NCC - 81102
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Food For Conversation

Posted on Sun Sep 6th, 2020 @ 6:16am by Lieutenant Commander Bear Jasper & Lieutenant JG Cassandra Thorn PhD
Edited on on Sun Sep 6th, 2020 @ 6:22am

Mission: Mission 1: Dirty Little Secret
Location: Odyssey Lounge
Timeline: MD3

He missed her. Malia. It had been great to have a semi-serious relationship based on trust, physical attraction and same-deck quarters, but such things, as Bear knew only too well, never lasted that long. The Good Stuff? It had a habit of being fleeting.

It had been his choice to end it, though necessarily, in the midst of a very specific bargain that resulted in his unexpected promotion and simultaneous exodus from the USS Harlech. Bear didn't regret that decision, he couldn't, the offer had been uniquely irresistible. He did, however, miss the very specific and wonderfully warm and cuddly company of Commander Malia Robins. He missed it just enough to keep this first dinner with Lt Thorn to a relatively public setting, if not enough to avoid thinking about the possibility of a private one.

So, Bear sat at the window table, over in the far, quiet corner of the mess and he watched as Cassandra weaved her way through the tables in his direction. Bear had already taken the liberty of choosing them a large tray selection of buffet style dishes - a structured group of spicy savouries, dark meats and sweeter treats - that encompassed flavours he'd especially enjoyed in his travels. He'd also picked up a jug of lemon-sliced water and a few really good bottles of beer. No reason this 'business meeting' couldn't be fun, right?

"I smell meat, good." Cassandra announced herself cheerfully, "I was afraid ye were goin' ter think I'm one o' those grass eaters or some such nonsense." She said as she plopped herself opposite Bear with a big grin. "'Evenin'!"

Bear didn't bother to hide the relief in his expression as the counsellor confirmed that she wasn't a vegetarian. "I grabbed us a little of everything," he admitted, his happiness bright in his gaze as he let his gaze rest on Cassie's. Bear shrugged. "Guess I've been around long enough to know everyone has different tastes," he added, then he let slip a wolfish grin. "But fellow meat eaters are especially welcome."

He offered a bottle of beer across the table as he asked, politely.

"Good shift?"

Thorn nodded, "aye. I only 'ad ter commit three ter the psyche ward an' sign one section eight. So I call tha' a good day." She said with a grin, "oh an' ye got' beer. Ye are a man after me own tastes, there, Bear."

She had, of course, done no such things. Or if she had, she would never discuss it publically or with non-sanctioned personnel. She had had a chat with "an old friend", and sent off a couple of reports to the "Surgeon General's office".

Bear raised an eyebrow at this apparent admission of craziness aboard the ship, his brain picking up Cass' potent accent and processing it swiftly. He lost himself for a moment there, simply soaking up the flavour of a land he had never seen via those pretty words, then flashed a grin. She was lying. Right?

"Well, I believe the bit about the beer," he told her, tone light as he sucked down another mouthful of dark amber liquid.

"Course ye would," Cass replied with a grin as she reached for a beer bottle, "people always 'ear compliments, then focus on the other stuff."

With that she popped the top open and took a swig, then looked back at him, mirth dancing in her eyes.

She'd noticed him stop and think about what she'd originally said. The fact that he did that and had to think about what she said, rather than outright laughing at an old Counselor joke, amused her greatly.

"I guess I'm not real used to being offered compliments," Bear countered amicably. "Usually people are giving me lame excuses or moody complaints."

He held his beer up and pointed around the curve of the bottle with his index finger. There was something about that look in her eyes that made him wish he was smarter and way more eloquent. "But you're teasing me, aren't you? We don't even have a psyche ward.... right?"

Her answer was an enigmatic arch of an eyebrow and a grin that potentially promised mysteries, before she took another swig.

Part of her felt a tiny bit bad to take so much amusement out of his responses, the other part was secretly enjoying how easily she could make him think one thing when it was another. This was an intelligence officer's bread and butter, yet the Counselor's opposition.

