marielle Deniaud & Lieutenant Leonard Swift
[Stardate ]

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Stardate: 1604.09 [09 April, 2016]
The Art of Procaffeinating

“Sometimes he would rise from his chair, open the door,
and cry out with a feeble querulousness – ‘Coffee! Coffee!’”
- Thomas De Quincey
[Narrative and Miscellaneous Papers (regarding Immanuel Kant)]

Marielle whistled as she leisurely walked down the hallway, her smile lighting her face with a carefree expression. Her fingers tightened around the soft fabric of the small snack pack she held to her side, swinging it gently with her strides. With her other hand, she brought the curved insulated and sealed mug to her lips, relishing the taste of the full bodied dark liquid as it washed over her tongue. There was no way to hold back the sigh of absolute contentment as the rich aroma and soothing taste overtook her senses. If all fails, she told herself as she rounded the last corner, coffee. Her feet were light as she all but skipped into Sickbay. Her eyes glanced over the immaculately maintained room as she stepped deeper into the main medical bay. “Hello?” she sang out, her tone light and airy. “Anybody home?”

The ears of the Wolfen doctor in the office of which Marielle stepped into turned and moved as she approached, fully hearing every step, every whistle, and every rustling and swishing of the items she carried. The voice from around the corner told him that she had stopped at the sickbay door. He looked at the time and smiled. “Early. Finally, someone who doesn’t show up at the exact time and want immediate results,” muttered Leonard to himself, clearly amused. “Come on in. Ensign Marielle, is it? New Ensign on the Hermes. I’m Doctor Swift,” he said loudly as she came in, standing to meet her. It had become a bit of a game now, meeting the new crewmembers, trying not to laugh when they saw him for the first time. A towering creature. Twice, people had run out screaming something about werewolves.

She turned towards the voice that greeted her, realizing that she had somehow missed him during her not-so-grand entrance. He had been seated not far from her, the soft hues of his black, white, and grey fur blending into that of the ship and the monotone consoles and biobeds. The very thought had Marielle openly giggling - a camouflaged wolf? What a novel concept!

Leonard raised a brow at her sudden fit of giggles but stayed silent.

The notion didn’t really linger too long in her mind as her eyes travelled over the span of his towering form. Green irises moved up slowly as his shadow shaded her from the lights above them. Her head tilted back, as did her body when her head could reach back no further. Her equilibrium kept her rooted in place when the movement threatened to have her tipping back. Her eyes grew wide, and her jaw dropped. Marielle had no qualms with being so petite. It was just a matter of fact and she made it a practice to avoid arguing against fact. Yet, as she stood before the giant Wolfen before her, the young ensign couldn’t help the string of words to describe her size in comparison to his. Diminutive. Microscopic. Itsy-bitsy. Lilliputian. Pocket-sized.

The Wolfen looked down at the woman who met his gaze in shock. Amusement filled his head as he pondered how she was going to react. After a few seconds of her just staring up at him, he raised an eyebrow and looked down at her. “Are you alright?”

Marielle remained silent, her irises flickering as Logos, the meticulously catalogued portion of her subconscious, was a frenzy of activity. The information on the bipedal wolf-like being was fairly standard, in Starfleet terms, though admittedly lacking. There wasn’t much she could use in terms of actually being able to read the male who so easily dominated the space with his height alone. Yet, she didn’t need to use her acute sense of observation to realize that the being before her was studying her as much as she was studying him in just the short interval of silence. She wondered if perhaps the Wolfen had chosen to tower over her to watch her response. There was no doubt Marielle would have done the same thing had she had the same advantage. The self-created game would be amusing, and one she could truly appreciate. So, she settled on something that would hopefully surprise and intrigue the good doctor while also keeping him relatively pleasant. “Whoa.”

So much for the game, thought Leonard. The vast majority of people simply stared. Or said something about his size. Or exclaimed profanity in surprise. But this one was different.

“You’re so cute!” The pitch of her voice increased nearly an octave, and she squealed with absolute delight. There was a beat of a pause, her smile only growing wider and toothy, as she offered him her hand.

He took her hand to shake on meeting her, but didn’t quite know exactly how to react to her adoration. “Um. Thank you? Anyway, have a seat, just a few preliminary questions, and we’ll get on with the physical portion in a bit.”

Marielle held his paw and she shook it with a polite firmness, a subtle and quiet means of exhibiting respect. Though, she couldn’t help but hold onto his paw a little longer as Logos went to work cataloguing whatever data she could observe on the Wolfen. There was only so much Starfleet could provide on his race, but first hand experiences meant more to the young ensign after having lived such a sheltered life. The quick rundown of his skeleton structure flashed through her mind. So was that the flexor digitorum profundus that easily wrapped around her tiny hand? She could barely catch the bend in his wrist and wondered if it was the edge of his dewclaw that touched into the soft portion of her palm. The pads of his paw were soft, despite the light callouses, and she wondered if perhaps he often walked on his hind legs instead of all four. “You’re so,” she grinned, pausing only briefly until she found the right word, “fluffy!” The delighted squeal was hard to contain. Marielle had a soft spot for fluffy animals, and despite knowing full well that the Wolfen was no where like the domesticated dogs on Earth, she really couldn’t help but gush. He was so fluffy she could just die from the adorableness.

