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Winter Apples PT 2

Posted on Sat Feb 27th, 2021 @ 4:29pm by Lieutenant JG Aurelia Garrett & Lieutenant J'remar Menun & Lieutenant Eklisa

Mission: Swarm
Location: Garrett Manor- New York- Earth
Timeline: Following Winter Apple PT 1

The route to the kitchen was almost a direct one from the manors library. They seemed to be walking down the same hall way for minutes before coming to a staircase that lead down to a lower level. The scents of smoked ham and spiced apple wine floated around them and grew in pungency the closer they drew to the eating area.

Alistair and Lyla Garrett were seated at the wooden table located directly in the kitchen. The had stopped using the dinning hall when Aurelia joined Starfleet, enjoying the less formal approach to a meal. The kitchen was one of the brightest rooms of the manor but still held a soft golden glow.
Lyla smiled brightly as the trio entered the room, standing quickly she set her wine glass back on the table and pulled Aurelia into a tight embrace, squeezing her daughter hard enough Aurelia had to pat her mother on the back and breathlessly to ask her to release her. In the background her father set down a padd onto the table then folded his hands and rested them in his lap. He knew Lyla could be quiet eccentric and often stayed back until she had subsided.

"But its been so long since you've come to see us Lia." Lyla spoke into Aurelia's hair not having released her daughter yet.

"I know mother." Aurelia strained to say. "But I would like to introduce you to my friends."
Lyla reluctantly released her daughter and turned to her companions with a welcoming smile. Had she not been still keeping an arm on her daughter she might have hugged both Eklisa and J'remar, regardless of their protests.

"Mother, father, this is J'remar Menun and Eklisa." Her mother gave a small wave to each. "This is my mother Lyla and my father Alistair." At her fathers introduction he rose him his seat and extended a hand to Menun.

"Pleasure to meet you, Lyla, Alistair," Eklisa nodded to them as she greeted them, still huddled close to Menun. This room was more comfortable than the dining hall would've been, and with more people in the room, she was getting better.

J'remar had resigned himself to the fact that Eklisa needed to be literally hanging onto someone to feel comfortable, so he didn't mind her clinging onto him now. He stretched out his hand to the two older humans. "Mr. and Mrs. Garrett, it's a pleasure."

Lyla watched the closeness of Aurelia's friends and quickly jumped to conclusions on the twos relationship being more then just fellow starfleet officers. "We are so delighted to share our home with you." Lyla said with a new found gleam in her eye, she delighted in meeting new people.

Taking Menuns hand Alistair squeezed briefly during the shake. "I was not aware Orions had joined the federation, forgive me if my information is outdated. Lyla and I tend to stray away from federation news, given our daughters decision to join." He said releasing Menuns hand.

Aurelia let out a dramatic sigh and rolled her eyes, she walked towards the table and picked up an apple from the center bowl and took a giant bite from one side of it.

J'remar smiled very faintly when he heard Alistair's query. "Only a few of us Mr. Garrett. Only a few." His smile quickly faded when he mentioned Aurelia and her 'decision to join.' Were they not proud of their daughter for joining such an important part of the Federation?

"Your daughter has been a pleasure to work with." Eklisa offered her hand to Alistair, smiling. She didn't want to forgo the human nicities.

Alistair took Eklisa's hand in both of his cupping hers. He gave her a genuine smile, the hard lines of his face lifting. "That's wonderful to hear, I do hope she's keeping you all out of trouble. Ek-lisa is it?"

"Eklisa, yes!" She smiled all the way disingenuously, emphasizing her alien nature to the man. He reminded her of several other people, many of which she didn't like.

Aurelia cringed slightly at the sound of her father butchering her friends name. Lyla gave her daughter a scowl and she knew instantly her mother was displeased with her posture. Aurelia had the grace of a trained fighter, not the delicate princess like elegance her mother wished she possessed. Ignoring her mother she kept her attention on the apple she was eating.

"Come lets all have a seat, dinner should be ready any minute now." Lyla said as she ushered everyone to the table.

J'remar saw the look pass between Aurelia and her mother, but didn't say anything, following everyone else to the table.