"So, make an' arrests? Confiscate any cont'raband?" She countered instead, the slight tinge of guild stopping her from playing the game too far. For now.

That grin though... Damn. Bear leant back in his chair and simply luxuriated in the moment, dark eyes glinting, but his expression passively enigmatic. She was. Teasing. Did it matter than he enjoyed the game?

"No arrests," he noted. "And no contraband as yet, though I'll admit I haven't been looking too hard as yet. Just getting to know the crew first up - people are the most important secrets." He smiled. "Did have an interesting briefing with the XO yesterday though."

It was just then that Cassie noticed the discolorations on his dark skin. Bruises, it looked like, and even scratches. What had the two been doing?

Reaching over, she plucked out what looked to be a morsel of jerk chicken, Thorn raised an eyebrow at him. "I'll say, did yeh employ yer own brand of counselling there, Bear?" Cass asked with a chuckle as she bit off a bit of the chicken.

He beamed a broader grin and picked up a couple of pieces of spiced beef from a tray. Once those had been safely swallowed, Bear answered her question. "Not so much counselling as stand-in for a punchbag, I think," he said. "Managed some decent hits in on him too, but I'd definitely say the victory was Magnus' this time." Another couple of mouthfuls followed, this time some sort of veggie patty. "I guess you've had at least basic firearms training, Cass. Do you spar too?" Bear asked.

"Some, aye. I did some shots with the Commander when I arrived. As fer sparrin', I do some systema an' ke-tarya, or swim or run when I'm particularly bored." Cass said after taking a few crumbed prawns into her hand and nibbling on one. "Are ye askin' ter be me punchin' bag? Or 'are ye 'opin ter make me yers?"

She was fully aware of the enormity of the double entendre there, though, if she were honest, she didn't care. She was relaxed, just enough to have some fun, see the man behind the 'Bear'. Cass would need an ally in this assignment, someone to be an anchor, even if he may never know the real her.

He chuckled softly, and took a long draught of beer before answering that one. Bear needed a little time to grab a hold of his wandering mind, the imagery of a certain counselor wrapped about the whole punchbag scene lighting up his brain with filthier thoughts that Cass deserved to have thrown across a dinner table this early in their relationship.

"Well," he said lightly as he recovered his grace. "I'm Chief of Security, it's kinda my job to make sure all the important people can take care of themselves, should that need arise," Bear noted. "Didn't want to assume your fighting ability," he added, then admitted openly, "I learned the hard way that it's always safer to ask first. Some people hide their skillset, others brag about it. Not always easy to tell what level anyone's really at unless you get into a scrap."

Bear canted his head and placed the bottle back down. "If you need any practice though, Cass, I'd be more than happy to take a few hits for you. Don't sound like you need me to pull any punches, either." He grinned.

She nodded, "a'right. Shall do. Jest rememb'r, I'm good wit' using make up ter hide bruises on the face." Cass winked, nibbling on another shrimp tail. "I 'ad a conversation wit' the Cap'n the other day, after the briefin'."

"Make-up?" Bear's tone didn't hide the horror of that thought. "I'm good," he told her, perhaps a little defensively. "It was a fair fight, I don't need to hide the signs of it." That wink though? Damn. He liked Cass' forward nature almost as much as that underlying mischief, and the mention of her training in Vulcan and Russian martial arts definitely had him a little excited.

He dragged his mind back to the conversation with effort. "Oh?" Bear asked. "And how was our fearless leader?" He raised one eyebrow. Had Tavis admitted to his frustrations, he wondered.

The honesty display of distaste on his face was enough to make her grin again, before adopting a more serious, business like demeanour as she nibbled on the last of her prawns.

"He's fine. I''s teethin' ills tha' are 'eadin' t'wards a resolution." Cass said. "Ther' simply are times when i''s not' a fine tuned machine tha' runs a ship, but' needed expertise tryen ter work t'egther. Which, in trooth, is what' we are, the 'hole crew."

