Professional Interest
Professional Interest
Summary: Melia and Zaharis end up in a discussion about the PO's next steps.
Date: 67 ACH
Related Logs: None

Log text goes here

Cafe Destiny - Deck 7
67 ACH 23817 Souls

This small open cafe is home to some of the best sandwiches on board. Atleast it was before the attacks. Now it is little more than a coffee shop where people can sit and chat and watch others wandering the decks.

The destiny's cafe. No more sandwiches, just coffee and the promise of a spot to people-watch. Through the large glass window, people pass back and forth on their way to the the gym in one direction and the Lido deck in the other, most of the civilian. Those who had the money before the attacks remain obvious in their expensive clothes and bikinis, still sporting fake tans and shiny high-class jewellery.

Zaharis is doing just that, settled at a chair near one of the big windows watching the surreal scene of the people trickling by. In his off-duties, a folder lying closed on the table and a cigarette burning in an ashtray that bears the remnants of the last smokers' butts with lipstick on them.

With an air of wide-eyed wonder about her, an off-duty Mellie comes bouncing into the Cafe', glancing over her shoulder at a woman going by in a bikini that's little more than a few suggestions of cloth held together by a whispered prayer. Yep, clearly Mellie's not used to -that-. As the woman goes out of sight, Mellie heads straight for the coffee, as if she needs anymore, and fixes herself a nice large cup. Recharge in hand, she pauses to look around, to take in who's here.

Zaharis catches sight of the same woman as she continues past the glass. Whether or not the CMO's used to it, who knows, but he does appreciate it. Sort of. He watches her go, and when she's out of sight his expression turns into something that's half amused and half bewildered. Then both brows go up as though shrugging themselves, and he picks up the large frou-frou mug of coffee. It's pink and yellow. With a poodle on it.

Ah-ha! Target aquired. Melia winds her way through the tables and the patrons to come up along side Zaharis'. "Permission to sit freely, Sir," she asks, tone quietly amused.

Zaharis looks up at the voice, cigarette smoke curling in little ripples from the ashtray. "Sullivan?" He seems surprised to see another military face in here, and motions with his burning smoke towards the other chair. "Sure, you can have a seat. If you don't call me sir in here."

Melia slides into a seat as if she's afraid it'll be taken away if she stands too long. "Major or Doc or Doctor," she asks, head tilting to the side as she grins up at him. "Or "He of the Poodle Cup?" I personally prefer "He Who Must Be Obeyed," but that'd take too long to say. Be good for your stationary, though." Her eyes twinkle a little. Apparently the woman doesn't have Bad Days.

"Poodle?" Zaharis picks up his mug, staring at the dog painted on the side. "Is that what that is? Figures. Someone told me the old name of this cafe was Dog Day Afternoon or something like that. Kept the cutesy mugs for a rainy day." He sips the coffee and then looks into the cup itself. "Sure there's a billion puns waiting to be made on coffee names and dogs."

Her brows pull together a little and she shakes her head. "I can't think of many, to be honest," she says, settling back into the chair with both hands wrapped around the mug, as if she could absorb the warmth of the liquid. "It's better a poodle than a chihuahua, though. They're tiny little yappy things with delusions of canine-hood. Genetically mutated rats is what they are. Rodents with delusions of grandeur."

"Those the ones that women carry around in their purses?" Zaharis is starting to sound amused. That might be a smile. "With the big eyes and usually collars to match the skirt of the day?"

"And bat ears," Mellie elaborates, nodding solemnly. "The ones that will growl and bark fiercely at you until you look directly at them. Then they go diving into the purse or under a desk like you just threatened to rip out their entrails. All bark, no bite." A shoulder lifts delicately. "Neurotic little things."

"Are you…" Zaharis tilts his chin down, raising an eyebrow. "…speaking from personal traumatic experience?"

Her lips quirk at one corner and she gives him what passes for a sly little smile. "Only on the other end of it," she says quietly. "I…borrowed a neighbor's little rat to, ah, help my brother. It took him about twenty minutes to shake the thing off his pantleg. I guess the meat juice might have had something to do with that. Of course, the dog didn't come out of hiding for two weeks and had to be taken to the veterinarian for nerve issues. Neither my brother or the dog could stand to look at one another after that."

Zaharis smirks, picking up his cigarette as she talks. "I don't think I could've stood to look at it after that either." He takes a small drag off the smoke. "Had a brother then? Going to take a guess and say you were the younger."

"Five older brothers," Mellie says, dipping her head and taking a sip of coffee before she continues. "I'm the baby and the only girl." As if THAT isn't obvious. "Utterly protected and wrapped in cotton when it came to the rest of the world, but fair game for my brothers. I may have been smaller than they were, but revenge was something I learned all about early on." And clearly she enjoyed it. "I was lucky that my father didn't hold with the same beliefs my mother did, that males were superior."

Zaharis nods in satisfied manner. Correctly pegged. His brows quirk upwards. "Five? Damn. Were you the only one who decided to go military?"