Eklisa regretted having to let go to sit down, but did. She hugged around herself. Out of curiosity, she took an apple from the center bowl and squeezed it, feeling the skin and the crushable meat of the fruit.

As everyone took their seats Lyla, with the help of her daughter, set out plates and utensils for each person before proceeding to the oven and pulling out a honey glazed ham large enough for a family of ten. The aroma heavily filled the air in the kitchen, a hint of pineapple could be detected in the mix. Lyla set out several other dishes onto the table as well, garlic mashed potatoes and green bean casserole among them before taking her seat on Alistair's left.

Aurelia took the seat next to Eklisa, scooting her chair as close as possible. She ignored the look her father gave her feeling her friends comfort was more important then her parents discernment of the act. She watched as Eklisa examined the fruit, "Is it different from fruits found on your home world?" She asked.

Eklisa gratefully leaned into Aurelia's presence, picking at the skin and then taking a bite. Somehow, her bite was bigger than a human could feasibly take. "Definitely. For one, it's so stiff. Most fruits on Denobula can be crushed by hand. I'll have to take a few to study later. Oh, and remind me to invite you to my family's farm sometime we have the shore leave."

Aurelias eyes lit up with excitement," I've never seen Denobula!"

"I can only imagine how many of your family live there," J'remar said, a rare moment of humor slipping through his professional sternness. He watched Mrs. Garrett setting the table, his mouth unconsciously watering at the smell of such...delectable looking foods, as anyone's mouth would. He was unsure of how to proceed, given his family never had large dinners with guests like this, so he waited to see what everyone else would do.

Alistair furrowed his brow for a moment before questioning the guests, "Is it custom to say pray for either of you prior to your meals? It is not something we practice but I would loathe to offend either of your cultures customs." His gray eyes flickered between the Orion and the Denobuian.

"Denobulans actually don't talk at all during meals, but I've gotten used to the custom." She laughed and offered some assistance setting the table. "Menun, do Orions pray over their food?"

Menun was baffled by the question, raising one eyebrow in curiosity. " No we do not. Do humans...give thanks to whatever deities you believe in....when you eat?" He was very much startled by this new and extremely unusual piece of human culture.

Alistair let out a deep throated chuckle, "There are some religions on earth that thank their deities before every meal. Some do the opposite and fast, stating the purpose of fasting is not just to eliminate something from their life, but as a way to replace it and supplement it with prayer. I am no expert on the subject of religion, our family has not followed any religious beliefs for hundreds of years."

Mr. Garrett gestured with both hands to Eklisa and J'Remar, "Please, guests first." His gray eyes fell on his daughter, "When Aurelia was younger it was such a hassle to get the child to sit long enough to eat anything. She quite literally grew up on apples, plucking them from the trees and eating on the go, we would find the cores scattered everywhere." His face was radiant with joy as he told the story, glancing at his wife and sharing a smile.

J'remar hesitatingly sat down, observing the food on the table, and eying Aurelia, who sometimes looked like she wanted to escape whenever her parents talked about something from her past. Understandable. Even his own parents were sometimes overbearing and unpleasantly ecstatic over even the most trivial of things.

"I find it hard to go first, when I'm not sure what you'd like me to do sir." Eklisa smiled at him and scanned the table again. Every race had different rituals surrounding food. Did he want them to serve themselves? Did he want them to serve each other? She found herself trying to pick out which set of rules most north American humans followed, but she was almost certain that the rules she was thinking of were for a traditional Klingon meal in a noble house.

Aurelia glanced around the table her green eyes bouncing from parents to her guests waiting for someone to dig in first. She saw the uncertainty on everyone's faces and almost erupted with laughter, but she held it in not wanting her friends to feel she was laughing at them specifically. She playfully nudged Eklisa before standing and reaching for the honeyed ham, she cut a couple thin slices and slid them onto her plate before turning to Eklisa, "Ham?" she asked with a smile.

"Yes, thank you." Eklisa smiled gratefully.

After cutting a couple thin slices for Eklisa she handed the ham over to J'remar and continued onto the next food option until her plate mirrored Eklisa's. Leaning closer to her friend she whispered, "Don't feel pressured to eat anything you don't like or want."