"You're saying we're a messed up work in progress?" Bear said rather than asked. He tilted his head from one side to the other lazily as if mulling this thought for a while longer. "I'd agree. Magnus was outta line though, that was a conversation for the two of them, before they were in front of the rest of us."

Cass nodded, gesturing with one of her, somewhat greasy hands, "aye, but' tha''s what' I mean. Teethin' ills. We can't judge too soon, somethin' will work from the go, somethin' won't." She said, gesturing outward, then between the two of them, then outward again.

In the midst of demolishing a half rack of ribs dipped in BBQ sauce, Bear took in the pretty lady's words and gestures with a slow, deliberately quiet demeanour. As he finished up removing every piece of meat from the fourth bone, Bear paused, wiped his mouth and smirked.

"Sounds to be like you have a lot of work to do," he noted with contented amusement. "Fixing up all us broken soldiers and putting us back together into some form of useful team." Bear's dark eyes glinted as he regarded Cass. "You plan on starting from the top, or working your way up there?"

Cass grinned, "spoilers!"

Truth was, a lot fewer people needed assistance than one would think. People just had a very skewed view of Counselors, mostly because noone liked their brain pried open to see what's inside. Besides, you could only really help those who wanted help. So far, she hadn't found anyone who needed nor wanted it.

Either way, her priority was a long way away, as of yet. If he would even be there when they arrived.

At her single comment, Bear leant back in his chair and laughed out loud, a pure sound of genuine amusement. As he rocked back forward again he held his hands up in surrender, that laughter still caught in his eyes as he studied Cass' own.

"More beer?" He asked.

"Aye," Cass grinned, picking up a juicy piece of beef.

He cracked open two more bottles and placed one within Cass' reach, not wishing to interrupt that intimate moment between woman and red meat. Then Bear finished his ribs, knocked back a couple of mouthfuls of beer and sat back to watch her eat.

"Eldest child, lots of brothers," Bear guessed out loud. "Irish - obviously - parentage-wise." He frowned, thinking what else he could glean from the woman across the table from him so far. "Not a vegetarian," he smirked briefly, then swallowed some more beer. "Would kill if crossed, likely up close and real personal."

"Well yeh got the irish an' not' vegetarian part right." Cass chuckled as she finished on her bit of beef, "onleh child. An' i''s just me mum an' me now. Da' died after the wahr."

Then she let her eyes take Bear in, pretending to do the same sort of assessment. "Youngin' o' the fameleh. Yeh 'ave the curiosity o' one. Like a wee cub explorin' the world, no' carin' about' the peckin' order." She offered after a few minutes, deciding to mix a bit of truth with some 'false' readings.

Cassandra the Counselor couldn't possibly know the full truth of his background. Cassandra the Spy did, and understood certain hard attitudes the Chief of Security possessed.

Bear grinned, then felt it fade swiftly as Cass brought him up to speed on her family situation. "Sorry to hear that," he said, with more emotion in his words than simply a passing courtesy to her father's death.

He gazed back at Cassandra as she scrutinised him, quietly enjoying the attention whilst taking the chance to study her face, the subtle ways in which she moved, the brightness in those intelligent green eyes of hers.

"Correct," Bear granted her, with modesty in his expression. "I'm the baby of the family, but - though many have called me it - I'm no cub. Grew up kinda fast in the war," was all he offered in that regard, and the short reveal was followed by a longer drink. "I can be cuddly though," he said then, with a lighter shot at an impish smile. "Like my namesake."

Cass sighed in sympathy as he spoke of the war. "Aye, it changes ye, oft'n in ways ye don't realize until years later. Been there, counselled more than a few survivors lat'r." She offered, her eyes darkened a little with memory before she chuckled at his cuddling inferrence.

"I can see a wee cub bein' cuddly an' cute an' all. But' ye old big bear...all I can think about' is me bloody crushed bones from a "cuddle"." She said with a grin, holding up her middle and index fingers of both hands and doing quotation marks.

It affected everyone in different ways, Bear appreciated that, and those little differences in both experience and reaction to said events, but he didn't feel a need to explain. The war left its mark on many and this was hardly a paid counselling session, he'd spare them both a lingering study in this regard.