"It was either military or marry," she tells him quietly, the smile fading a little. "Good girls didn't continue their education unless their husbands permitted it. Good girls remained in the home and had babies. Or, if that couldn't be afforded, good girls went to work in a position that would allow liberal maternity leave, and only if her family was nearby to help with childcare duties." A shoulder lifts delicately. "My brothers, when I left to enlist, were all pursuing educations at the University, or they were finished with their education and working. According to my mother, I didn't have a choice. My father, who wasn't originally from Gemenon, helped me escape."

"Gemenon." Zaharis confirms that to himself as she talks. "I've never been." He taps ash off the end of his cigarette. "And why do you think you turned out so differently? All due to your dad?"

That gives her pause and she actually thinks about it for a time. "I think so, yes," she says after a bit, eyes going distant. "He loved my mother enough to marry her, to marry into the fundamentalist lifestyle. He believed. Yet he was open-minded enough, enough of an outsider, that he hadn't bought into the whole belief system that women were inferior to men and good only for popping out and raising babies. He raised me to be a little bit of a rebel." A little bit. Right. "I learned about herbs from him and had learned enough so that, by the time my mother found out about it, there was nothing she could do. Especially when it was presented to her that herbs were given to us by the gods. That's all the medicine we were allowed. That and prayer." Clearly, given her expression, the notion bugs the hell out of her. "When I think of all the people who died needlessly because they were convinced that the gods and prayer would save them…"

Zaharis considers that before he speaks. "I wouldn't put all the blame on prayer. People hide behind a lot of things rather than accept the responsibility of taking things into their own hands. Politicians. Technology. The military." The last is said a little drily, and he exhales smoke towards the glass window. "But I know what you mean. That where the attraction to being a medic came from?"

Mellie dips her head, smiling softly. "From my father, yes. His parents were doctors and I grew up on stories of what medicine, real medicine, could do. When I enlisted, it just seemed like the natural path. I had hoped, one day, to become a doctor myself - to work up through the ranks." Her smile turns a bit wry. "Not like I can take university classes now, hmmm?"

"No, I'd say that's frakked," Zaharis sits back and crosses ankle over knee, taking a very slow drag off the cigarette as he considers her. "But it isn't as though we're just on hiatus and we'll be going back soon. Things have changed and we have to adapt with them." He pauses a few moments. "How serious would you be about training?"

She tilts her head slightly to watch him, consideringly. "Very, actually," she says, voice quiet. The energy has shifted to intensity, seriousness. "I've been reading a psychology text I was able to get my hands on. It's a bit dry, but I wanted to be able to recognize the trouble signs in the crew I work with. I've heard that there's a medical text floating around, but I haven't tracted it down yet." Yet being the operative word. "I had hoped to be on an officer training track, eventually. But things went a bit pear shaped before plans could be made."

Zaharis watches her closely as she speaks. "Really. Wasn't aware of that." He taps his fingers slowly against his knee. "Well, look. It wouldn't be easy, and you're looking at a long time of work. But…if you're serious about wanting to get an M.D. and practice with full license, I would be equally serious about being willing to find some way to get you trained. We don't have enough doctors."

Mellie quirks a brow at him, surprised. But her answer is quite simple, "Tell me what to do and I'll do it," she says quietly. There's no prevarication, no missishness. There's the sense that she'll do it or die trying.

"I'll need to give you an assessment to know where to start…" Zaharis continues drumming his fingers, clearly turning some wheels in his head. "Has all your training been in the military or did you have college credits stashed somewhere?"

"I wasn't permitted to take college courses, formally," she says quietly. "But, thanks to Dad, I have a firm grounding in anatomy and physiology on a college level. He taught communications at the university, but used some of his parents texts to teach me what I'd need to know." Her smile softens a little. "I think Mom suspected, but she let us have our little secret."

"Alright. We'll probably do something like this…" Zaharis is thinking out loud now, making a vague motion with his hand to help him. "Most of the old medical schools required a bachelor's degree first, but there was a track for enlisted-turned-officer where you essentially earned your bachelor's degree during the first year of medical school, and just continued on. That's what I did. And it sounds like you might be in the right place for us to set up a progression like that."

There's a somewhat gentle ferocity that comes into her eyes as he mentions that, as if she'd wanted it, didn't believe it was an option, and can now see the brass ring. She nods, once, to the CMO, but doesn't dare interrupt.

Zaharis goes on talking out his thoughts. "So I think what I'd do…" He scratches his fingernail along his lip. "Is have you start training in prerequisites, basically the first year of medical school, which would satisfy a 'bachelor's degree'" He fingerquotes with one hand. "With that you'd become an Ensign, staying in the medic corps while you completed coursework for an M.D. After that of course you'd have to serve a residency before you could be licensed to practice, but you could do that on-ship. Or wherever we are by that time, gods only know."

