A Human, an Orion, and a Romulan Walk Into a Bar...
Statzia sat half-curled in one of the chairs near the viewport in the lounge. Instead of looking at the view into space, however, she had spun the chair so that she had a full view of the lounge and its occupants. She took a long sip of her bourbon, letting the liquid linger on her tongue for a few extra moments before swallowing. As she watched the crew members engaging in meals, drinks, and social interactions, it was hard to tune out the ingrained dialogue of her father, telling her what things to watch for, what weaknesses to exploit, who would be the easiest mark. Crew members are not cons, Statz...
Heshoulou was not in a much better state. She either loved the way someone looked and wanted to know more or wanted to bolt into the nearest access panel and find somewhere in the Jefferies' tubes to hide out in. Since she was off-duty and didn't seem like she would be for a while, she was out of uniform, at the lounge's bar, ordering something her brother would've loved to share with her. Now, where would she sit. She was still unused to the ship's social dymanics.
She dressed like someone on a Risan vacation. Loose, thin wrap over skin-tight shorts and a cropped tanktop, sandals rather than shoes, her hair loose, cascading around her shoulders. To be fair, it was more modest than what her sisters wore on their own vessel- a few years around humans gave you a good idea not to wear scraps, no matter how comfortable you were in them. All of this decorated with some earrings and a necklace her grandmother had given her.
Vriha was taking a break after hitting an impasse in some research. She'd found that sometimes when you walked away from a problem for awhile, you would come back with fresh eyes and see the solution, so she had walked away into the lounge for a drink and some down time.
Statzia's eyes watched the entrance of the Romulan and the Orion. This has the makings of a bad Ferengi joke... She eventually made eye contact with both the women, giving a head-nod of acknowledgement. She paused, and then gestured with her head to the assortment of vacant seats in proximity. It would, after all, be interesting to get the opinion of other species on the social interactions of Hu-mans.
Vesu had long since decided that the ops chief was a good candidate for friendship. She seemed comfortable around the crew, comfortable flirting with no real feeling behind it, and comfortable to talk to. So she joined her at the table, eyeing the romulan science officer instead. Romulans always seemed so uptight, and a little rude, but she wanted to like her crewmate, regardless of species.
“Hey Statzia, fancy meeting you here. How has your night been?”
Vriha looked at the empty seats and sighed inwardly. The woman who had suggested a number of indecent things on Risa and an Orion... it was enough to make her wonder if she'd offended some local god-like being. But it would be rude to refuse, so she picked up her drink and walked slowly toward the pair.
Statzia gave a sly grin. "Amusing." She gestured with her glass towards the bar. "I have been watching a human interaction unfold for a few weeks now, and the storyline has been getting quite good." A quick glance around made sure there were no other crew members within earshot of their conversation. "You see that young Ensign--the one with the dark hair and the blue shirt?" She gestured discretely with her head. "Well, he is absurdly smitten with the young red-haired woman at the bar." She gestured again. "She comes to the lounge every Tuesday and Thursday evening with her group of friends from the ship's child care."
She leaned in closer. "So, every Tuesday and Thursday, knowing that the redhead is going to be here with her friends, our Ensign shows up without fail to try to make contact with her. He's never made it further than greetings and small talk. But, I think today will be different." She grinned. "I think he's going to make a big move."
Vesu eyed the young man and the redhead, taking in what her sister called ‘the ley lines’- where their feet were pointing, where their eyes were trained, how their arms and chins aligned. She decided that yes, that boy was planning to talk to the girl, and it was important to him.
“Oh I’m glad I’m here to witness it, then.” Vesu smiled, then straightened her posture so they weren’t whispering when the romulan made it to the table, “Hello! It’s a pleasure to meet you, I’m Heshoulou.”
"Vriha," the Romulan replied with a polite nod. "It is good to meet you as well." She cocked an eyebrow at Statzia, tilting her head in query since she had of course heard her description of the situation on the way over. "Is observing courtship attempts a form entertainment here, or does witnessing it play some necessary role, some ritual element, in the process?"
"Orions also do it as a form of collective policing. If a stranger is keeping an eye on them neither party can take advantage of the other." Heshoulou sipped her drink, "Do romulans not host courtships in public places, or is it just rude to watch?"
"Public displays are... frowned upon. Discretion is important in Romulan society, so a person who didn't display an aptitude for it, especially on such a personal level, would be considered a poor choice as a mate," Vriha explained. "Which isn't to say it doesn't happen on warbirds. Many people find their eventual mates during service in the Galae."
"Do you practice arranged marriages? Orions still do on occasion, you know. It can be practical to skip this... awkward phase here." She gestured surruptitiously to the bar with her drink.