"Imagine that your job has some serious ups and downs," Bear noted with a serious nod, then his tone picked just a little as he added. "I bet you could use a good cuddle." That deadpan expression shifted as he shook his head and laughed lightly at Cass' implication that he was a roughhouse. "I can be gentle," Bear said with mock indignation. "No bone crushing happens unless someone deserves it. Cute, though? Not so much."

"No cuteness, huh? Well tha' is in the eye o' the beholder, innit?" Cass smirked, "appreciate the offer though. I might take yeh up on it some day."

And for that unexpected comment, Cass was gifted a rarely seen totally raw emotional insight into Bear Jasper. A coy downward look accompanied a genuinely openmouthed grin for a brief moment before he looked back up and gave his head a stronger shake.

"Just say the word," Bear said, nursing his beer for a moment as a distraction. "I'm literally responsible for you feeling safe and secure," he added with a raised eyebrow smile.

"Caref'l what' ye wish fer, Bear." Cassandra leaned back in her seat with a relaxed smile, realizing she was having too good a time right then.

Not that that was a bad thing in any way. It was simply that little wake up call to remember to stay on mission. While securing an asset through the art of flirting and more was usually the easiest way into a new information pool, Cass realized she would feel bad doing this to Bear.

His life so far had made him who he is, and in her judgement, he was a good one.

So manipulating a good man and a colleague whilst coming naturally through training actually made Cassandra feel a bit guilty. Yet at the same, allowing herself to just be Cassandra the colleague, Cassandra the Counselor...she didn't feel that was an option either at the moment.

The mission came first, always. Right?

Bear had no issue with wishing for some quality alone time with the quick witted, intelligent brunette sitting just an arm's reach across the table from him right now. None whatsoever. His thoughts were here and now, distant and separate from what he'd had in the recent past and guilt-free. His upbringing and existence ever since he could recall had taught Bear to take happiness where he found it, to regret nothing and enjoy these little moments in between battles, trouble and strife.

He highly doubted anything beyond banter and good-natured teasing would come of tonight, and that was fine too. The time that Cass was kindly choosing to share with him needed no physical punctuation, though Bear had to admit it wasn't far from his mind right now. Looking into that calm, comfortably beautiful expression, how could it not be?

"I ain't wishing for nothin," Bear teased, rubbing a hand across his chin. "But I'd be lying if I said I was uninterested." He leant back, too, expecting a stronger rebuke but hoping he was wrong. "You have someone waiting for you when all this over?"

"Scratch that, you are trouble." Thorn thought amusedly to herself as she processed his words.

"Oh just me chasin' o' myths an' legends. But if yeh e'er tell anybody about' tha', Bear Jasper, I will Section Eight yeh faster than' ye can say Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch." She replied, a smile growing at the anticipated confusion.

And confusion most definitely followed that expertly spoken foreign... what was it - phrase? Place? Name? Confusion wrote itself all over the security officer's face as Bear frowned and rested his head on a loosely clenched fist, elbow propped on the table. She'd got him there, he had to admit, and he paused for a long moment in case Cass was about to voluntarily rescue him from that mire.

"Uh, secret's safe with me on that one," he eventually promised, the words filled with uncertainty. "Trust me, no chance I could repeat that if I wanted to. What... what is that?"

A bright pearly grin graced her features. "I''s a place in Wales on Earth. One o' the longest name fer a settl'm'nt in recorded history o' Earth."

To be fair she'd only ever been able to pronunce the name a few times in her life without missing a beat.

"I's most commonly known as Llanfair PG, I think. Nice lookin' place from what' I 'ear." She explained further, "only ever been ter Ireland meself an' Sco'land...well Loch Ness in Sco'land."

"They like showing off in Wales?" Bear asked, his grin lopsided as he considered asking her to repeat said name like some sort of performing monkey. "I think Klingon's easier to speak..." he added.

