The Astounding Adventures of Terri Cornelia Lee - Part 4 "Family" (Flashback)
Posted on Tue Jun 27th, 2017 @ 8:42pm by Lieutenant Terri Lee
Episode 4 - Truth, Justice, and the Federation Way
Timeline: 2418, In A Future That Was
[2418, Commander Theo Dolarian's Residence, Oakland, Earth]
Theo wiped off her floured hands on her apron. She tore off a chunk of one of the cookies she had just finished, putting it into her mouth. She chewed slowly, concentrating, then nodded. They were perfect. As usual.
Theo plated the orange chocolate chip cookies nicely, poured a glass of milk, and brought the array into the living room where Terri sat on the couch. She smiled down at the girl and said, "These are from your father. Orange chocolate chip." She put them down and crossed her fingers behind her back, praying that she would like them.
Terri had been noticing the tangy and sweet aroma of her favorite cookies coming from the kitchen, and it took her quite the effort not to rudely barge in there. After unceremoniously slapping Gustave in the face last night, she told herself to be on her best behavior for the rest of the weekend. She was the house guest after all.
The built up anticipation meant that she was more than delighted when Theo handed her the tray and by implication gave her the permission to dig in. But it was what she said that took her by surprise.
"What do you mean?" She asked, picking up the biggest piece of cookies from the tray. "I thought you were baking these in the kitchen just now."
Theo's smile softened. "He had them specially ordered. He felt bad for not being here to celebrate a certain someone's birthday." She thought about ending it there, but she didn't want to leave such an unhappy note, so she added, "And he's not the most talented baker, so I stepped in to help."
"Really?" Terri's eyes lit up with glee, but then a thought crossed her mind, and her smile faded. "You talked to him, didn't you?"
Theo's heart dropped when Terri's face fell. "I did." She wondered whether or not she should tell Terri that he said he might call, for she didn't want to get the girl's hopes up.
Theo suddenly had a small idea, but a nice one nonetheless. She bent down and hugged Terri tightly, saying, "This was his other present. He really does feel guilty for not being the father he wants to be." She hoped that wouldn't just make it worse.
"Thank you." Said Terri. It would have been nice if her dad had done this without any prompting from Theo, but she would take whatever she could, even if it's a little forced.
She took a bite of the cookie and a smile returned to her face. "This is really good."
"Why thank you," Theo replied with a proud smile. At least the girl was happy with the cookies.
Terri took another bite of the delicious cookie and drank from the glass of milk. "Dad used to bake, too." She said. "But it's always muffins. Blueberry muffins, honey banana muffins, maple bacon muffins. There was this once on the Themyscira when Michaela left the ship for a week for some doctors' conference and we had muffins for breakfast every day while she was away. After that I couldn't even stand the thought of muffin for a whole month."
Chuckling, she finished the cookie and picked up another one.
Theo laughed with her, smiling and taking a cookie for herself. "I really shouldn't eat these. I'm getting older, and my metabolism isn't what it used to be." She shrugged in sweet, chocolaty defeat. "Oh well, I'll just go on a bike ride sometime."
"Nah, you look great." Said Terri with a smile. Munching on her cookie, she was quiet for a little while. When she was done it, she picked up another piece, but instead of biting into it, she turned to Theo. "Can I ask you question?"
Theo braced herself for the worst, but kept soft smile on her face as she said, "Of course, anything."
"Hmm, you know how my mom and dad had been best friends before they got together. Do you think, I mean, people like them who are friends since childhood can really, you know, uh, be more than just friends? I mean, I know they did, but . . ." Her voice trailed off.
Theo thought for a moment. She knew that Terri was thinking about Gustave, but she didn't want to bring that into the conversation unless Terri was ready. She tried to phrase her words to seem generic instead of focused on Terri specifically. "Well yes, it can happen. Love can happen to anyone, sweetheart, even friends. So if both are willing, then yes. But if it only goes one way, then all you are doing is damaging your friendship. It is up to you to determine which is more important to you."
"Hmm." Terri took a bite of her new cookie and pondered what Theo had just said. "But, how can you tell if someone is, uh, willing?"
Theo picked up another cookie and ate it to stall for enough time to think. "Well first off, they would act differently. Going out of their way to spend more time with you. Saying things they wouldn't usually say. Acting embarrassed, as if they have a secret they can't tell you, but they really want to. I wouldn't know all the . . . symptoms, but you could probably tell."
"Oh, I see." Terri nodded as she continued to chew on her cookie. Gustave hadn't done any of what Theo just said. Did that mean he was . . . unwilling? Sighing quietly, she stuffed the remainder of her cookies into her mouth before picking another piece and stuffing some more. "Boys ar so stuupit." She mumbled under her breath with her mouth full of delicious cookie.
Theo chuckled under her breath as she said, "That they are." Theo wasn't stupid, she had seen the way Terri looked at Gustave. She just wished that there was more she could do about it. Cookies could solve a lot of problems, but hearts tended to take their own path. And as much as it pained her, she knew that Terri's heart would have to tough this one out and risk getting broken.
