Chapter 1
The Beginning. The End.
Men, So Confusing
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:: Johnson's Quarters

'Now I know it was around here somewhere.' Alara thought to herself while crawling around the back of the couch, her hiney in quite an unladylike position, not that Alara had ever thought about how to be "ladylike" anyway. She narrowed her eyes at a small glint of metal that shown under the couch, she grunted and stretched to make her fingers encircle the item, but it was still too far. The woman narrowed her black eyes slightly, and snorted at the stubborn item.

Drawing back she shoved her hand under the couch, then propped it up for a moment until she got her shoulders underneath it. Now, the item was easily within reach, she snatched it up and drew back, not realizing the loud thunk the couch would make upon hitting the ground again. Keeves winced at the noise, hoping she didn't disturb anyone... or worse, concern anyone and make them call security or some such. Johnson did seem to be really jumpy at any loud noise that occurred in his quarters because of her. She wondered silently if he thought she'd set something on fire or some such.

Alara crawled out, holding the ring triumphantly in her hand. It was her class ring, the only one she wore, and even that only sometimes. It had fallen from her bag when she was sorting through it and had run away when she tried to chase it, but now, it could not escape and she held it triumphantly in her hands. Alara put the ring away in a slightly more secure location, still waiting for Johnson to get done from his second shower for the day, so she could use it. She was sweaty and smelly from their little "training" session, and still in her exercise suit.

The door behind her opened and who should appear but Johnson in nothing but a towel, looking very obviously concerned. Keeves rested her head on her hand for a moment and shook her head. "It's nothing. I dropped my ring and had to lift the couch to get it..." she explained.

Just then, the door opened, and Dixon barged in, looking around with concern. "Alara?" Then in one glance he took note of four things. Alara was fine. Johnson was in nothing but a towel. Alara was wearing a rather attractive outfit. And Daniel felt jealous. The rather familiar emotion of jealousy caused heat to rise to his face as he surveyed them. Alara noticed his redness, and took much longer than most females should take in figuring out exactly what was running through Daniel's mind. Then, to her detriment, she took even longer than that to try and say something, and when she did, it came out very, very wrong.

"Oh! Daniel! Sorry, I forgot. I'm late, aren't I? I was waiting for the shower..." she explained, something that sounded perfectly reasonable to hear ears, but somehow it didn't quite get interpreted the same way.

Predictably, the doctor fled the room in embarrassment, uttering only a hasty, "I'm sorry!"

Alara 'goldfished', gaping her mouth, and then closing it alternately, trying to form some coherent words, looking at Johnson, and then back at the door which Daniel just departed through. He had offered to take her to the lounge later, when his shift was through. She guessed he'd contact her then, as she was only guessing when it was though. So this was another example of the interpersonal miscommunications that had always plagued Alara. 'Men, I get along with them as one of the 'guys', but I do not understand them when jealousy and perceived affections get involved.' she thought silently.

Then she pointed to the door that Daniel had just fled through, and looked at Nick, who looked kind of clueless himself. "I... do not understand why he did that." She managed finally, still contemplating what had just occurred. Then she turned back and smiled softly at Nick Johnson, who looked like he was formulating something himself, but she didn't give him a chance. She didn't need two guys suddenly becoming incomprehensible on her.

"It looks like I have some damage control to do, I'll see you later, sir." She said, not allowing the Lieutenant to get a word in edgewise---on purpose. Then she left the room.

Outside, she looked to the right, and to the left. 'Now, which way would a man go who has just assumed something and gotten hurt?' she thought silently. She looked both directions once more. 'Sickbay' she thought and then started off at a light jog, catching up with the solemn looking Daniel in no time. He looked like he had just lost his best friend.

"Dixon!" she said, but he didn't halt. "Doctor Dixon! Daniel..." only on his first name did he slow. She came up and fell in step beside him, turning her head she laid a hand on his back. "I'm sorry for forgetting, I guess I misunderstood you, got preoccupied. Are you okay?"

"Okay? You and Johnson looked 'okay'!" he said, angrily, his voice full of hurt.

"What?" Alara questioned, not understanding the implication of the statement.

He paused a moment, his shoulders showing clearly the depth of his dejection. He looked to the floor, painfully aware of his broken heart. "Listen Alara, I am going to be rather busy for while, maybe I'll see you around." He said, not looking at her.

She walked around in front of him, blocking his path. Alara could be dense, but she wasn't stupid. "In other words, 'You hurt me, and just forget it'." She said, seeming almost uncaring with her rephrasing of his words.