"You've been to Ireland and Scotland?" Bear sounded impressed. "I only went to the Academy on Earth, didn't venture to the colder countries really. Took a bike across America, spent a bit of time in Australia too. S'bout it." He paused, realising he was talking about himself rather than listening to her, and shifted conversational gear. "Myths and legends, huh? Anything interesting up there in... Lock Nesh?"

"Lokh...the h is loud, throaty. Khhh...see?" She corrected without preamble, "an' it's Ness. Waitasecond! Are ye tellen' me ye've never 'eard o' Nessie? The Loch Ness monstar?"

Bear valiantly attempted to copy the pronunciation and had to hold hand in front of his face for fear of spitting. He wet his tongue with more beer then and leant back to regard the enthusiastic counsellor before him. "A monster?" He raised one eyebrow, then leant forward to gift Cassandra a serious scowl. "No. What sort of monster we talking here?"

She leaned forward again, on her elbows. "Well, it''s ne'er really been proven what i't is exact'ly. Some say it''s a giant snake type monster, some say it's a survivor o' the dinosaur era." Cass launched into a lengthy explanation of the history of Nessie and the 'evidence' found so far.

A few minutes later she seemed to finally be done and took a breath. "Yes, when I was a wee lass, I want'd ta be a monst'r 'unter." Cass exclaimed with a 'what are you going to do about it' pose.

"I did become one...just 'untin' monsters of a different sort now." A quiet afterthought came to her.

Myths and legends, as Cassandra called them, had not been a big part of Bear's upbringing, and neither had they been something he had sought since then. Listening to the story in Cass' lilting accent however, was a deliciously unexpected treat to accompany their meal, and Bear hung on her every word.

If he was honest, it wouldn't really have mattered what those words had been, but hearing her speak of monsters and dinosaurs, mysterious lakes in faraway lands and such was somehow so much better than anything else she might have chosen to discuss. It felt exotic, otherworldly and interesting.

"Y'know, Cass," Bear said, a contented grin on his face and a malevolent glint in his ebony eyes. "I could really see you as a monster hunter. You ever consider changing careers, definitely hit me up and let me know, I'd totally be up for accompanying you on a mission."

"My friend this might come soon'r rather than lat'r. An' I most certainly will be." Cass thought to herself as she nodded, laughing a little.

"Och aye, e'ery good hunter needs company. Ye know, ter hold off the monst'rs while she bravely runs away an' all." She replied finally, finishing the last of her beer.

She looked up at him again, green eyes meeting brown. So many possibilities she could see in those eyes. Some intrigued her, some scared her a little bit. That was okay though, that was life. The lack of detachment was what worried her. It was so easy to get hooked with this one. So so easy.

Never go against your gut. Moscow rule 2. Her gut was telling her she needed to finish for tonight. She'd had enough to drink to feel her inhibitions loosen, but not enough to be fully effected. A few more though, which she was capable of. and she was sure this dinner wouldn't be having a public ending.

So, she put her best effort into faking a yawn, covering her mouth with her hand and putting on a sheepish grin. "Sorreh, all this lovely food an' booze is makin' me so relaxed I just want ter crawl in bed an' sleep."

Bear chuckled at the 'bravely running away' comment, because honestly, he didn't believe that of Cassandra even if it would be the sensible option. Her fighting skills implied she could hold her own, given the necessity, but he opted for chivalrous humour instead of confirming that. "Well, my speciality is holding off monsters," Bear told her with a wry smile. "I could show you the scars..."

Her gaze locked pleasantly with his, and Bear held his visual ground with a consummate ease and a slight cant of his head. He wanted more, more than simply dinner, more of Cass herself and more than he should be asking at a first personal meeting, only three days into a mission. His instinct said to go for it, rules be damned, but then Cass yawned and gave herself a simple ruse of an exit strategy.

There were two ways he could play this hand. First up: Polite acceptance of the lady's right to bow out. Second: Cheeky roll of the universe's dice to let said lady know that wasn't her only option.

"Coffee?" Bear suggested, checking for any warning signs in those emerald eyes. "Or shall I walk you to your quarters?" He flashed a bright grin. "Monster protection duty, only, of course."