Just then Gustave walked in, looking for his mother. He saw her on the couch and said, "Hey mom can we tal-" He stopped abruptly when he saw Terri. He noticed that her cheeks were puffed out like a chipmunk's, and then he noticed the plate of cookies. He resisted the urge to laugh, as he didn't want to risk her getting mad and slapping him again. He broke the awkward silence, saying, "Uh, hi Terri."
Terri was so glad she had stuffed her mouth full of cookies. There was no way she could talk to Gustave now, certainly not in front of his mom. She mumbled a few random syllables that she hoped would pass as greetings to Gustave as she stood up from the couch, doing her best to look and act normal.
"I, uh, hoove tu, uh, talk tu Meg un Moorian,"
She took a quick glance at Gustave before making her way away from the couch, only to stop a few steps later. Walking back, she mumbled a few more random syllables and took from the plate all the cookies that could fit in her hands. Another furtive glance at Gustave, she hurried out of the living room and disappeared into the hall way.
Gustave shook his head. "Mom, I just don't know what's going on with her. She seemed perfectly normal at first, but then things kept getting weirder and weirder. She went from talking about news to laying on my lap and having me scratch her back. And then she slapped me! Did I do something wrong?" He looked up at Theo in bewildered confusion, hoping that maybe she could answer the questions he could hardly fathom.
Theo sighed, "She's just confused. It's been a while since you last had a chance to really talk, and she doesn't know how to act around you anymore." She smiled at him comfortingly, putting a supportive hand on his shoulder.
Gustave wasn't quite convinced. "Are you sure that's all? She was acting pretty strangely."
Theo broke eye contact and looked across the room at the television that was still on. She tried to think of the best way to say what Gustave needed to know. "Terri has been through some pretty traumatic stuff in her life, and around her birthday, the pain always comes back and reminds her." Theo looked back up at Gustave and smiled reassuringly, "She is just looking for a little bit of affection, and her best childhood friend happens to be where she is seeking it."
Gustave frowned, then nodded in understanding. "I suppose that makes sense. I guess she was just embarrassed when the twins walked in, so she slapped me." It was clearer now. Some of it still seemed to . . . odd to be explained, but the pieces were starting to fit together.
Theo smiled, "Hey, just because she opened up to you doesn't mean she's ready to open up to the crazy twins yet. She'll come around in time, but you're right, I'm sure she was pretty embarrassed."
Gustave's smile returned to his face for the first time that afternoon. "Alright. Thanks, mom. You really do know everything." He laughed, and Theo joined him. He gave her a big hug, then grabbed a cookie and started for the exit, saying, "Love you."
Theo called to him as he left, "I love you, too."
Terri had made up her mind. Sort of . . . OK, maybe not really.
She knew she should just apologize like the twins suggested, but saying "I'm sorry" was always hard for her, really hard. Besides, Gustave probably deserved a few slaps in the face for friend-zoning her all these years, although truth be told, it's probably just his obliviousness, and not intentional. At least she hoped that was the case because otherwise he would deserve not just a few slaps in the face, but a good old-fashioned beat down or two.
She sighed as she walked into the kitchen, looking for those delicious cookies Theo had made to help her clear up her mind, only to find Gustave, who was apparently also looking for snacks. Her first instinct was to bolt away, but unlike earlier, she had a better hold of herself this time. Besides, unlike earlier, there was no one else around so she might as well just get this over with.
"Hi, Gustave." She said casually and without making eye contact as she walked past him and reached the other end of the kitchen table where a plate of cookies waited to be consumed.
He turned abruptly, startled to hear her. "Oh, hey Terri. Didn't see you there." He pulled a glass out of the cupboard and smiled awkwardly.
There was a moment of silence between them as Terri munched on a piece of orange chocolate chip cookie. Then sheepishly and almost inaudibly, she said, without looking at Gustave, "I'm sorry."
Gustave didn't quite hear. With a look of confusion etched on his face, he replied, "What?"
"Arggh." Terri grunted in frustration. Did he really expect her to apologize twice?! Turning around to look at him in the eyes, she wiped the few cookie crumbs off the corners of her mouth and made her ultimatum. "OK, I'll let you slap me, and then we'll be even. So go ahead. Come on. I can take it." That bit was true. She had fought with people twice her size since she was a kid.
"Come on. Are you chicken, or what?" Some taunting surely wouldn't hurt?
Gustave's face went from confused to surprised to horrified and back to confused all in a second. "What?" He said. "Terri, I'm not going to hit you! What is this all about?"
"Why not?!" Terri protested with growing desperation in her voice. "I hit you yesterday, so I'm letting you hit me back. Let's just get this over with already."
"I don't hit people I respect," Gustave said, crossing his arms. "I'm not going to ask why you hit me, I'm sure you had your reasons. I'm over it. I'm not going to hit you."
"No, you can't be over it just like that." The words had already came out when Terri realized how silly and ungraceful they were.
But what's she to do now? Her first plan was to apologize. That didn't work out. Her backup plan was to let Gustave hit her back to even out things. That didn't work out, either. Why did he have to be so oblivious and so understanding at the same time? It didn't make sense to her at all. And it's frustrating.