She nodded, just glad Aurelia was there to help. She doubted J'remar or herself would've been able to work out what was considered polite for a while. "Human food is always interesting."

J'remar took the ham Aurelia handed to him, staring at it for a few seconds, before mirroring what Aurelia did with it and cut a few thin slices off and somehow wrangled them over to his plate. He moved on to the next food items, not before waiting for Aurelia and Eklisa to be finished with them. He shared Eklisa's sentiment about human food. Their meats, vegetables, fruits...all very different from things he was used to.

He glanced over at Eklisa and Aurelia, his unsurety of what to do next quite evident. He didn't like feeling this...he supposed helpless was the right word. He didn't know what to do or what the proper etiquette was, so he just waited to see what Aurelia would do.

Aurelia saw the uncertainty in J'remar's glance and gave him a reassuring smile. She cut into her own ham and almost instantly started to dance in her seat when she took the first bite. "I have to say, albeit the replicators aboard DS 12 are very well programmed, they cant compete with home cooked meals." She eagerly continued consuming her meal with a smile and a little bonce in her seat.

Eklisa ate her food gratefully, humming at the flavors. She'd tried human food a few times, mostly during school or when invited out by a human, but Aurelia was right, this was different. At first, she cut the ham into pieces as small as Aurelia did. After a few bites, however, she was taking slightly bigger bites than a human could.

J'remar began to slowly cut into the food on his plate, still slightly hesitate, but given how Aurelia and Eklisa were already eating, he began to eat as well. The ham was...intriguing. He'd had human meat before, but this...this was startlingly different. He took another bite, chewing thoughtfully, his attention fully focused on it.

The group continued eating, Aurelia the first to finish. She pushed her plate away from her slightly picking up a glass of water and downing its contents. She leaned back in her chair her eyes shifting from each person at the table. To her surprise her parents had been far more behaved then she would have thought, perhaps it was their way of showing Aurelia she should make more attempts to come home.

"Tomorrow I plan to take Eklisa and J'remar to the orchards, the weather controlled section." Aurelia stated.

Lyla, still smiling contently responded, "That a wonderful idea, Aria can have a car ready for you if you just inform her of a time."

"I am very curious to see the difference between an earth orchard and my uncle's, especially if all of these trees are apple. It seems to be a delightful fruit!" Eklisa hummed her pleasure.

She did, of course, also look forward to the climate control and the return to a natural environment. Outside was supposed to be wide open, she would be more comfortable further from others there. She eyed Alistair for a moment, analyzing his behavior.

J'remar eventually finished eating, having thoroughly enjoyed the meal, though he wouldn't let anyone see that of course. He still had his rigidly impassive features on. At the mention of the apple orchards, he glanced up. Aurelia seemed delighted and Eklisa seemed to be relieved.

"How long has your family been growing apples?" J'remar asked, directing his question to none of the Garretts in particular.

Alistair cleared his throat before speaking, the sound drawing attention. "Our ancestors started in the early 1800's. The first Garrett family planted the trees closest to the manor, it was not easy given they were inexperienced in the trade. They spent most of their savings on the tools needed to produce cider and had no plan to fall back on if they mill failed to produce enough to profit off of. Records indicate they struggled for a few years, but persistence paid off." He ended with a smile.

"The trees closest to the manor haven't been part of the main harvest in a couple hundred years but they still flourish on occasion producing just a few apples, but very rarely. The section Aurelia is taking you houses some of rare trees that have been imported from around the world. The rarest being the black diamond apple tree that was brought from Nyingchi, a city in China. The apples aren't exactly black, but a violet color, they stand out from the other trees. The majority of the trees in that sector would not survive the harsh winters in New York, making the weather controls a necessity." Lyla added.

"That sounds delightful!" Eklisa hummed, "I'll need to download some books on apples before we head back to the ship, the variety sounds interesting."

J'remar nodded slowly as Aurelia's parents were speaking. He was contemplating just how determined those first few Garretts were, persisting when there was every instance and chance of failure. He respected that kind of strength.

After a few moments of light conversation comparing the many varieties of apples the manors AI materialized. Conversation halted as her presence became known.

“Master Garret, you have an incoming call from Master Alijah.” Aria informed Alistair.