It didn’t take long before he pulled his hand away from her. But before he did, he could see the gears turning and could see her making silent observations. If he knew just what was going through her head at that moment, the doctor would have been quite impressed.

Marielle moved to the nearest biobed, and placed the snack pack and her insulated mug on the soft surface. She then planted her palms flatly on the cushioned surface and jumped up, twisting her body so she could flop casually between the pack and the mug. Her feet swung to-and-fro as her hands gripped at the biobed on either sides of her legs.

The doctor pulled up a padd, loaded up the information he needed to begin the exam. “So. Deniaud, Mariëlle Antoinette,” he began, butchering her name in the process. Damn some of these Earth based names.

She giggled as he tried. “Mahr-ee-ell,” she corrected, her mouth moving widely as she enunciated each syllable, “D-uhn-ee-aud.” There was no hint of exasperation, as if she was accustomed to the trouble. She repeated it for good measure, the French in her accent completely overwhelming the English, “Marielle Antoinette Deniaud.” The blended accent returned as she added, “Everyone just calls me Ellie.”

He nodded. “Of course. Ellie. Sorry about that. So. Twenty four years old. Born on Earth, in a city in a place called France, hrmm? What made you decide to live life on a starship?”

Marielle considered a few answers - ranging from blunt honesty to the far more diplomatic version - before settling on a response that was vague yet telling at the same time. “No real reason, I suppose,” she began with a blasé shrug. “As far as my family is concerned, I’m working on my dissertation.”

The doctor laughed at that. “Looking to make a great find, eh? Maybe you will. We come across a lot of different things and situations you’ve likely never dreamed of.” Like two hundred plus cases of simultaneous pregnancy. “Says here you’re a bit of a haemophiliac? Are there any special medicines or prescriptions not listed here I should know about?”

She wasn’t sure what made her consider it - perhaps it was just curiosity, some perverse sense of humour, or a combination of both - but Marielle wondered if the Wolfen ever batted an eye at humanoid women. Experimentation was the key to knowledge in this case. The young woman leaned forward, taking special care to pinch her arms to her sides and push her chest forward. Her eyelashes batted with a shy expression and her smile turned demure. “I don’t know really. Does it matter?”

Swift nodded as he looked at her, though his brows fell a little into a look that was questioning her actions. A quick once over of the woman and he’d look back to the PADD. “It does, actually. If you were to take an injury and what I needed wasn’t known, that poses enormous risk on your safety, and ultimately, your life. The health of every member of this crew is important to me.” He’d let her think about that while moving on.

Marielle noted the lack of reaction with some interest as she took hold of the insulated mug by her side, took a quick sip, and returned the container to rest on the biobed. All the while, Logos scrambled to open the filing cabinets of her memory. Tucked away, there had to be something she could use. She giggled, bringing a hand to cover her mouth and tilting her head away as if to hide herself away from him. “Oh,” she breathed out lightly before her tone turned husky and heavy with meaning, “I think I’m perfectly safe in your wonderfully strong hands.” Deep within the cluster of multi-coloured anarchy of Pathos, the rave-like representation of her emotional subconscious, some part of her retched at the kittenish behaviour. She had loathed such characteristics of her upbringing and pulling at the many lessons of her past only made the young engineer’s stomach churn.

Leonard hesitated briefly at her then. Barely looking up from the PADD, he decided to ignore the odd change of voice and feign ignorance. “I’m not always around, and not always available. I appreciate the show of faith, however.” He’d begin to look at the readings on the biobed itself, comparing the numbers on the chart, and updating as needed. “So, let me ask why you are drinking coffee right now. It raises the heart rate, and I don’t get a very accurate reading on your relaxed rate of metabolism. Though, these numbers are matching up. You always drink coffee, don’t you.” This wasn’t so much a question as an outward verbalized realization.

Any questions of how he had guessed her beverage was drowned by the simple fact that he didn’t even flinch at her blatant innuendo. There was some part of her that was rather pleased that the good doctor didn’t react to her attempts, either from the lack of interest or hilarious obliviousness. She chuckled. It was a bit fun either way, and she tried one last time. “I don’t mind a raised heart rate,” Marielle’s tone lowered as it turned almost gruntal over her hot breath. “I hear it’s very good for one’s health, especially when it involves exercise.” She looked up at him through her lashes and lowered her voice even more, pulling at her more sultry side. “Do you like to exercise, Doc?”

