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Mess-taken Identity

Posted on Sat Jul 8th, 2017 @ 11:11pm by Lieutenant JG Amber Zuzan

Mission: S2E1 - Secrets
Location: Mess Hall
Timeline: MD 90; 12:30

What a week! Ryland had seen highs and lows the likes of which were for the record books. He had finished overhauling the shuttlepods just in time to get into a knockdown, drag-out fistfight with Josey, and then banned from Sickbay for striking out with the new long-legged lady doctor. At least his date went well with Frenchie from Security. His thighs tingled below the mess table with glorious recollection of the carnal nights they had shared together.

A dopey, giddy grin passed over his face which matched the faraway look in his eyes.

John and Erica had chosen a quiet table away from the crowd in the mess hall. They had selected a table for four people - this time their other daughter Megan would be joining them as well. The round table had four seats at equal positions around it - with John and Erica sitting opposite each other with Megan occupying the seat facing the window behind them.

"Oh...this must be Akiva now" Erica said.

Standing up John raised his hand and waved it slightly to try and get Ryland's attention.

"Over here!" John called.

Ryland snapped out of his daydream when he recognized the man waving him over. He could easily run away. But then what would they think? Or, worse, if they came looking for him? No, he needed to play this out and bring it to a firm, and hopefully quiet, end.

"Hiya." Ryland hid his mild panic beneath his best grin. He was careful to put his back to the rest of the room in hopes that nobody else would recognize him. "Uh..... sorry we couldn't meet up, um, sooner. I've been, ah, quite busy."

He coughed into his hand, both as an act of mimicry and a genuine gesture. There was no doubt anybody familiar with Akiva would not be fooled for a moment, but Ryland hoped his natural discomfort of the moment would translate well into a passable impersonation.

When he laid eyes on the other young lady, though, a bit of the old Ryland resurface.

"And hello to you, lil' lady," he said with a wink.

The startled reactions of the parents promptly reminded him that he wasn't supposed to be himself.

"Ah, eyelash!" Ryland knuckled his eye.

Megan gave him a glare that gave meaning to 'if looks could kill'. Part of her wasn't really sure about 'Akiva' but she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt for now at least.

"Are you being serious?" Megan asked.

John sighed. "Anyway - we should go and order. What does everyone want?"

"I'll have whatever's soup of the day. I'm not really that hungry" Erica replied.

Megan shrugged. "I dunno. I guess I could go for the lasagna right about now. If not anything that's got pasta in it"

"And you Akiva?" John asked.

Ryland smiled pleasantly for a moment until his subconscious mind poked him. "Oh, right. I'll have... um... the kosher meal." He winked solidly at Megan again, this time with boorish charm. "Got all that, sweetheart? Off you go now."

"I don't know what she ever saw in you" Megan said.

Megan stood up and snatched the list from her surprised father before disappearing to the counter to order their food. There was a bit of a queue but Megan really didn't care - she just wanted to get away from 'Akiva'.

With a moment of privacy, Ryland leaned forward and spoke with a conspiratorial hush. "So, uh, what all did Amber say about me? Everything good, I hope."

"She was very fond of you. Even if you're a bit of a flirt - I just wish it was under better circumstances that this was happening. We're not entirely sure on the prognosis yet but up to change" Erica responded.

John nodded. "But that's better than nothing. At least she hasn't got worse Erica - that's the important thing"

"'re right" Erica said.

Ryland merely nodded. "She's a beautiful girl, and everybody has nothing but good things to say of her. It's good to know she's fond of... me." He bit his lip at that. Amber may not have even known who he was. "I feel badly that I haven't visited her much. It's good of you all to come here as you have, though."

"We were in the area so it's just as well we could come so quickly. We were visiting New Bajor as part of our desires to expand our horizons a bit but...this happened. It's just as well a fast ship was on hand to deliver us here so quickly" John responded.

Erica asked. "How did you two meet?"

"Ah, well, that's a funny story," Ryland said, "and one best told over a good meal. Where's that other girl of yours with the grub?" He cast a furtive look around and didn't see Megan anywhere in sight. "So, uh, what were we saying?"

"How did you meet our daughter Akiva?" Erica repeated.

"Right, right." Ryland wiped his brow. "Look, here's the thing..." He wanted to come clean. In fact, he nearly did right then and there. But looking into the expectant eyes of those loving old people gave Ryland a wild hair that would not be ignored. He happened to know that the real Akiva had gotten busy with the Starlight Princess down in Stellar Cartography. These poor folks had been through enough. If anyone needed some good news, it was them.

"It's a funny story," he began. "Start when I came aboard, you see. All these lovely little pairs of legs runnin' around and..." He caught himself. "I mean, I was runnin' around getting my feet wet--new ship and all, right? Little did I know that Lil' Miss Right was waiting at the end of the line for me." He leaned his chin into his palm and stared out the viewport. "It was love at first sight, I tell ya."

"You're a lucky man. Amber was always very particular when it came to choosing a boyfriend - so if she chose you over other potential suitors then she must have loved you. If she wakes up then I'm sure that will continue to be the case..." John replied.

Ryland felt a dead weight in the pit of his stomach. "If? Sir, let's not talk like that. Amber is coming back to us. Just you wait and see."

~Dear and fluffy lord, what am I doing?!~

Despite every internal instinct screaming to the contrary, Ryland took the hands of both Erica and John, one in each of his, and gave them a reassuring squeeze.

"I know that girl is tougher than my old trusty jackboots. Ain't nobody givin' up till while there's breath in her. Hear me?"