Mellie dips her head, once, at that. "Would you want to test me to see where I am with regards to the academic side of things," she asks, voice quiet. "Or will we start from scratch?"

"I'd prefer to test," Zaharis shakes his head. "It'd be a waste to teach you what you already have solid. I'm guessing you probably still need a base in mathematics and chemistry."

Melia grins wryly at that, dipping her head. "Definitely," she says. "Maths eluded Dad, so he didn't even try. As for chemistry, well, the first time I blew something up in the kitchen, he suggested I wait until someone with better skills could teach me." There's that smile again! "Luckily I didn't cause too much damage, and that was the day I got to learn proper treatment for chemical burns. His eyebrow grew back within a few months. Luckily the chemicals weren't too caustic, merely standard kitchen items."

"Okay. Chemistry won't be tough, and I can find a maths teacher for you," Zaharis stretches out his legs under the table. "How would you feel about having to spend some of your off-duty time in class on the Carina?"

"Frankly Major," Mellie says, canting her head to the side. "I don't care if I'm missing out on sleep and personal time. This is something I -want- and I'm willing to work toward. I wanted an education, badly. I wanted to get past the idea I was nothing more than a uterus with arms and legs. I am serious when I say that you only have to point me in the right direction. What do I have to do with my spare time? I spend most of my days in Sickbay cleaning or wrapping bandages. This gives me a purpose, something to work toward, other than making sure you can do surgery on the sickbay floor."

"Being a medic isn't being a uterus with arms and legs," Zaharis pauses his enthusiasm, looking at her. "PO, being a doctor isn't 'better' than what you are now. It's another level of care, but you shouldn't do just because it would be proof to you that you can accomplish something. This is about patients."

Melia shakes her head slightly. "I misspoke," she says quietly - better than saying he misunderstood. "Because of how I was raised, I wasn't going to have the chance to treat patients with the highest level of care I could. I could treat them with the highest level of care I was -able-. Which, yes, is pretty damned high. As a medic, I'm limited in my ability to treat. All I can do is watch and learn from you and the other doctors." Which, come to think of it, he may have seen her doing. "I want to be able to treat the whole patient. I want to LEARN how to treat the whole patient. I studied herbalism when I was young. Do you know what I learned? Much of what patients needed was someone to listen to them along with the herbs. The people who just picked the herbs up and left were sicker longer. The people who stayed to talk, the ones who were treated as a whole person and not just their symptoms, got better faster and stayed healthier. It's not an exact science. Serious injuries take more than someone talking to them. But there's a definite connection."

Zaharis seems to be careful to keep his opinion out of his expression. "Why do you want to be able to treat patients?" Hey, this is turning into a med school interview.

"Because there are people who need medical care. No one deserves to suffer," she says quietly. "Because I believe in medical science. I've seen what the Gemenese consider miracles." Mellie leans forward in her chair slightly, putting her mug on the table in front of her. "I've watched parents lose their only child because all they could do was pray. All that child needed was antibiotics to treat an infection. Simple, at the time, plentiful medicine. I listened to the child scream in pain until there were no more screams. I listened to the parents mourn their daughter." Ahhh, a side of the Medic rarely seen. She DOES have a serious side. "I listened to the adults talk about how the child was in the hands of the gods and it was the gods' will. Bullshit. I believe that each and every person has the right to the best level of care that can be given. I want to learn, Major. I want to learn how to save the lives of those children. I want to help those who want that treatment. I want to serve the Fleet and the Colonial government to the best of my ability because, right now, we -need- people. We -need- doctors. Even if I remain a medic forever, I know that I'll give my patients the best level of care I'm able. But if there's a chance I can give them better care? That's what I want to do."

Zaharis goes on with her mini-interview, ashing his cigarette. "Okay. What do you think are the three most important qualities in a doctor?"

Mellie's head cants to the side and she considers his question. "Compassion, skill and discipline," she says after a moment. "In order to be effective, a doctor has to understand the patient and understand that the injury or illness may not simply be physical. The doctor then has to be skilled enough to recognize the difference between a purely physical injury and a psychosomatic incident." Fifty cent word bigger than she is! "The doctor also has to be disciplined enough to follow through with the proper course of treatment, even if the patient objects. The doctor has to stand by his or her decision and be open minded enough to listen to a second opinion. That's also where compassion comes in. Doctors have to listen to what the patients say - and don't say - but, to do what's in the best interests of the patient, sometimes it's necessary to be firm. Disciplined. A doctor's education doesn't stop when licensure comes through. Medicine is a life-long learning process."

Zaharis nods slightly, taking her answer in. "What do you think you'll like the least about being a doctor?"

There's no immediate answer. She's giving the question due consideration as she settles back in the seat and takes a sip of coffee. "Losing a patient, especially a child," she says quietly. "Death is part of life. It's part of the life cycle. I imagine it will be easier if the patient is someone older, someone who has lived a full life and is ready to move on. But to lose a child, even if it's 100% unavoidable, will be difficult."