"You are so much trouble." Cass thought to herself.

It didn't take a profiler to know what he was offering. Were these normal circumstances, the coffee option would have been selected without much consideration. She could separate base instinct from emotion and could indulge on occasion. This situation, however was far from normal by any stretch and she needed to keep her head on who she was pretending to be. So she was telling herself right then and there. She couldn't afford distractions, not even big cuddly ones.

The conundrum of two Cassandras.

She realized he was still waiting for an answer. "I think, seein' me safely to me tent is a prud'nt precaution." Cass said finally as she stood up, grabbing one of the napkins and giving her hands a quick wipe again.

Bear had leant comfortably back in his seat, stretched long legs out under the table and been careful not to accidentally kick his company's own as he did. His expression remained one of nonchalant calm with a hint of boyish anticipation, and he occasionally took in a mouthful of cold beer while he patiently waited. He took time to tidy the remnants of their meal onto the trays and stack them, ready to clear their table as they left.

It didn't matter how long it took Cassandra to comment, or to make her decision, all this time simply enjoying her company was good enough for him right now.

Life in the moment. Good moments counted.

Early days. Lot of flight time ahead.

He'd taken a moment to look out at the starfield when Cass finally spoke up, and somewhere in the privacy of Bear's skull a little voice went - woohoo! - at her response. He didn't bother to hide the resulting happiness, placed the empty bottle down on the top tray and let that big dumb grin shine from his dark, bruise-marred features.

"Yes ma'am," Bear agreed, a soft nod accompanying his move to stand. Then he picked up their stacked trays with one hand and offered Cass his other arm, crooked elbow politely extended. "Support available if needed," he said, seeking her gaze with brightly ebon eyes.

Cassandra shook her head in amusement and took the proffered arm, all at once wondering if she should just step away now and walk beside him or stay and enjoy the moment for what it was without torturing herself with 'musts'. She could re-center herself later. So she told herself.

"Did yeh always want ter be in Security?" She asked him as they started towards the door.

"No," Bear answered truthfully. He scored himself a few seconds to consider how much else to say by placing their trays down by the recycler, then aimed them both at the exit. "I guess my earliest memories are of happy family time and hard work." Distant memories of peaceful colonial farming were hard to access these days. "I was born on a farm," he explained, avoiding all the complications of the where and when for now. "Honestly, Starfleet as a career wasn't even on my radar until I was in my late teens." He led them out and down the corridor towards a lift.

"Oh? 'Ow so? Yeh seem born fer it." Cass offered as she followed his lead easily.

She knew, of course. The part of keeping the rouse was to pretend she didn't.

Not knowing where Cass' quarters were was the only part of Bear's underlying subterfuge. He'd checked, before their meeting. All part of the security service, naturally.

"I had a.. tumultuous upbringing..." Bear admitted. He wasn't sure exactly what his Starfleet file revealed, but either way he didn't even consider that Cass would have accessed it. "Kinda skipped from rural paradise to chaos. Sorta grew up in a warzone," he said, with a self-deprecating smile.

Cass nodded as they walked. "Aye, colony life is a lot' different' than people t'ink. "So did yeh join ter get' away from i' all or?"

"Sure is," Bear agreed. "Specially when home ends up as part of a DMZ." He frowned, and forced that old tension from his shoulders. His body still ached from the earlier fight, but that pain was masked by the beer and his company. "I joined to try and help others," he said, honestly. "And to get myself on a... safer path." A brief pause. "Where are we headed?" He asked.

Cass called for the deck of her quarters. "I grew up in Fort' A'gustus, on Aldebaran III. I t'ink nowadays tha' place is more gaelic than' Ireland an' Sco'land themselves back on Earth. Which means, religious very fameleh orient'd an' settlin' down types."