"You'll have to forgive us but the news we were given by her doctor earlier wasn't particularly good - but it wasn't particularly bad either. He's right - we should stay strong for her" John replied.

Erica nodded and reached for her husband's hand and held it tightly. This holiday had turned from an enjoyable experience into a nightmare and she wanted to get Amber home as soon as possible.

"Is the canteen usually this busy? The chef looks rushed off his feet in there" John commented.

"Oh, sure," Ryland said. "Mealtimes are all hustle and bustle. Anybody who wants some peace and quiet usually sticks to the smaller lounge areas around the ship or takes their meals in their quarters."

He chuckled to himself. "I'm up to my ears in maintenance logs and spare parts down in the shuttlebay, so I like gettin' out and about when I can."

"I know how he feels. Our café can get really busy at lunchtimes - especially during the holiday periods. Amber was one of our most popular members of staff until she chose Starfleet - she even puts a few shifts in when she's home on holiday. Somehow nobody seems to be able to perfect our pancakes quite like Amber can - although Erica does a fine job" John commented.

Erica smiled. "That's our Amber. I'm sure she does a great job here too"

"She does," Ryland said. "I've heard stories about her ordnance expertise, but not her pancakes. I... I like pancakes." As Ryland kept talking, the more his thoughts turned to Amber... not the sexy little tart that he would have for breakfast, but the actual person with a life and family who loved her... whether he did or not.

"I'm such an asshole," he said under his breath. When he met their eyes again, he wore an apologetic look. "Look, Amber deserves better than me, as do you both. I'm so sorry. For everything. Please excuse me."

As he stood to his feet, he nearly bumped into Megan who had finally returned to the table.

After finally placing their orders and returning with the drinks and appetisers the young New Yorker did well to avoid dropping the contents of it on the floor or Ryland - or herself.

"Where are you going? I know your little secret...Ryland. The chef asked me why you'd joined us for lunch and I'm interested to know myself" Megan demanded.

"Like I told your folks the other day... my first name is Ryland," he said quickly. "Akiva is just my middle name... only used by lady friends and the like. And... I gotta' really gotta' go."

Megan quickly planted the tray on her parents' table before chasing after Ryland. Her parents hadn't told her about the 'nickname' and was determined to get some answers.

"The chef said that Akiva holds the rank of Commander and he's the First Officer. You've openly admitted you work in the shuttlebay and your rank is the same as Amber' why have you decided to impersonate a higher ranked Starfleet officer?" Megan said.

Ryland stopped near the exit and threw his hands over his face. When he turned around, he guided Megan over to a secluded corner for a fervent explanation.

"Look, the truth is that I was being treated in the next medbay over and overheard your parents grieving. I couldn't take it anymore, so I thought I'd try to pay my respects." Ryland sighed and shook his head at his own stupidity. "Your parents mistook me for Akiva, who, rumor has it, got a little busy with your sister before moving on to someone else. The truth seemed way too brutal to drop on them, so I just played along, humoring their mistake and hoping it would keep them from feeling even worse."

Ryland closed his eyes and chuckled at himself. "Wouldn't you know it, but they invited me to dinner. I tried to decline, and for a day or two, I thought I'd dodged them."

His imploring hands went to Megan's shoulders. "Please believe I didn't mean any harm. You mighta' deduced I'm not the nicest guy ever, and I'm not used to... acts of kindness. If you wanna' come clean your folks, that's your right, but if it's fine by you, I'd rather let them go on thinkin' their lil' girl laid up in ICU had a doting little loverboy who'd grieve her passing."

He arched his eyebrows, daring her to be the bearer of bad news.

"Alright you may be times - and as deceitful as it is - at least you actually want us to feel she's loved. I'll go along with it - but the flirting with me stops here because you're not my type and I'm not here to find a partner. I am tempted to go and have a word with the actual Akiva though and tell him what he's missing out on. I guess I owe you a thank you for at least making us believe she's loved" Megan responded.

Ryland flashed her a grin. "Darlin', I can't help but notice Grade A, top choice stock. Doesn't mean I'll go for it, though." He rolled his shoulders forward in a shrug and looked away. "Besides, if your sister pulls through like we all hope, maybe I'll make good on my lies and turn an honest couple out of me and her."

Ryland swept his eyes back to Megan to gauge her reaction.

"If that happens then you will have to come clean about this facade. I won't tell anyone but you have to promise me you will admit what you have done if Amber wakes up. My parents aren't anywhere near as willing to compromise as I am so it's in your best interests that you do as I suggest. Otherwise I will be telling my parents about all of this" Megan replied.

Ryland frowned. "And break their hearts all over again? I really don't think that should be necessary. Let's just let it ride and see where we end up." His brow furrowed in sympathy. "They've been through enough already, and so has Amber."

He thrust his hand forward. "Why not keep it between us?"

Megan nodded. "Alright. But this is for Amber's sake as well as my parents - not for your sorry ass"

Shaking Ryland's hand very tightly she then let go and looked at the man.

"You owe me. Big time" Megan concluded.

Ryland nodded. "Most definitely, darlin'. Now make up an excuse for my sudden egress. The... airlock malfunctioned in the shuttlebay and I gotta' see it fixed."

With a tip from an invisible hat, Ryland scuttled out the door and away from the most awkward meal of his life.

Megan returned a nod before going back to her parents' table. In a way she hated Ryland for lying - but on the other hand she at least appreciated the fact he wanted the Zuzans to feel that Amber was still loved. That part of it was the most important to Megan - and she saw that it wasn't worth hurting her parents any more than they were already - especially if Amber didn't make it.


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