Zaharis picks up his coffee, taking a sip. It's lukewarm, but one doesn't spend time in the military and not get used to drinking that. "If given full choice to make your own treatment decisions in your practice, would you perform abortions?"

Ahhh, the hard question, and it's clearly one Mellie didn't expect. She looks at him, startled, then shakes her head. "My faith prohibits that," she says quietly. "However…" Her head dips while she considers the rest of the answer. "It's not about me. It's about what's best for the patient. If the option is there, I will refer the patient to another doctor, one I trust and whose work I know will be up to my standards - one who might be a little more at ease with the procedure." Apparently the idea of abortion has her turning pale. "If there is no other choice, no other doctor, and my patient is adamant…then I would do the procedure. But it would be difficult. Given my choice, I wouldn't perform them if there were any other option."

Again there's no sign of an opinion on Zaharis' face. The neutrality is neither approving nor disapproving, he's just listening. "And how would you handle it if a terminally ill patient asked you for assistance with a painless ending of their life?"

There's no prevarication. She doesn't pretend that she's thought about it. She simply thinks for a time. "If there were no other option, if the person was at the end of their life and there was absolutely no hope…" Her head dips slightly. "Why should someone be forced to suffer and have no quality of life when hope is gone? It goes back to compassion. Doctors are to do no harm, but would it not be doing harm to allow that patient to suffer?"

The rhetorical question gets no answer. Zaharis takes a drag off his cigarette as she talks. "Alright. Tell me two things you think you'll need to work on about yourself in order to be a better doctor."

That one's fairly easy. "The discipline to stand by my treatment decisions," she replies. "To not get talked out of what I know is right. And not being quite so empathetic. I need to be able to detach a little, or else the illnesses and troubles of my patients will become my own." She studies him as he listens and smokes, head tilting a little.

"From what you've seen of the fleet, how would you improve the medical care that these 23,817 people are getting? Civilians and military." Zaharis smiles slightly.

"A little more community medicine," she says after a moment. "Education is the best preventative medicine there is. We could work with the religious officials to ensure that the religious among us get the treatment they need while still maintaining their beliefs. Not only can we educate the people we work with, but ourselves, as medical staff." The mug curls around in her hand for a moment. "If the people see us, know us, they may come to trust us. We're more visible to the military, but we can also liaise with civilian medical personnel so that we act as a bridge. Everyone needs medical care, which gives us an opportunity to be ambassadors for the Fleet." A pause. "Ok, too many flowery words. If they see us and trust us, we can work with them for the betterment of the whole fleet and not just the perception we're here for the military and military only."

Zaharis still isn't turning this into a discussion, not till he's done with his line at least. "Alright. Do you have any questions for me right now?"

Melia hesitates for a moment, studying Zaharis. With clear trepidation, she asks quietly, "Are you going to throw me overboard now, Sir?" It's half joking. What she's just done seems to be sinking in a little.

"Nah." Zaharis sips his coffee, letting that assurance hang. Then: "I delegate that sort of thing."

Melia groans softly and buries her head in her hand. "Just let it be Captain Reighner, please," she murmurs. "Or Stitch. They'll be gentle." Pause. "I think." She looks up, a little sheepish. "I'm sorry, Major. I really didn't mean to bring work to a social conversation. I apologize."

Zaharis grins. "I'm pretty sure I fanned the flames enough to be at fault too. I don't care. So long as a good thing gets done, I don't care whether it's on or off duty."

Melia laughs quietly and dips her head. "I try to make sure to keep duty to duty and off to off. People have quite a bit going on professionally." She toasts him with her cup then takes a sip, finding it's gone cold. "Before I move on, you'll let me know when you've made your decision as to whether or not I can test?"

"You can test," Zaharis replies, plainly. "Or did you want me to let you sweat a bit first? Because I can retract that if you prefer."

"It's not pretty when I sweat," she assures him, lips twitching a little. "Seriously. The last time someone saw me sweat, the Marines offered me a job."

Zaharis smirks. "I'll have to get some exams done up. We don't actually have any for that level. But I know the person who's putting the entire education system together, so we'll figure it out."

Melia gives him a bit of a curious look at that, but she doesn't ask. Someone DID train her! "Thank you for the opportunity, Sir. I'll try not to let you down. Besides, I wouldn't have made a good MP. The punching bag beat me up."

"MP?" Zaharis looks confused, but shrugs it off. "Uh, okay. Well, anyway. It's a few years off, of course, but what kind of medical specialty do you find yourself drawn to?"

Mellie's lips squinch to one side slightly. "Pediatrics and general medicine, most likely. I like my patients awake. I'm nto sure I have the aptitude for surgery."

Zaharis smirks. "Not everyone does, that's fine. I meant more…cardiology, oncology, pulmonology, infectious diseases, immunology…pediatrics, as you say. It's alright if you haven't thought much about it yet. You will."