The soft hum of their momentum resonated in Bear's head. He vehemently denied that subtle ache, paying attention to Cass' words. "Family orientated for me too, definitely," he agreed. "Religious? Not so much." He shifted position, aimed to rest his arm about her shoulders as they leant against the back of the lift itself in the interest of being strong support. "Seems Aldebaran Three also has the monopoly on the best accents," he said, sincerely. "How did you manage to escape the settling down?"

"Finished Uni an' signed up fer the Fleet' really." Cass replied shifting her stance a little, so she moved away yet not in a rude manner, but rather to face him, but without the physical contact, "I want'd t' explore, t' know wha' makes 'umanoids tick an' all. I couldn't do tha' from New Argylle Uni. Well a' least I thought I didn't back then." She sighed, "I'd actually resigned fer a while, an' worked a' the Uni for a few years before comin' back t' the Fleet."

A subtle nod of his head indicated Bear's acceptance of Cass's change in position. Independence. Good quality. He dropped his arms to his side, shoved his hands in his pockets to signal he'd behave, and simply enjoyed the view. "Ah, gotcha," he said. "Did you get homesick?" He paused for her reaction, intrigued to see if that was considered a slight or not.

"Are you any closer to knowing yet?" Bear asked, a genuine question but asked with a hint of underlying humour. "To what makes us all tick?"

The lift doors opened.

"I'd 'ad me fill o' 'uman misery." Cass said with a shrug as they exited the lift, "needed a change. So a teachin' position seemed like a thing t' do. Then Mars 'appened an' I knew I 'ad ter come back."

This was what she'd practiced for months, being Cassandra the Counselor, selling a convincing story. It felt so natural, the practiced feelings and reactions to a life supposedly lived.

Then a smile etched into her face, "as fer if I've figured out wha' makes us tick? Tha' is a ne'er endin' quest. A psychologist can only learn by talkin' an' observin'. But' it's ne'er identical, person t' person. So we 'ave to adapt, re-apply. So, I'd say case t' case basis, aye. Broadly? No, probably ne'er."

Bear could definitely agree on the human misery angle, and in his case, the situation was far from resolved as yet. This mission though, if all went well, would end all these painful years of familial torture and free those he cared about but barely knew. Didn't seem like a great topic to bring up right now, so he focused on Cass.

"Change is good," he noted, offering his elbow again as they strode closer to her quarters. "And yeah, Mars changed things for everyone." He was far more interested in her current individual situation than her past right now though.

Bear chuckled as she smiled and answered his question. "Well," he offered, as they reached her door. He held his arms out to his sides in an open invitation of self. "I'm happy to volunteer to help with your quest, if you need more than talk and observation. I'm definitely more of a physical kinda guy," he grinned, rubbing his fingertips over the worse bruises on his face. "But you can probably tell that, right?"

Cass laughed at the very obvious display. "Ye know, I wasn't sure before, but I defenitley am now." She said with a grin.

There were things behind that door he was not authorized to see. Not that they would be in plain sight, that would be careless. The risk was still there and she wasn't willing to take it. Not yet. So she told herself.

"Thank yeh," she said, stepping into his personal space and stood on her tippy toes for a moment and pressed a feathery kiss to the closest bruise on his face she could reach before stepping out of his bubble, and stepping over to her door. "It was a good night, t'night."

Damn. He wanted to just grab her and lift her straight up, let her legs curl about his waist and... but... no. Bear did lean his face downward though, closed his eyes briefly, and simply took in her scent as the ship's counsellor's lips barely touched his skin.

Bear stood tall and confident then, didn't invade Cass' privacy or reach out as she stepped back. Consent was always far more important than his internal voice screaming at him to go for it. So he shot her a mock coy look as she stepped back from that gentle embrace, and blew an exaggerated kiss of his own off the tips of his fingers in return. Then he lowered his upper body into a casually formal bow and lifted back upwards with a grin.

"Until next time," Bear said, waiting to ensure she was safely inside her door before turning away. "G'night, Cass."

In his mind, that little voice in his skull solemnly declared - To Be Continued.

Cassandra took a deep breath, then exhaled as he left. "I am in so much trouble." She said to noone in particular before she stepped back into her quarters.


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