"It has some advantages," Vriha chuckled, glancing toward the bar. "But usually arranged marriages are only for high ranking members of noble houses, since family alliances are a factor there. Though the heirs still generally get some choice - maybe only among a few other noble heirs, but a choice." She smirked slightly. "A necessity I think to cut down on unexpected deaths in the family."
Heshoulou laughed, nodding. "I think that's why most Orions stopped arranging marriages as well. My grandmother might recommend men to my sister, but she wouldn't order us to marry anyone. So we're back to the hassles of dating, aren't we?"
"You maybe," Vriha corrected, though with a smile. "I am free of them until I return to Romulan space."
"You'd never consider dating a non-romulan?" She leaned in, genuinely curious. "Not even with no intention to marry, just for fun or socializing or anything?"
Vriha tipped her head to the side, one eyebrow lifting. "You recall what I said about discretion, yes?" She nodded toward where the Ensign was about to make an awkward and obvious play. "So far, evidence suggest that non-Romulans would be bad dates."
With a thoughtful hum, Vesu turned her eyes back on the ensign. Vriha was right. "Certainly he would at least."
"Fortunately I have removed myself from the mating game long before now." Eilaea slid up beside the other ladies at a carefully considered distance--just enough of one to not be within easy striking range, that is, should any of them react as one might to an unexpected voice from the side or rear. Watching the parties in the lounge provided an easy exercise occasionally for making sure certain skills didn't get rusty for lack of use...But unfortunately the only way to make sure other ones did not was to do things rather more troublesome to ones' fellow officers, perhaps...Like approaching them from the spot in the corner where she had carefully been practicing the critical art of remaining unseen in a crowd.
"I make no complaint, Centurion," Vriha said respectfully, sensing that she was the reason for Eilaea joining them. "Dating is not priority and I am years from an acceptable age for marriage."
Vesu initially jumped, spilling a bit of her drink, but settled after she realized it wasn't malicious. Her eyes flickered between the Romulans. "Are you here for the show?" All she could hope was that she wouldn't annoy the Romulans.
"I am here for the drinks." Eilaea briefly raised a royal-blue and purple glass with some dark liqueur inside. "As for the rest...Well." She took a seat with the rest, at as best to an acceptable distance as could be had given the space. "The young idiots appear to be even younger and stupider than those that can be found aboard most warbirds for their first term of service."
"I will give the young ensign a bit of credit tonight. He usually arrives still in his uniform." Statzia took a long sip of her drink. "Tonight? He wore the blue shirt. It was a good choice, as it will bring out the color in his eyes." She gave a nod to the new arrival. "Some humans haven't given up on the concept of arranged marriages. I was either going to wind up as part of a business contract or a commodities trade, and had no intention of being either." She raised her glass in a mock of a toast. "Bartering and trading my way to Earth ensured that choice would never be made on my behalf."
While her eyes never stopped watching the young Ensign, Statzia leaned in her chair so that her conversation was directed at the younger Romulan. "You forget, however, that there is always a third choice. One can choose not to marry, but one can also chose not to partner in a dating relationship. There is always the freedom to choose intimacy without commitment--" The comment trailed off momentarily. "If the Ensign doesn't make a move soon, he may miss his chance." Her head gestured to the bar, where the redhead just waived off the offer for a refill of her drink.
After Eilaea's comment, Vriha had ducked her head hiding a slight olive blush, but her head pulled up even as she stepped back slightly at Statzia's. She was not innocent of 'intimacy without commitment' but she was absolutely uninterested in it with a human - particularly one so lacking in subtlety. "Perhaps he will be spared embarrassment for tonight then," she remarked.
"Whatever he is seeking here, he clearly should have sought more guidance first on how to accomplish it..." Eilaea took another sip from her glass; and tilted her head slightly, concentrating, as the young human took a step towards his intended quarry; hopefully she was still practiced enough in singling out a conversation in a crowd to be able to overhear them.
Vesu hummed softly, "Maybe he doesn't have anyone he trusts enough to go to for advice, or those he does trust wouldn't know anything about her. Relationships often rely more on instinct than knowledge." She paused to sip her drink. "He'd have done better in a darker blue, I think."
'No one he trusts enough' sent a brief but involuntary chill through Eilaea. Seren, her mentor, had died decades ago, of old age after a life lived to its fullest. Her parents, her aunts and her uncles, her older cousins and her grandparents, all those she might have gone to in the future for...anything...they were gone now; gone with the homeworld. And the few who remained; Jaron and Lyie and a dozen distant cousins most of whom she had yet to meet. They would come to her now; look for all of the guidance or protection they might expect from their head of house...Or from anyone else within it, for that matter. The drink in her hand felt ten times heavier with the reminder.
"That is true," Statzia said with a quiet sigh. "His roommate is in Engineering, and isn't exactly skilled in the courtship process, either." She gestured to the table the Ensign had just left. "He comes with the Ensign to the lounge every time, and is completely oblivious as a wingman." She tapped her finger repeatedly on the glass. "And if that Ensign does not move faster, he's about to lose his chance. She's leaving earlier than usual. That's not a good sign."