“Ah, transfer the call to my study if you would please.” Alistair ordered. He stood tossing his linen napkin onto his plate. “It seems my time has come to an end,” he addressed the room with a smile. Placing a hand on his wife’s shoulder he added, “I do hope you enjoy your tour tomorrow. It has been a pleasure meeting you both.”

Before leaving the room Alistair leaned down to kiss the top of his daughters head. “It is lovely to have you home Lia Rose.” He spoke quietly in a sweet tone reserved specifically for his youngest child.

Lyla, not wanting the group to leave just yet decided to break out a rather old bottle of cider wine. She grabbed tall steamed glasses and returned to the table holding both the wine and glasses up. “Can I interest either of you in glass of our finest wine?” Lyla asked with a hopeful grin.

"I do enjoy a good glass of wine, since you're offering." Eklisa smiled, "This is different from cider, yes? I've had wine and cider- can you make wine with apples? Or is this grape wine? Would a blend of wine and cider be wine or cider?"

"A glass of wine would be rather enjoyable, I think," J'remar said, and though usually he wasn't one to drink alcohol or synthehol in general, he supposed today could be an exception.

Lyla poured the three of them each a glass, addressing Eklisa's question as she did so. "Cider wine is fermented much like wine with the exception its made with apples rather then grapes." After refilling her own glass she took her seat once again while the group and conversation continued for quite sometime. Lyla's curiosity into each of their adventures in Starfleet and the home worlds they originated from only grew as the night went on, as did the number of bottles of wine she uncorked.

The moment Aurelia stepped into the zone of the weather controlled sector of her families orchard she began peeling layers of clothing off and piling it beneath the closest tree. The temperature was a cool 80 degrees with a brisk wind that had her hair whipping against her cheek. She reached up to pluck a rather fat apple, catching another as it fell from the branch she shook. "Hey J'remar catch!" she tossed the extra apple toward the orion while taking a large bite out of the other one.

Like Aurelia, J'remar had began taking off his unnecessary winter clothing and setting it neatly down under a tree. When he heard her call out to him he looked up, and seeing a rather large apple on a trajectory towards him. He reached out his hand and deftly snatched the apple out of the air, gazing it at it for some time.

"You could have just handed it to me," he said, his characteristic frown returning.

Eklisa finished taking off her coats and sighed appreciatively. This was more like Denobula. The trees were far more spaced out - even their trees needed more space, huh - than she was used to, but an orchard was an orchard. She giggled at Menun’s deadpan response to getting an apple.

“You gotta admit throwing things is more fun, and there was no doubt you could catch it.”

"I mean there may have been a sliver of doubt." She said with sly smile.

The Orion sighed, biting into the apple as he wandered further into the orchard. It was spacious and warm, the trees all planted in neat rows, with not a speck of snow to be found. This was certainly his preferable environment.

Eklisa fought the urge to scurry up a tree successfully, instead crouching and checking the dirt. She almost wished for a tricorder to analyze soil composition and the apples’ differences from each other. So far she simply saw a range of colors and sizes.

Aurelia continued to eat the apple as she strolled through the orchard. It was sweeter and juicer then she remembered, or perhaps she had just come accustomed to the replicated apples. She made her way to the tree Eklisa had been admiring and pulled herself up to perch on a branch. Her legs suspended beneath her, swinging back and forth as she watched her friend. She adjusted the empty pack that hung across her body. "Eklisa if you would like to collect samples I can store them in my bag for you. I can help identify the majority of the apples grown here, but to be honest I'm not the expert. That would be my brother."

"What is your brother like, Aurelia?" J'remar inquired, making his way to a tree beside the one Aurelia was perched in, leaning against it and taking another bite of the juicy apple. "I've never heard you say much about him."

With what amounted to permission to climb, Eklisa was up the tree in seconds. She was careful not to damage the bark or branches, but immediately plucked a single apple nearer the peak and dropped it down to Aurelia, "Heads up!"

Aurelias eyes perked up and she reached one hand up to catch the apple and slip it into her bag.