Leonard sighed, placed the PADD down with a not very gentle clack and nodded, still verifying the numbers. “...When I have the time, yes. Though usually my heartrate is raised as a result of the exercise, and not of an artificial intake to do so, or other means.” The mug of hot coffee on his desk, however, would be a clear indicator that even so, he still enjoyed his caffeine.

Marielle laughed silently to herself, deciding that if the third time wasn’t a charm then her experiment needed to come to an end before she embarrassed herself even more or upchucked the entirety of her breakfast. There was only so much she could handle when she played the demure little woman before her actions made her visibly green. She leaned back, pulling away from his personal space. Her facial expression morphed to become its usual cheeriness, her smile friendly, and her muscles relaxed. “There’s nothing wrong with a little coffee,” she countered as she sat up a little to peer at the numbers in the console by the biobed. At that, the young engineer lifted the insulated mug to offer it to him. “Want to try? I made it myself this morning, French pressed to perfection. None of that replicated junk that’s more like diluted reclamation sludge than coffee.” Marielle smiled at him, shaking the sealed container a little. She had come prepared, having pried the information from an unsuspecting medic with a proclivity for gossiping, with the hopes of buying the Wolfen’s silence.

Relief spread through him, thankful that the charade was over and glad she hadn’t taken it any further. He was curious to why she did it in the first place but mentally shrugged it off. Swift tucked the stylus neatly back into the PADD, and he’d put it to the side for the time. “Absolutely.” Accepting the mug, he’d take a deep breath of it. His nose could practically dissect every component that made up the coffee, as well as how diluted it was, the cleanliness of the water, even the last time she’d washed the mug. Thankfully, it was this morning. “I don’t replicate my coffee either. I pick up bags of it when we go to starbases for resupply,” admitted the doctor, looking back to Marielle. “This smells good. Same brand you brought with you even. I assume you planned for the event in which case I liked it.” Clearly she’d done a little research before meeting him. It was not secret he loved his coffee. He carried a thermos with him to most places he went, though right now it was on his desk. It didn’t matter, there was a mug in his hand, which he began to blow on. It was still fresh even. A sip, a slurp, and a deep breath. And finally, the contented sigh. “Ahh… Fresh beans…”

She couldn’t help but laugh at the reaction, simply because she couldn’t blame him. There really was nothing quite like a good cup of coffee, and Marielle appreciated his reaction - respected it really. “I brought eight large storage units worth of beans back with me,” she offered, not batting an eye to how he had known.

“Dae’gra, eight??!”

She ignored his surprise, and instead focused on the hidden tone of appreciation that was subtly woven in his exclamation. It was then that Marielle wonder if she had made a blunder. She had only brought eight storage units worth. Sharing with the doctor would require recalculating her daily allowance and not for the better. But, if it meant the doctor would keep her health report from the intrusive and dictatorial hands of her parents, perhaps a bit of caffeine rationing was necessary.

The Wolfen was realizing that she, like him, was quite the avid drinker of coffee. They’d get along well. Probably exchange beans from starbases at some point. He look again at the numbers displayed on the console. Heart rate, blood oxygen levels. Versus her height, weight, overall body mass, which was on the more petite side. And comparing the first few to what they should be, taking into account of the coffee, he could come to the conclusion that overall, she was where she should be.

Marielle turned to her other side, picking up the snack pack. Her slender fingers opened the top easily and she held the bag out to him. “Cookie?”

Satisfied, he’d reach into the bag. “Sure. I recognize what’s going on though. Making friends in sickbay. I bet you’ve already stopped at the ship’s administration offices. Mess hall is next, I imagine?” He’d joke, and sniff the cookie.

“Thanks to my haemophilia, I’ve learnt how to make friends with doctors very quickly,” Marielle explained with a guarded laugh. She had avoided adding that she did so to bribe her doctors into keeping quiet about her condition. Her parents had a knack of overreacting over every little bump and scrape, as if she was one of their prized ancient Chinese vases. They would search for every reason to demand for her to return home. It had cost her the Integrity, because they were just that good at exasperating the people in charge. It was far easier to give them what they wanted - many couldn’t handle the constant prodding - than remain firm against the unbelievable foolishness. She didn’t fail to notice that the Wolfen had failed to take a bite of the cookie in his paw. Did he think she had poisoned them somehow? There was no way the doctor could have known about her previous antics yet. Could he? “Coffee and treats. Always the best way into their hearts.”

Swift raised a brow at that. And the cookie. “Treats, huh? If I didn’t know better, I’d say this smells a bit like a homemade domestic dog treat.” He’d give her a look, as if to say she couldn’t pull the wool over his eyes. At least he was still smirking, if not a bit… curious.