"It will not be his only chance." Vriha shrugged. "Neither are leaving the ship, are they? If she is leaving earlier it might be for a reason and it would be best for him not to detain her. "
"She doesn't seem to be in any rush, though, so she must have nowhere to be." Vesu downed the rest of her drink in one go, then sat her glass upside down on the table, "He might not be confident enough to approach her."
"There are many other places that one could go on the ship. But this is a change in her standard behavior, and hu-mans--" Statzia said with the Ferengi inflection, "are creatures of habit, as much as they will insist that they are not." She swirled the remaining bourbon in her glass. "My concern is that she is considerably attractive, and he is likely not the only interested party, and I will confess to rooting for the Ensign."
"Ah, you are ...what is he human phrase? 'rooting for the underdog'?" Vriha queried. She considered the Ensign and the woman a moment. From her point of view approaching a woman out with female friends was simply a bad move in general. "What is his department? I would think there must be a better place for him to approach her."
"It might be worth it for him to attempt to approach her alone, when she's with her friends he has more to lose, socially. Not to mention she might be less inclined to accept a date when she's with her friends to avoid their prying into her business. If we really want to root for the underdog here we might approach him with a better plan. For one, humans often forget how strong their sense of smell is, somehow, and don't wear the appropriate scents for their sweat- I'm sure you've noticed. Then, there's his clothes, his words, his approach, he's going about this all wrong and I don't know if he's getting any advice. If he is, it's the wrong kind." Vesu could feel herself talking too much, but couldn't help it. She glanced at everyone quickly once she finished, hoping she wasn't annoying them.
"I have not noticed a smell. He does not wear an overwhelming cologne." Statzia took another sip. "He works in Stellar Cartography, I think. I received an equipment acquisition request from him last week. She works in childcare--I think perhaps with the younger children. It may be--awkward for him to approach her near her work department. If a human male is not used to small children, they often feel uncomfortable."
Eilaea still had to tamp firmly down on the reflexive reaction at being reminded the humans brought their young aboard the vessels of their fleet; a horror at least less strongly felt than the first time she had discovered it. The rest of the statement, however...she raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Because they are eager to prove their worth as a potential mate; and worried they may not succeed?"
"If he is uncomfortable with children, that would argue against his desirability as a mate," Vriha observed. "If human males are like that, I am surprised your species has populated so much of the Alpha Quadrant - unless you make it a practice to expose single males to children when they approach marriageable age." She looked at the Ensign again. "Is there any way to tell when they are not near children? Because if he is not uncomfortable with them, volunteering to provide a lesson on stellar cartography or oversee a field trip to astrogation for her class would be a possible avenue to get her to notice him."
"Maybe we could borrow a child and show it to him?" Heshoulou mused, "To check if he's uncomfortable with them. I can't imagine all human males are uncomfortable with small children, I've seen some with their children and in the care center. If he's truly knowledgeable about his field he should be able to explain it to children, and a good teacher is an attractive man, especially in such a useful field as stellar cartography."
Statzia was just about to laud Vriha for her insight, but found herself turning back to the Orion. "There is no quicker way to bring the wrath of a mother, or a ship, on you than to kidnap a child for use in a social experiment." She reached out and put a hand on the woman's arm, laughing softly. "Trust me, the brig in these ships is not very comfortable, and I have no desire to revisit one, even if it is to visit a beautiful woman."
"Humans must be quite...forgiving." Eilaea said. Unlike a human saying the same words, the phrasing didn't imply lauding the sentiment, more like questioning it. "Anyone who kidnapped MY daughter would not live to see the inside of a prison."
Vesu laughed back, more nervous than amused, "Perhaps not then. You have to admit that would be the easiest way to gauge his comfort with children, though."
"Do you know anyone with children here?" Vriha asked. "Someone who could be persuaded to bring children somewhere he is expected to be. Other the lounge of course."
At that moment, the Ensign in blue closed the distance, giving a bashful wave to the redhead as he approached.
"Oh and he's making a move," Vesu leaned in. She wanted another drink, but this was too good to miss. "Any last-minute predictions of how this will go down?"
"Badly?" Vriha suggested, knowing how it would go down in a warbird lounge.
"Give the young buck some credit," Statzia chuckled, finishing off the last of her drink. "He wore a nice shirt, and she seems to be giving him a genuine smile."
"She is quite lovely, isn't she? Especially when she smiles." Vesu poked at her empty glass, "I hope he's successful, and if you're right, and if he's not completely inept, he should be."
"There is mutual blushing, so that is a good--" Statzia stopped. "No, boy, don't put your hands in your pocket," she hissed under her breath. "Be confident."