"Argg" She grumbled. Picking up another cookie, she went back on munching again. She really didn't know what to say.
Now Gustave had no clue about how Terri's mind worked, or the mind of any female for that matter, but he could tell when someone had something on their mind. And this was one of those times.
"Terri," He asked, "What's wrong? If you need to get something off your chest, just say it. I'm listening."
Terri mumbled something as she worked on her next cookie. Why should she have to explain to the slowpoke what was going on? Why did he have to be so oblivious, so slow, so big, so strong, so funny, so good-looking . . . wait a second, she was supposed to be mad at him. Yes, she was mad at him. That was the plan.
Turning back to Gustave, she stared him in the eyes. "I have nothing to say to you. I'm leaving now." With that, she picked up another cookie and munched on it, staying exactly where she was.
Gustave saw her just stand there and tried to suppress a laugh. He failed. Realizing that she might be offended, he said, "I . . . Sorry. I'm sorry, Terri. Okay. Let's get back on topic. Don't leave, please. We definitely need to talk about something." Though about what, Gustave wasn't quite sure. He needed answers. Why had she hit him? What had she mumbled? What the heck is wrong with the entire female population?
Terri might not like apologizing to others, but she sure loved being apologized to, and heaven knows, Gustave owed her more than a few apologies for all the terrible and terrible friend-zoning she had suffered at his hands over the years.
OK, technically that apology wasn't for the friend-zoning, but hey, he got to start somewhere.
With a sniff that was more proud than contemptuous she said, "Hmm, apology accepted." Another bite of her cookie. "So, what do you want to talk about?"
All of a sudden she was feeling a lot better.
"Why did you slap me?" Gustave asked, figuring he might as well not beat about the bush. "What did I do wrong?"
And just like that, Terri was back on square one. It had looked like she might have dodged a bullet there, but Gustave just had to ask the question. With a quiet sigh, she relented.
"I don't know." She said as her eyes drifted away. "It's not you. It's just that I . . . I was . . ." There was a pause. Then she sighed again, but this time more determined. Reconnecting her eyes with his, she spilled the beans in rapid fashion. "I freaked out. OK? I freaked out when your sisters walked in on us. I was embarrassed that they saw us like that. But . . ."
Her breathing quickened as she continued. "But I just wanted to be with someone . . . It's my birthday for heaven's sake! Do you know how hard it is? Everyone else has their birthday cakes, their friends, their families. For everyone else it's a special day, a day to celebrate. What do I have to celebrate? I have never even met the woman that gave birth to me. You know why? Because I killed her! My dad wouldn't even talk to me around my birthday. Why? Because I killed the love of his life!"
Pausing to steady herself, she shook her head. "They never meant to have me in the first place, Gustave. They were possessed by the Vorusi. It was not them, and I was never meant to be . . . I was . . ."
"Woah. Slow down," Gustave said. He understood that she needed the company. That was one thing his confused mind could comprehend. "You are in now way a murderer. Don't blame yourself for any of that, you had no control over the circumstances of your birth." He took a deep breath, knowing that he could never understand how she felt, but hoping he could help.
He paused, then continued. "And your dad being distant . . . that's his problem. To be quite honest, he's missing out. You are an incredible person, and this family loves you. We do what we can to make up for all the love you've missed out on." He looked her dead in the eyes, placed his hands on her shoulders, and said, "But you can't move on until you accept that you are loved and wanted, no matter how much it may seem that you aren't. You can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. You've got us; Mom and Dad and Meg and Marion, and me."
Terri blinked her eyes as she processed what Gustave had just said. Those were some of the kindest words she had ever heard. Family, after all, was what she had always wanted, but it had never felt complete, even before her dad and Michaela separated. Of course, Michaela with her unbounded kindness and maternal love had always treated her like one of her own, as did Erin and Alex, but nothing she did could ever elicit the same affection from her dad, who remained to this day aloof and distant. The death of Alex and Erin, however, forever shattered even that family, already incomplete as it was.
So to hear those words from the man she had had a crush on since they were kids was especially meaningful and touching, so much so that she was speechless for a few moments as a plethora of emotions swirled inside her.
She felt something moist in her eyes and fought it. No one had ever seen Terri Cornelia Lee cry, and no one ever would.
Gustave saw her eyes fill with tears, and his heart dropped straight to his shoes. He reached out and held her cheek, stroking tenderly with his thumb. He wasn't sure whether or not he should speak, so he sat there and watched as his childhood friend melted in front of him.
That tender touch. Those warm eyes. Her resolve was faltering.
Suddenly she reached out and clinched him with her arms, burying herself in his chest. No one could ever see her cry.
[To be continued in Part 5. . . . . .]
Commander Theo Dolarian
Scientist, Starfleet R&D
Lieutenant JG Terri C. Lee
Researcher, Starfleet R&D
(NPC - Oliver)
Lieutenant Gustave Dolarian
Fighter Pilot, USS Churchill
(NPC - Theo)