The look on his face, even without reading him at all, told her one simple fact... he was trying to act the part of a tough guy. She didn't blame him at all, not for that. "Hurt Me? Nahh, I just didn't want to interrupt anything. I should be on my way, Ensign." His words were strong, uncaring, but Alara knew better than to trust that, and a flash of what his face looked like when he had barged in, only reinforced her opinion.

Daniel turned and walked away a short distance, but Alara wasn't to be so easily dismissed. She hated unresolved things, and didn't need enemies. "Are you even going to let me explain?" she called after him.

He stopped and turned to her, looking directly into her eyes. His false front dropped somewhat, but there was still a barrier there. "I don't know what I was expecting, and it's none of my business what you do in your free time."

"No, maybe not, but you owe me the courtesy to listen." She said seriously and matter-of-factly, even a little coldly; her arms crossed.

He cracked a smile and rolled his eyes. "Very well Alara, I can see I'm not getting away until I do."

"My quarters were blown up in the explosion. Thankfully I had put things into storage beforehand..." she noted his odd look at that statement, as it was an unusual thing to do. "Don't ask; it's an old habit." She explained. "I needed to talk to Johnson to get me reassigned, as I heard they were double bunking in some cabins. He offered me the use of his quarters, I accepted. We had just been to the holodeck, in a training scenario, as I enjoy partaking in such thing, and I was waiting to use the shower before I headed back to deck nine to finish some lab analyses. You told me to expect you when you got off your shift, I thought you would come find me then... apparently I misheard." She ended, a little too scientific with her explanation, over a more caring stance that would have been better received.

Dixon had his hands shoved deep into pockets. He was starring at the floor with a raised eyebrow. "So... you and the Lieutenant are just rooming together, and there's nothing going on?" he asked, masking the hint of hopefulness in his voice.

"No, nothing's going on between us, at least not to my knowledge." Keeves said, recalling the incident a moment before with Daniel, with whom she also thought nothing was going on---and was wrong. In the midst of her pondering, she asked. "May I ask you something?"

His eyes once again met Alara's. "I know I can't stop you."

"Why were you jealous? In fact, why is this whole conversation revolving around my justifying activities with another man... to you? Why were you jealous of the thought something had gone on between us?"

Suddenly Daniel crossed his arms indignantly, his face turning red. "Jealous? I...I...I, listen I wasn't... Me?" The quiver and stutter in his voice betrayed him.

Alara tapped the side of her head. "I'm a telepath, remember?" It was easier than saying she could just see it from his expression and body language, but somehow men argued less when you said it was your telepathic intuition rather than more normal reasons.

Dixon's face turned the most uncommon shade of purple, Alara was quite concerned for a moment. "Well then, Ensign, read my mind, you seem to do it anytime you like anyway. I have things to do." Now his voice held a bite, Alara almost winced at it, but wouldn't give up, not like this.

She moved in front of him, again blocking his path, then took firm hold on one of his shoulders. He tried to shake her off, but her grip was surprisingly firm, though not harsh. "I asked you because I want to know."

He allowed her to stop him, then stood leaning against the corridor wall. "Okay Alara, I knew you were on this ship for quite some time now. The only thing is... well see I... well I always got nervous around you. I feel like I'm in elementary school again and trying to talk to the pretty girl. All throughout college and my federation career I have never encountered a woman who has made me feel this way. That day in Johnson's office I never knew you were there. When I saw you sitting there with that smile and those sparkling eyes, I was tongue-tied. The only response I could think of was to act like I had never noticed you."

Suddenly the young doctor realized he wasn't tongue-tied.

"You're so beautiful Alara, I just can't express in words the way I feel when you are near, the way I hope you're around every corner, the way I think about you when I lay my head down at night. Alara, when I joined this ship I met my Morgan. You make me feel the way she made me feel. I'm scared that maybe it's just too soon for me, and maybe I see too much of her in you. Maybe I should just get back to my duties."

Alara nodded slightly, releasing her grip on him. "I understand..." she said quietly, pausing for a moment, her voice the most caring now as it had been the entire conversation. "I'm... flattered." She said, a little unsure what she was supposed to say. She didn't really get it when men saw her this way. Alara grew up around her brothers, she was 'one of the guys,' she liked relating to guys in that way. That she could not really understand, this... was an another matter entirely. Then she tilted her head and looked at him. "Daniel... I'm sorry I hurt you, I never intended such in any way."

He looked at her, as though he expected something else.

She took a deep breath "Even though I don't believe I did anything wrong, or unjust, I am sorry that I caused you hurt. And if you still are going to be rather busy, and want to maybe see me around sometime, I understand. " She said, using his exact words, even though she understood exactly what they had meant. With that, she turned and nodded at him politely, and then walked off the other direction---deep in thought.

Loaded: 03.10.2004

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