Melia grins at him, dipping her head, then pauses. "I meant to ask, but with how busy things have been, I forgot. Do we know if this red algae that was found has any medicinal properties?"

"It's a microbicide," Zaharis nods, stubbing out his cigarette. "Among other things. We can make agar with it, we can eat it…if you go by traditional medicine, it's supposed to be good for the immune system. Never confirmed, but we're eating it anyway so let's hope."

Melia laughs quietly and nods. "It's actually not TOO bad with the eel, you know. Just…you have to close your eyes and pretend it's something else. "Though, with a few spices, it won't be horrible. I'm thrilled we've got it." Grateful for the little things. "More coffee, Major?"

"Sure." Zaharis picks up his poodle cup, glancing into it and then at the happy dog on the front. "Maybe soon we'll be adding algae to the coffee." He stares at the cup. "Argh."

Melia whimpers and rolls to her feet, dashing over to fetch the pot. Back she comes with it, energy back to high again. "Please don't even joke about that. I'm still trying to find out where the Marines keep their stash of coffee hidden."

"I've heard rumours but I haven't actually tried espionage yet," Zaharis confides, pulling another cigarette from his pack. "I'm actually okay with not knowing. Makes those little sips sweeter if you don't really know if it's a placebo or not."

"Mmmm," Mellie says, pouring coffee in both cups. "But knowing you've got ill-gotten gains can be sweeter," she tells the Major, grinning from ear to ear. Trouble. Capital T. Then she's dashing off again to put the pot back and tidy up after herself.

Adele has arrived.

Zaharis is sitting at a table by the window in his off-duties, smoking, drinking coffee, and talking to Melia. "Yeah, but imagine if you got up there, rooted through all their stuff, and found it's all been an illusion. A sugar pill. Isn't ignorance supposed to be bliss?"

Adele strides into the cafe, her gait purposeful and swift as though she were here for a business meeting. She pauses near the entrance to scan the faces of those gathered, and when she finds Zaharis, her demeanor shifts into something a bit more relaxed and she approaches. "Sorry, I just got your message," she explains, pausing at his side. Her gaze shifts to Melia and she turns slightly, her smile faint but not unpleasant.

Melia offers Adele a brilliantly warm smile. "Afternoon, m'am. I was just torturing the Major. Would you like some coffee?" She's on her feet, a little bundle of energy. "Alternately, I think the Major was about to toss me over, so I may take my coffee and disappear before I learn how to fly." It's clear she's teasing.

Zaharis looks up at the new person joining them. "Well hi. Thought maybe you fell asleep. Adele, this is Petty Officer Melia Sullivan, one of my medics who's just decided to start training for her M.D. Sullivan, this is Dr. Adele Pike, if you remember I mentioned I knew the person putting together the whole education system out here? This is her." He looks back up at Adele. "Am I supposed to say the word 'girlfriend'? That sounds dumb when you're almost forty."

Adele slips around Zaharis and into the chair next to him while she is being introduced to Melia and vice versa. "Oh, congratulations," she says to the other woman, her smile growing a touch. "It's nice to meet you; I'll get coffee in a moment, don't worry about me." She regards Zaharis, considering his question with a narrowed, analytical gaze. "I feel awkward saying 'boyfriend' too. I think next time someone asks, I'll call you my… bed associate." She always has trouble keeping a straight face when she's joking, and the veneer of her serious expression cracks slightly.

Whoops. The Gemenese PO3's face goes a lovely shade of pink, though the grin just blossoms. "Thank you, Doctor," she says to Adele, then follows up with "Wonderful! I'm glad to know that someone's taking care of the Major. He needs a keeper." On THAT note she's off toward the coffee again, presumably to get Adele a cup and give the pair a few minutes alone.

"That's very egalitarian of you," Zaharis replies to Adele, deadpan. He's better at straightfacing than she is. "But I think we're scaring the PO. See how she ran?" He turns in his chair, glancing back at the pouring Melia, then back at Adele. "Or, you got like three seconds to give me a kiss, embarassment-free."

Adele grins, almost apologetically, in Melia's direction. "I try," she replies - either to Zaharis' egalitarianism comment, or Melia's point about someone taking care of him - she doesn't specify. When the medic stands to go fill coffee, she leans into Zaharis and gives him a quick peck on the lips. PDA-Lite, really.

The PO keeps her back to the pair, giving them enough time to give the ship a show, should they so choose. She's really making sure Adele's coffee is absolutely perfect. But then she can't quite dally anymore and heads back to the pair, eyes on the cup to make sure nothing gets spilled. "I'm afraid they don't have any pastries with the coffee, though I'm sure I could scare up a bit of algae," she says, FINALLY glancing up at the pair. She picks up her own mug after dropping off Adele's, though doesn't sit.

