Just a Smile
Posted on February 8th, 2012 by Jorvan Tav and Kuari
Tav sat at his table in Ten Forward. To be fair, it was the closest thing to what had been his table in the lounge aboard the Daedalus C, an Olympic-class ship he had served on what seemed like a couple lifetimes ago… which in fact it had been. The table was a half booth at the edge of the windows, where he could observe his fellow crewmates during their time off, or gaze out into the stars, which was what he was doing now. In front of him was a cup of raktajino. You could say he was nursing it as he thought about the events of the last hundred hours, but the truth was he hadn’t touched it since he sat down. It had been so long since he had been a doctor, he hadn’t realized that once he had passed on into a new host who had not been exposed to the wonders–and horrors–of medicine, and in two lifetimes he had lost his imperturbability to it. It would take some time, but eventually he would get used to it again. In fact it shouldn’t take all that long… But losing one of one’s first several patients after getting back into medicine after two lifetimes would be a major blow to anyone, and it certainly was to Tav.
The doors of Ten Forward swished open, and from Tav’s vantage point from the other side of the bar, he could see no one entering or exiting. The reason was apparent a moment later when Kuari came into view, trotting along on all fours into the room. She seemed cheerful enough; not like she had at the party at Lost Harbour before this mission began, but certainly not showing signs of having nearly as bad a day as he had.
Most heads in the room turned towards the understandably distracting crew member, and Kuari nodded to several nearest her as she passed by. She turned and raised up fluidly to the bar’s surface, her long back arching cat-like as one foot came up to grip a barstool beneath her, the series of plates down her dorsal length rolling almost mechanically.
Her eyes swiveled forward to meet Jack’s behind the counter as he asked Kuari what he could get her. She responded softly, but her voice carried more easily than Jack’s and Tav could easily make out the words “chocolate milk”. As Jack smiled and turned his back, Kuari’s considerable visual range caught sight of him, and she cocked her head in his direction. Tav offered a weak, grim sort of smile, and Kuari stood perfectly still for a few moments, studying him, before she jumped down and serpentined between the tables towards him.
Tav pulled in a sharp breath and kept her gaze, surprising himself by finding the idea of her company not unwelcome.
She shoved the chair opposite him sideways and out of the way, her demeanor sympathetically somber and muted for her, before settling her tail end down on the floor and looking him over, her large, dark eyes shifting up and down. “Hi.”
“Hello,” Tav replied weakly. He nodded his head toward the bar and Jack, who was confusedly watching his departed patron. “You forgot your chocolate milk.”
“It won’t go bad.” She continued to watch him for a silent moment before turning her eyes downward. “I just came from Sickbay. I had to wait until the more serious cases were taken care of, and you were already made to leave.” She met his eyes again. “I heard what happened.”
Tav turned his eyes back to the stars whizzing by. From his seat, he knew he could see the star that Trill orbited, and beyond those stars, Sol. “The last time I took losing a patient this hard, I was fresh out of Academy.” He looked back to Kuari. “You wouldn’t recognize me back then. I had a different host. A female host, Tirza. She had a long career in Starfleet Medical, and she certainly lost enough patients in her time. But the last patient she lost was one hundred six years ago. Apparently, you don’t stay used to it. And obviously as Jorvan, I have never had a patient die on my biobed, until today.” Jorvan paused and took a deep, ragged breath and stole a glance at his raktajino. “After Tirza died and I was joined with Kalo, I swore I would never have another host in the medical field. Yet here I seem to be.”
Kuari listened in silence and then also looked down at his beverage, seemingly in thought. After Tav’s words, the silence stretched on, and he was about to say something to break the silence when Kuari abruptly dropped onto his free hand on the table. It wouldn’t have been quite so surprising if it had been her hand and not the broad, soft fur under her jaw. The feel of it reminded him of something a pet dog would do except not quite so lightly, as did the way her eyes tracked up at him from her seemingly paralyzed position, her neck stretched across the table.
Tav was startled; from any other crew member this would be a really personal gesture. But from a creature who had her own style and grace, instead of the humanoid social graces… He still wasn’t completely sure how to take it, but the feeling of empathy was definite. He raised his eyes the now couple centimeters it took from his drink to meet hers.
In silence, they held motionless for some time before Kuari finally spoke, her throat moving and vibrating against his hand. Her eyes darted around the table casually. “I got tossed around by a giant robot today. Then almost sucked out of the ship into space. Before Atlantis got tossed around, I mean.”
