A Sketch In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Mind
Episode 5: Better Angels
Location: USS Defiant - Lounge
Dante had finished a very long day, most of it spent on the bridge ensuring that the Defiant was still pacing the Indomitable and still staying just far enough away to not be identified, and he was fairly well exhausted, but not at all sleepy. He'd stopped off at his quarters, changed into something more comfortable than his uniform, and grabbed a book before heading for the lounge. Now, walking in, he noticed that the place was pretty much empty, and at first he didn't even see the first officer sitting off by himself, head bent in concentration over something Dante couldn't see.
As he approached he cleared his throat, and smiled, motioning to the chair beside him. "Good evening, sir. I hope I'm not disturbing you, would you mind some company?", he asked.
Maralen often came to the lounge when it was quiet; he preferred the quiet. Oh, there were times when he would sit at the edge of the noisy and simply watch, but tonight was not a mood for that. Tonight, he wanted the quiet to sketch. He was mostly done with the current sketch when he heard the doors hiss open and smelled another male enter. He did not look up, however, as his memory identified the scent as that belonging to the helm officer. When the other man approached and spoke, Maralen stopped the drawing, pencil hovering over the page, and looked up at him.
"You're not disturbing me, and you may sit if you like." he said easily, his tone and eyes displaying his natural warmth, something rarely seen on duty as he wore his Calm Shield about him much of the time. But neither of them was on duty currently, and so he was being simply himself.
Dante sank into the seat and nodded to the sketchbook, "I didn't know you were an artist.", he said, his voice belying how impressed he was. As someone with very little artistic talent he was always happy to see others who were.
Maralen frowned slightly, a thoughtful expression, then looked down at his sketch. A soft chuckle escaped him before he looked back to the other officer. "I'm not really. I was never formally trained for art. I just... dabble. But thank you." He studied the other man for a moment before asking, "Do you dabble in any art forms?"
Dante leaned back in his chair with a wry chuckle, "Oh, no, I've never been the creative type. my favorite way to pass the time is to read, so I guess you could say I enjoy perusing the creativity of others.", he replied.
Maralen chuckled softly, watching the other man. He was definitely relaxed, but Maralen suspected that he could be very quick to react should the need arise. "Well, I don't claim to be any good, but if you like, you may look." he offered, holding out the sketch book. He had no illusions about being some kind of drawing prodigy; he had his own set of skills -- though, in fairness, he didn't really want most of those -- that he could claim being quality in. But he also had no shame about his art.
Dante looked over the proffered sketch book. "These are actually really good...", he replied, "and besides, most of the great artists throughout history, on pretty much any planet, haven't been formally trained. It's a talent, sometimes you either have it or you don't.", he added, flipping through the pages, looking at the other drawings.
Maralen smiled slightly. "Thank you. Now you sound like the Marai. Their Schools of Art don't teach technique as Human schools do. Rather, they teach their Artists to give themselves over to The Art and let it guide them." He chuckled a bit self-effacingly. "I fear I haven't enough trust in me to go that far, though."
Dante gave the other man a curious look. "Are you afraid of what will happen along the way, or of not being happy with what comes out the other side of the process?", He asked, wondering about the feeling he got that there was more to what the man had said than what was obvious on the surface.
Maralen tilted his head, studying his companion thoughtfully for a moment. The thought was not, however, on his answer; that was obvious. The thought was on the man. He had asked a good question, a well-thought-out one. "Neither really." he answered after a moment of studying Dante. "I simply do not give over that much control to anyone or anything when I have a choice in the matter." He wondered what interpretation Dante would make of that admission. Would he read the unspoken or respond to the verbal admission alone? It would be interesting to see.
His response definitely made Dante's eyebrows raise a bit, and he thought carefully before replying on the best way to phrase what had popped into his head. "I feel like there is a lot of backstory there, based on how carefully you just phrased that, but it's not my business unless you choose to tell me. I just want to say two things, one, I admire the strength of your convictions, and two, if you ever need to talk to someone feel free to seek me out.", he said.
"Now, on to lighter subjects. Is drawing the only type of art you enjoy, or are there others? Painting, perhaps, or sculpture, maybe even music?" he asked.
Maralen liked this one; he caught the subtle nuances of what Maralen said. He was actually listening and not simply politely pretending to or only hearing the surface. He smiled when Dante moved on to other art, though, not really ready to divulge any more just yet. "Thank you. I do appreciate the offer." he said. "Consider the offer returned as well... and not simply because I am the First Officer." He gave a soft chuckle, and his tail twitched slightly. "As to your question, I do love music. I mostly dabble in stringed instruments, but I have been known to sing in the shower if that counts."