"Algae pastries, mm." Zaharis is cool with peck on the lips. PDA is not his style. "Sit down, PO, nobody's going to bite. Actually I'm glad you're both here, since Adele's the one I need to confer with about the exam. Adele, I need to throw together something to assess Sullivan here for around…" He wiggles a hand. "First year of medical school. Pre-bachelor's. Maths, chemistry, biology, standard stuff. Think you might be able to help me figure something out?"

"Thank you," Adele says to Melia as the coffee is placed in front of her. She blows on it after lifting it to her lips, then takes a tentative first sip. Her eyes widen in surprise at its strength - rations have thinned out the coffee that contractors get, and she's never been much of a coffee drinker anyway. Her attention flits back to Zaharis when he brings up the exam, and she squints thoughtfully. "Sure," she says after a moment, giving a single, resolute nod.

Damn. She's caught. Mellie offers the pair a smaller smile and settles back into her seat. "I have the equivalent of a high school education," she tells Adele quietly. "What was required by Gemenese law. But I wasn't expected to require further education. I had planned, once I was settled in the Navy, to take up studies again. What I've learned has generally been through my father's teachings and observation."

Zaharis nods to Melia, then looks at Adele. "She's also been picking up things in Sickbay, so I would expect she's farther than where she left off formally. Hence the testing and all. Once we do that, then she can move on." He glances at Adele's cup, then Melia's. "Unless she gets skinned by the Marines for stealing coffee."

Adele has another sip of the coffee, glancing askance at Zaharis. "Marine coffee?" she asks, setting the mug down and spinning it until the handle is perfectly straight and parallel with the table's edge. "I should be able to help you come up with something. I'll ask some of the teachers I've been talking to. One taught science to the upper grades; maybe she has some resources." She smiles across the table at Melia.

Melia dips her head to Adele, smile warm. "Thank you, Doctor," she says quietly, politely. "I'm looking forward to this new opportunity." But then she's glancing over at Zaharis, very briefly, before looking away. Her lips twitch as the imp of mischief takes over. "They'd have to catch me, first, Sir," she murmurs quietly. Something about the way she says that indicates that being caught isn't likely something that would happen.

Adele grins faintly over the brim of her mug as she lifts it again. She might not know Melia, but there's certainly a sense of quickness about the woman across from her. She reflects for a moment, then decides to make smalltalk, which she's never been exceedingly skilled at. "Gemenon, then? What prompted you to join the Colonial Navy?"

The little PO gives Adele a broad, if not slightly sheepish smile. "It was either join the Navy or become someone's wife and start popping out children," she says fairly frankly. "My mother was arranging my wedding and it wasn't what I wanted, not at that point in my life. So my father supported my decision. Even though I come from a very fundamentalist, very conservative family, my father wasn't native Gemenese. He was from Sag. He married into the religion. There were very few things he took a stand on against my mother, but my choice of life was one of them." A pause as she sips her coffee. "I'm the youngest of six. Five older brothers."

Zaharis got up to address some zomg urgent thing that came through on his handheld, moving off to the side so his conversation on the wireless doesn't interrupt theirs. As he comes back he picks up his mug, sitting back down and resting an arm on the table.

Adele's brows loft at Melia's response, and she looks almost panicked a moment, as though she doesn't know what to do with all that information. So she has a sip of coffee. And thinks. After a moment, she looks somewhat relaxed again, though still distantly prim. "Well, good for your father. Not all women are suited to a life of domestic subservience, no matter how well provided for they would be. It's good you had his support." She watches Zaharis return, tracking his movements with her gaze.

Melia looks up as Zaharis returns, giving him a broad, bright smile. "Welcome back, Major," she says quietly. "I'm afraid I'm terrifying the Doctor with stories from my youth. Everything alright, S…Major?" He'll break her of that Sir habit yet.

Major's as bad as sir when it comes down to it. Zaharis nods, taking a sip of his coffee. "Yeah, just fine." He glances at Adele, having heard the last part of what they were talking about, then back between the two women. "Talking about Gemenon? Sullivan was telling me about it earlier, yeah."

"Oh, I'm hardly terrified," Adele assures Melia with another faint smile. "My mother wanted basically the same thing for me." She toys with the mug's handle, running her thumb along the smooth curve, then lifts it again to drain the rest of the now lukewarm liquid. She settles into a reflective quiet.

Melia dips her head to Zaharis. "Sergeant Dane Ramiro and I come from the same region on Gemenon. He used to play Pyramid against my brother when they were in high school. In fact, I'd seen him play several times. Not too many people aboard understand the Gemenese way of life. He's been helping me…translate a little. I still have some issues with openness." Her? Issues with openness?

"How well do any of us understand each other?" Zaharis ventures. "Sometimes we're lucky and we find someone who's had a similar family or similar beliefs. Sometimes it's worth it remembering that at the core we're not all so different after all." He looks at Adele after that and after her comment about her mother.

Adele turns her face to regard Zaharis, introspective smile in place. She looks at him for a few seconds, then flicks her gaze back across the table to Melia. "Cultural experiences always vary wildly from colony to colony, but when it comes to families and the way they interact with each other, I think it's easy to find common threads with others, from Aerelon to Caprica. We're all human, after all." Or so one hopes.