She chuckled as realization hit, and she reached into the snack pack to pull out a bone-shaped treat. Perhaps the shape was a bit much, she admitted silently to herself. Marielle half-heartedly reproached herself for the choice. She really should have gone with the smiling face cutter. “Yeah,” she admitted, though there was a hint of ire. Her baked goods were tasty, and there was no way she would ever compare them to the disgusting treats dogs unfortunately received. Her nose wrinkled as she confessed to her bruised ego. “I’m actually a bit more insulted you’d compare them to a domestic dog treat. They’re delicious. I actually meant to give them to Will Riker, but I thought it’d be rude not to offer them to you.”

He smirked, and tapped at his nose with a single digit. “No insults intended. I can’t help what they smell like. They do smell better than the treats Councilor Troi gives Will, though. A lot better, actually…”

“They’re rather scrumptious. I make them all the time.” Marielle took a large bite, chewing while she smiled as her hand held the snack pack back to him and shook it again.

Swift didn’t comment, eyeballing her a moment as she bit into it. Yeah, she definitely did her research. Good food for canine types, actually.

She waited to swallow before speaking. “They’re just made with coconut flour, peanut butter, blueberries, bananas, and eggs. I make my pancakes the same way, only with almond butter.”

He relented, not that it took much convincing. He was already hungry, and these smelled good. A nibble taken, and he’d mull it over in his mouth. And then the rest of it went in.

Her smile grew as the rest of the cookie disappeared with a simple snap, her eyes catching the slight glint of light on the whites of his frighteningly sharp incisors and canines. Briefly, a rather humorous thought jumped to mind and thankfully Marielle bit her tongue in time to stop herself from blurting out the thought that had a red hooded girl inquiring ever so innocently, “Ma mère-grand, que vous avez de grande dents!” It probably wouldn’t have gone over very well - pretty much contrary to what she was hoping to achieve. She watched curiosity morph into a pleased expression and laughed. “I know. I’m pretty fabulous.”

He chewed on the “cookie” as it were, and nodded his head, having something to say but not wanting to talk with his mouth full. It was hard enough keeping food inside with the shape of his muzzle - though he had years of practice so he almost never dropped any. Finally though, after a bit of not-quite-crunching, he’d swallow. Time for the verdict. “Tell you what…. You supply me with these regularly, and I’ll make sure that as long as you’re close enough in your vitals, you’ll be as ready for duty as you need. Deal?” Swift was impressed. He wouldn’t fudge numbers, but his flexibility when someone’s health was concerned had the reputation of being unmoving.

Her smile only grew at his words, nodding to the deal as she sealed the top of the snack pack. Her hand darted out to offer him the whole thing. “Could I also convince you,” she paused as her brain picked at the words, “to tell my parents all things are in the clear whenever they contact you? Even if the numbers are a little off?” Marielle looked at him expectantly, “I mean. I’m not asking you to lie if it’s something serious. Just, avoid telling them if the numbers are within the margin of error.”

The doctor chuckled. “That won’t be a problem. Actually, right now, things look relatively normal. As they should. You’re at a good weight. I can tell you keep fit, not only because of your talk about exercise, but just looking at you in general, as well as your vitals. At the moment, I could clear you for really just about anywhere on the ship. But, that begs the question… Why would I be getting a call from your parents?”

“They’re overprotective.” Marielle settled on that alone after several attempts to find the right explanation. She was sure the good doctor would discover soon enough what she meant. While she had absolutely no basis for it, her instincts had her believing that the Wolfen would undoubtedly understand after that first subspace communicate and would happily stand his ground on the matter.

Shrugging, Leonard plucked the bag from her fingers and held onto it. These would be enjoyed later, as well as the coffee. He already liked her. She was a gem. “...I see. Well, as far as it goes on my end, I’m satisfied with what I see. Ensign, welcome aboard.”

She slid off the biobed with ease, her smile never disappearing as she made her way to the door. Marielle decided that the doctor would probably appreciate her collection, and she was determined to create a selection worthy of a fellow coffee drinker. Logos had already created a list by the time she had taken her first step. Perhaps the Kona, and the Fazenda Santa Ines. Obviously the Hacienda La Esmeralda and the Luwak, though only a bag each of those. Because she was willing to share, but she wasn’t that generous. “Thanks Doc! I’ll bring a new batch of cookies and a bag of beans later tomorrow.”

“Oh I don’t know if I’ll be going through them that fast… Well, maybe the coffee…” he muttered to himself as she left. But Marielle didn’t hear, having already skipped out the door.

* * * Copyright 2016. All works involving Mariëlle A. Deniaud and Leonard K. Swift, including character biography and published stories, are the property of the United Space Federation and its authors. It cannot be reproduced, imitated, and copied without written permission from the authors. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction using aspects of the Star Trek universe as created and copyrighted/trademarked by Gene Roddenberry, Paramount, and their affiliates. * * *
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