“Ah. Alijah. He’s very, devoted to my parents dream of carrying on the Garrett name. As the oldest he inherits the responsibilities of the cider mill along with seeing that it continues to flourish and is then passed down to an heir.” She paused for a moment before continuing. “By the time my parents had me he was already abroad in boarding school. We aren’t close, we never have been.”

Aurelia straddled the branch she sat on keeping one ear on Eklisa, ready to catch anything she dropped down to her.

“Though Alijah can be quite dull and dry, he’s the smartest business man I’ve ever met. He’s got the next 20 years planned out for the cider mill, allowing my father to retire anytime he wants. Preferring he do it sooner then later.” Aurelia finished with a chuckle.

"I hate to intrude on your personal life, but are your parents..." he thought for a moment, searching for a selection of tactful words.

"Are they unhappy with your decision to join Starfleet? From what I observed back at the manor, they did not seem especially thrilled at the thought of their daughter in Starfleet, but perhaps I misinterpreted."

Eklisa popped her head down, hanging upside down from a branch. "I got a similar impression, actually." She passed a single perfect apple specimen down to put in Aurelia's bag, "Your father seemed slightly more upset, though."

“I guess It shouldn’t surprise me you picked up on that.” Aurelia tried to hide her somber expression by looking up at Eklisa as she passed down another apple. She huffed a sigh and continued, “I’m the first Garrett in our family to join starfleet. Which you would think would make them proud but unfortunately my parents feel indifferent about my decision. First only believing it was a ‘phase’ I would eventually grow out of or become bored with. They don’t understand.” She gave a hopeless shrug. “I’ve stopped allowing their disappointment in my choice of career to have an effect on me. I’m quite happy with the life of adventure I’ve chosen. Helping people across the galaxy gives me far more purpose then my heritage ever did.” She braved a smile making brief eye contact with J’remar wondering if his family situation was anything like hers.

J'remar thought for several moments, leaning up against the trunk of the tree. It was strange, he thought, that Aurelia's parents disapproved of her career choice. Yes, it might not be what they wanted, but Aurelia had made her choice, and no one, not even her parents, should argue with that choice.

"I'm sorry your parents don't understand why you chose to join Starfleet. If I had the same background you did, I'd make the same decision. In Starfleet, we have opportunities that very few others have. My parents were virtually ecstatic that I chose to join, sending me off with the very best of wishes. My brother was very indifferent to the whole thing, but he still misses me to this day. My sister, on the other hand, welcomed me into Starfleet with open arms. She'd been in for a few years longer than me, and helped me get past some of the stereotypes revolving around Orions..." he quieted down, thinking back to several incidents in his young life and even in the Academy where other races, especially humans, looked at him with disgust, or treated him like he'd offended them just by being in their presence.

"Most of my parents are just sad I ended up so far from Denobula." Eklisa dropped to the ground expertly and pat her knees off, "I hope your parents don't give you too much crap about it. And I hope people don't give you crap about being an Orion for very long, if they still do."

Aurelia followed suit and jumped from the tree, her knees bending slightly upon impact. She straightened and adjusted her posture. "J'remar I didn't know you had family in star fleet! Also Eklisa, did you say 'most of' your parents?"

Eklisa hummed. "Do you have any idea how Denobulan family structures work?" She inspected the nearby trees as she spoke, "I'll let Menun tell us about his sister first, it's hard to put into few words."

J'remar smirked, his version of smiling, at Aurelia's surprise. "M'yrra got in about 3 years before me, and was already almost done with her Academy training by the time I got it. Right now she's serving as the Chief Engineer of the USS Redoubt, an Inquiry Class I believe. I haven't spoken to her in several months."

"It must be comforting to have family in the fleet, even if there is some distance there." Eklisa climbed a nearby tree with different apples, but stopped at the lowest branch so she could still hear and converse.

“I do hope she’s able to visit the station sometime! I’m sure there’s much her and I could discuss. You should invite her! It would be my honor to be her designated tour guild.” She teased J’remar lightly stopping at the same tree Eklisa had just climbed.

"I'd also love to meet her, if only to see if your disposition is genetic or unique to you." Eklisa spoke without any judgement, just amused curiosity.