Jorvan leaned back a bit, slightly relaxed at the change of subject. “You seem to be in pretty good shape for that. You fared much better than some of the other crew members who came through Sickbay after riding an exploding nebula. Did you incur any major injuries?”
“No, that’s why I had to wait so long,” Kuari responded, her head moving with every word as her jaw stuck to the table. A wing hovered in demonstration above her shoulder for a moment. “My wing still hurts. I got slammed into a wall a couple of times, and a pile of crates. I had armor, though. Otherwise, it probably would have broke. “ Kuari grimaced. “I hate broken wings.”
Tav smirked slightly. “As much as we have in modern medicine to fix stuff like that, we still haven’t created a way for it to not hurt when it happens.” Tav gently pulled his hand out from between Kuari’s head and the table, finally bringing the raktajino to his mouth with his other hand and taking a sip. “At least it’s a quick fix. Imagine if you had been a human during Earth’s ninteenth century C.E., where a simple flesh wound from a gunshot would have meant amputation.”
Kuari raised her head since it was no longer providing any perceived comfort and shook it, her nose pointing downward. “They didn’t have Rucara spit.”
Tav looked slightly confused. “Rucara spit?”
She nodded enthusiastically. “It has healing properties.”
He narrowed his eyes at her quizzically and cocked his head. “What sort of healing properties?”
“You would have to ask my mother, or perhaps Doctor Carre, but any wounds, really. Keeps away infection, numbs pain. Speeds up healthy cell regeneration. All Rucara grow up being taught to use it whenever we get hurt, although we don’t really need to be taught as it’s instinctive to lick our wounds.”
Tav slowly pulled his head back as he listened to Kuari, and his eyes widened as he thought about the ramifications of what kinds of advancements could possibly come from what he had just heard. “My, how things have changed since I last held the title of doctor. What kind of research has Starfleet Medical put into your saliva? Has it successfully been used to cure anything in humanoids?”
“Like diseases? No, nothing like that. Not that I know of, anyway. Again, you’ll have to ask my mother. I’m sure Carre knows a lot now, too. She seems very interested in it.” Kuari eyed Tav. “You have a different way of regenerating yourself, though. Rucara live long, but not after dying like you. What’s it like to live several lifetimes?”
Tav leaned back further into the booth and considered the question. “It’s wonderful after a couple lifetimes to have so much experience to fall back on. It’s always exciting and somewhat traumatic when one host dies and I am transferred to the next. But once the joining is complete, there is a bond like nothing else in the universe. As Jorvan, I am still young, but I know what it is to be an old man, and a mother. I have held several full careers over these lifetimes. The trauma is always worth it. When I do join with a new host, I take on a whole new life, with a new family and am melded to a person with a new personality. There are some symbionts who have had many more lifetimes and hosts than I, and their wealth of knowledge is unsurpassed.”
Kuari sat very still, her attention fully on Tav. “Wow.”
Tav’s gaze flowed back out the window at the stars warping by, and his countenance became a touch more somber. “Some things that most people would never get used to, as a joined Trill you do, because you have more than one lifetime to get used to them. And, of course, as a doctor, you have some things you get used to. Hopefully I won’t be in the medical field again for too long. I need to go talk to the Admiral about that.”
“I like to think of you as a doctor. I would like you as my doctor, along with Carre. You can both be my doctors.”
A glass of chocolate milk was set down on the table, and they both looked up to see Jack smirking slightly before perceptively moving along. They both then turned their attention to the milk. Tav waited until Kuari reached down towards it, but she didn’t open her mouth as he expected. She instead pushed her nose gently against it, sliding it slowly towards him and stopping just shy of his hand before pulling away expectantly.
Tav looked for a moment at the milk, and then to Kuari. “What’s this?”
Kuari cocked her head and raised an eye ridge. “Chocolate milk.”
Tav mirrored her motion with a raised eyebrow. “I have a raktajino that I almost haven’t touched, and you ordered this as you were coming in. It’s yours.”
She shook her head confidently. “You’re a doctor, like Carre. You should know.” She motioned vaguely towards the glass, her forepaws still never making an appearance above the table. “Sickbay has stuff for physical wounds. For everything else, there’s chocolate.”
Jorvan grinned. He couldn’t help it. After what had turned into a long, rough day, it was one of the sweetest gestures he had seen in what felt like a lifetime. He also knew he wouldn’t be able to leave Ten Forward without having some, so he moved his hand from the raktajino to the chocolate milk and took a gulp.
Kuari was beaming back at him. As she watched him indulge in her chocolate, she decided she very much liked making him smile, and that making him do it again could fast become a new favorite hobby of hers.