"Exactly," Mellie says with a small smile. "Whereas some families protect their young women, not allowing them to be near or alone with a man not of her immediate family, others have no problems parading naked men in front of their young women. The first time a Marine hit on me, I ran." She grins, impishly. "Marines definitely take getting used to, as do pilots."

All human. Zaharis picks up his coffee cup, taking a long sip, then fishes a new cigarette from his pack. Melia's description of families and their men and women has him squinting slightly at the PO. Half amused, half…something else. He lights up and tosses the lighter back on the table, turning his head to exhale smoke away from their faces. "Families are shaped by what they teach their men, too. Not just their women."

"Mm," comes Adele's sound of assent as she nods in a subdued fashion, staring unfocused at the table as though it were a window. "And what they /don't/ teach their men. And women." Her smirk is faint and rueful, and still angled at the table. Then she looks up and refocuses upon Melia. "I would have run too," she confides, her nose crinkling.

"Learning a bit more about cultures has been…enlightening," Mellie says with a wry little grin. "I didn't have to worry much when I first joined the Navy. I was marked as Gemenese and, for the most part, left alone. I learned how to deal with the differences, and the fact I didn't have my brothers protecting and tormenting me. Here? It's been a very different proposition." Perhaps one of the few times anyone's ever heard Mellie express something other than positivity. "But it's been a good learning experience." Ahhh, there we go! Pollyanna's still there. "My brothers were amazingly protective. Dane's taken on the brother role, but he came from a much more liberal family - which is nice." She glances to the other two, as if inviting them to share their stories.

Zaharis seems to take the hint, but he clears his throat quietly. "I really wouldn't know." He offers Melia a smile and looks over at Adele, even though he already knows her sibling situation.

"I was protected, but not by any siblings," Adele states after a pause. "Socially, though. Hand picked friends, hand picked marriage prospects, all that. It was more about the Pike reputation than it was about my wellbeing, though I'm sure my father would have been willing to pull out his dueling glove if necessary." Her smile is wry, and for a moment, almost fond. Almost. She turns her face to Zaharis and studies him for a few seconds, her eyes crinkling with some amusement that she doesn't verbalize. Swiftly, she faces Melia again.

Even though she's been babbling, there's something a little intent about the way Mellie looks between her two companions. At Adele's words she smiles softly and dips her head. "Fathers…sometimes tend to be good for things like that. My mother hatched a plan to have me kidnapped and, er…compromised before my swearing in. Had that succeeded, I would have become the property of the man who compromised me - quite handily married with there being nothing the Navy could do about it. Dad found out and ensured it didn't happen." As strange and bizarre as it is, she seems quite comfortable talking about it.

Zaharis winks lightly at Adele, then sips his coffee in silence. Melia's story makes one dark brow start to arch upwards, and he swallows the mouthful of bitter brew. "Seriously?"

Adele has a similar reaction, though she doesn't say anything. She just looks at Melia, both brows lifting as opposed to just one. Symmetry, she has it.

The little Medic's emotions are written on her face for anyone who cares to see them. Given the melange of hurt, guilt and sadness, well, that tells them all they need to know. She nods, once, her characteristic smile fading just a little. "Seriously," she tells them quietly. "Life in the fundamentalist church is much different from the outside world. It is, literally, another world. My mother's plan would have worked under Gemenese law had my father not intervened. I only needed his signature to join the Navy, but marriage would have trumped that, and I'd have been my husband's property - invalidating my father's permission." A shoulder lifts delicately and she takes a sip of coffee, glancing away. "I don't think she ever forgave me."

Zaharis takes a drag off his cigarette while she talks, thoughtfully. His expression doesn't completely understand, but it's trying. If he has anything to say on all that he remains quiet for the time being, letting Adele into this first.

Adele may not be Gemenese, but upper-class families, especially Old Money, often share similar ideals though they usually aren't put into practice. She looks sympathetic as she listens to Melia, fingers picking at each other in her lap, but she doesn't attempt to dissect the bizarre cultural norms of Gemenon. When she speaks, it's in general terms. "There's only so long you can wait for someone's forgiveness. Especially if you've done what's best for you in the first place."

Mellie dips her head to Adele, smile warming again. Like a best friend, that smile is never far away. "She's dead now, so there's nothing to be done for it," she says somewhat plainly. "Every so often, though, I get hit with a few minutes of "what if?" I know she loved me and was trying to do what she thought was best, what she'd grown up with. I'd like to think that she's moved on and understands why I did what I did. I'm not anti-marriage and family, but I'll damn well choose my own husband." Thankyouverymuch. She looks briefly prim. "There. Now that I've utterly and completely killed the mood at the table." Both parties are given an apologetic smile.