He shook his head, chuckling softly. "Oh no, M'yrra's nothing like me. In terms of personality we're as different as can be. She's always been as humans say, 'happy go lucky'. She never worries about the possibilities of what could happen down the road. She always acts with her mind in the present. Whenever presented a problem she tries her best to figure out the immediate solution, rather than one that benefits over a long course of time. Despite that, she can get extremely tough and serious when she needs to be. I remember many times in my childhood when she stood up for me and my brother. Believe it or not," he continued, his smirk becoming just a bit more like a smile, "I wasn't always security material. Oh I was interested in it alright, but you wouldn't think for a second I'd be able to hold my own against bullies when I was a child."

"Perhaps then we can simply gain another friend." Eklisa grinnned, "She probably holds lots of insight into your childhood that we lack, not to mention childhood pictures you wouldn't share. I'm glad you had someone to protect you when you were vulnerable."

J'remar gave Eklisa a dry, humorless stare, frowning. "You know it's hard to tell whether you're joking or not sometimes, Eklisa." He commented. "I was never 'vulnerable.' I was... less experienced." Alright that just sounds worse, he thought morosely.

"I'm having a difficult time picture someone bullying you J'remar! She sounds like a beautiful soul, I do hope you invite her to visit soon." Granted Aurelia had an older sibling she had a tough time relating to Menun's childhood. Alijah was never...a protective sibling. He was never rude, or mean to her but they lacked the relationship and respect for one another Menun seemed to share with his. Nor could she relate to having multiple siblings and parents like Denobulans seemed to.

"Many of my siblings have expressed desires to visit, but fear being away from home-or denobulan space- for too long. Your sister likely has no such quandary about travelling some distance." As she spoke, Eklisa stretched out on the limb like a cat.

"How many siblings do you have, exactly?" J'remar queried. "A dozen? And yes, M'yrra was always the adventurous one, so I'm sure she'd love to come to DS12, if not to see me then to see the Maelstrom up close. She's been fascinated with it's scientific properties, the engineer she is. I believe last time we spoke she mentioned she was working on a theoretical sensor system that would allow starships to cut through most of the radiation found in the Maelstrom. A visit to the station would certainly benefit her."

"I'd love to show her our sensor readings of the Maelstrom." Eklisa watched the green of Menun's scalp, "I have 16 siblings who lived in the same house as I did growing up, and it was four of us to each bedroom. That's nine girls and seven boys, and the seventeen of us were a lot of trouble for our various parents. How many siblings I actually have depends how you count them, or define sibling. You won't meet any of them unless you visit Denobula, though, many have become scientists and artists there."

Aurelia's mouth dropped, she just balked at the realization of how incredibly lonely Eklisa must be given how close her family had be growing up. So many bodies in such close quarters. The complete polor opposite of her childhood. She seemed well adjusted enough, or perhaps Aurelia just didn't notice often enough how uncomfortable her Denobulan friend was. "Do you have any of your siblings art work on the station? Id love to see it and compare to the art I was exposed to here on earth."

"I have a few paintings by Hran and Koppel, they made sure I had them when I left. I can show them to you next time you stop by my quarters." Eklisa hummed, thinking about her siblings now, "They both adored the avian life on Denobula, and one of the paintings they gave me was their attempt at pure realism- Nether Hran nor Koppel were ever very scientifically minded. They're by my father's second wife, Fellara, who isn't my mother, so they got her artistic genes."

Eklisa looked away to compose herself, then back, smiling calmly like she normally was. She'd chosen to leave and she wasn't going to wallow in self-pity for any amount of time, especially not around her friends on shore leave. She did a good job being alone in space.

Aurelia smiled up at Eklisa who looked completely in her element lounging along the limb of the tree she was in. She was glad to have invited both Eklisa and the forever brooding J'remar to her family home, even more so thankful they had both agreed to excursion. They spent the remainder of the day venturing through the climate controlled sector of the Garrett orchard. Aurelia's bag plenty full of apples Eklisa was taking back with her. There had even been rare moments of bliss where Aurelia was sure she caught J'remar smiling and enjoying himself. The days passed quickly, filled with bonding, apple wine, and games next to the fireplace. Though their departure was blanketed by sadness the trio was ready to set off back to Deep Space 12. Back to their life of exploration, research and adventure among the stars.


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