A small cloud of smoke goes up overhead, thinning into a wobbly ring above their heads. Zaharis nods slightly at the story, then smirks at the 'apology'. "Nah don't worry about it, PO. Everyone's got all these things following them around now. Worse, I guess, since we all know there's never going to be a chance for closure. It's hard."

Adele nods, once again silent in her agreement. Fiddling with her empty mug, she squints across the table at Melia, a smile threatening to form into something a little devilish. "So. What's it like working with the doctor, here?" She jerks a thumb at Zaharis, in case it wasn't clear to whom she was referring. "I heard a rumor that he's pretty caring and sensitive."

Melia looks between the two for a moment then shifts in her seat, leaning toward Adele. "Shhhh, don't let him hear you say that," she stage whispers. "See, he likes to pretend he's a hard-ass slave driver. Oh, and his bark…he yaps worse than a chihuahua, but I think he'd sooner chew his own leg off than bite someone." Her nose crinkles as she darts a glance to Zaharis. "Too many germs. He's a germophobe. Of course, he's also a marshmallow. But he's more of a marshmallow burned over a campfire. You've got the charred, unappetizing, threatening exterior, but it hides a warm, gooey, sweetly soft center." And that, apparently, sums Zaharis up for his medic.

Zaharis has the cigarette in his mouth again by the middle of that, his thumbs hooking into the pockets of his fatigues trousers. His brown eyes slowly narrow, picking through all that. "Someone at this table has faaaaaar too little work to do, I see."

Adele looks genuinely surprised by Melia's assessment of Zaharis, and she regards Zaharis thoughtfully throughout it. At the end, she taps a finger against her lips. Her expression flashes briefly, that telltale sign on a quip someone has cooked up and then promptly held back. It makes her nose and lips twitch though.

Mellie can't help but give Zaharis the big wide eyes of doom. She looks almost like one of those Precious Moments figurines - all huge eyes, cute button nose and pursed lips. "But Sir," she protests innocently. "We keep trying to give you more work to do. You always escape to other meetings!" While she's looking up at Zaharis with a mixture of mischief and hero worship, she's also on the far side of her seat, ready to dart out of arm's reach at the first movement the CMO makes.

"That was bedpan duty you put down as your favourite task, right?" Zaharis asks Melia, and taps his temple. "Aren't you glad I've got a nice long memory?" He smirks, finally taking the cigarette out of his mouth and turns his head, noting Adele's twitching lips. "What, bunny rabbit?"

"Nothing," Adele states quickly. "Nothing at all." The twitching stops, but her expression remains vaguely impish for a moment. "As for bedpan duty, she was just answering my question. Can't fault her for that."

Oh, yeah, Mellie stays on the far edge of that seat. She's not taking any chances. "No male Marines, please," she tells him, almost pleading. "They'll take that as a sign of romantic interest and I'm already avoiding three of them. Two want to find a quiet corner with me, the other wants to find me a suitable…friend." She shakes her head so hard the curls bounce. "Pilots. I'll change pilot bedpans. Then they can wax emotional about it." The grin turns on Adele, growing wider. "See? I was only answering the Doctor's question. Respectfully."

"That's good idea. The pilots are too busy being emo to even notice." Zaharis stubs out the cigarette, a last blast of gray smoke going towards the window as he exhales the rest of it. "And as for you…" He looks at Adele next to him. "You know what happens when you try to eat a burnt marshmallow? It gets all over you." Totally without warning he leans over the few inches and blows a loud raspberry against Adele's cheek.

Adele was not expecting that. And for a second, it looks like she's about to hit Zaharis - but she quickly composes herself and endures such treatment until the raspberry has ended. When he is done, she leans into his shoulder and wipes off his spittle on his own flesh. "That was unnecessary," she grumbles, trying not to look endeared. "And not anything like a molten marshmallow."

Mellie simply blinks at the pair for a moment and lifts a hand to cover her mouth, stifling a laugh. "On THAT note," she comments quietly, sliding to her feet. "I think there are some bedpans calling my name. Doctor Pike, it was lovely to meet you. I'd suggest holding the flame just a TINY bit closer for maximum effect. Major, thank you for the coffee and the talk." Then, well, it looks like she and her coffee cup are going to take off.

"How do you know?" Zaharis asks Adele, pointedly. "When's the last time you had one? Actually you're right, that was probably too little force. Here, let me try it again." He takes a big breath and swiftly leans in, puffing out his cheeks, but stops right near her face without exhaling. He smirks and turns his head back to Melia. "I'll see you back on the Genesis, PO."

Adele ignores Zaharis for a moment, for all his raspberry preperation. She watches Melia stand and grins at her. "It was nice to meet you as well. Have a good afternoon." Then she turns to face Zaharis, reaching up to squeeze the air out of his cheeks with her palms. "Deflate," she instructs.

Yep, the PO and her coffee cup are -out of there-. There's nothing stranger to the young than Mom and Dad kissing. Ewwwwww. Of course, it should be noted that she looked absolutely delighted.

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