"Doesn't it always?", Dante asked with a wry smile. "I actually have no experience playing an instrument, but I do love the sounds they are capable of producing. My favorite musical style is jazz, and rhythm and blues is right up there. Is there any particular style you like?", He asked.
Maralen thought about the question for a moment. Finally, he shrugged slightly. "Sadly, I doubt you'd like my music then, given your stated preferences. It's more... transcendental? I'm not sure that's the right genre for it, but it's mostly soft and meditative, designed to induce calm and peace." he answered.
"That sounds lovely, actually.", Dante replied "I do sometimes listen to the slower, smoother stuff, there's even some jazz out there that might fit that bill. I might have to get you to a jazz club I went to a few times back on Earth if you are ever available.", he added.
"Interesting." Maralen responded to the bit about some Jazz being in line with his style. "I would like that, actually." he added in response to the invitation. "In all my time at Starfleet Academy, I never went to one of those. Some of my classmates tried to get me to other breeds of clubs, but not jazz." He paused in contemplation for a moment then asked, "In the meantime, do you have any of this softer jazz that you would be willing to share with me? I would love to hear it." And there was the cat coming out, shutting down the somber Realm Rep and the morose Shaper Rep and driving him into something new by sheer curiosity. His ears were perked toward his companion, and his tail flicked softly in anticipation. It was likely the most animated he had been in... well, a long time.
"Definitely. I could send them over to your personal terminal later tonight if you'd like. Or, I could even call some up on the speakers in here. It's not like we would be disturbing anyone.", he said, looking around at the now deserted lounge.
Maralen's brown eyes followed Dante's around the room. He had, of course, noted subconsciously when each person had exited, but that had not come to his conscious awareness until the other man mentioned it. He looked back to Dante. "Please." he answered, curious to hear this music.
Dante stood and went to one of the PCAP-SYS terminals located near the entrances to the lounge and called up the ship's music library. He navigated to the soft jazz section and created a short playlist of songs from 20th century artists like Kenny G., Sade, and Ramsey Lewis. As he approached back to the chairs the first song began to play, and he was happy to see that it was one of the more popular ones from the artist Sade.
"To me, the way she sings this song, it almost makes you feel like you are floating. You can close your eyes and just listen to her and disconnect from everything, let yourself just relax into it and be transported.", he said.
Maralen set down the pencils and listened to the music appreciatively. It was beautiful. He could see how it could be good for meditating. He was not going to allow himself to become that 'disconnected' here and now, though. He smiled a bit. "I believe you're right. It would be very suitable for meditation, to help you reach the altered state. Who is this artist?"
"Her name is Sade, and I'm glad you like her music.", Dante replied with a smile. "I'll include some of her work in the playlist I send you, but I hope that will prove to be a two way street. I'd love to hear some of the music you enjoy, so, please, send me a playlist as well.", he added.
Maralen smiled in return, a soft, almost inaudible, purr accompanying the smile. "I would be happy to. It is always a pleasure to meet someone who shares my love of art." He paused to consider the other man for a moment. "Perhaps we should make the whole experience reciprocal. Is there something you enjoy doing that I might share in as you have with my art?"
"I'm afraid most of my interests might be a let-down for you, honestly.", Dante replied. "I'm a fairly quiet person, and most of my interests lie either in the realm of study, like history, politics, and literature, or on the opposite side, with dancing, music, and sports. I'd say the only really creative thing I regularly engage in is cooking, or at least creating recipes for the synthesizers to work with.", he added with a sort of self-deprecating smile.
Maralen smiled kindly. "Boring is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder, Dante." he counseled. "And I, for one, don't find learning boring." He chuckled at himself just a bit. "I suppose I did back when I was in my teens and the Realm made me spend two years in the libraries just studying languages. But now...?" He shrugged. "Now I find new languages and cultures fascinating. I guess it suits the curious cat." Shifting slightly in his chair, he turned himself to be more facing the other man directly. "As to literature, are you more of a 'classics' sort of a 'modern classics' sort?"
"I can go either way on that, actually. There are some pretty good books being written even today, though with my personal library I do have to admit that most of the titles are at least two hundred years old, if not older.", Dante replied. "And thank you for your kind words. Most people would have just agreed with me.", he added with a chuckle.
Maralen frowned slightly, studying the other man for a moment before his smile returned. "Well, then it is their loss." he stated with conviction. "I don't have a large library myself, having learned young to travel very light, but I enjoy an eclectic mixture of things in my reading as in my music. I found very quickly that if one read only the 'classics', then one missed a lot of great story telling. Of course, that plays out the same in reverse as well. Do you study languages?"
"Honestly, yes, I do. It's not a big thing with me, but they've fascinated me since childhood. I know mostly human languages, but I've picked up a little bit of Vulcan and some Andorian, though I can't speak the latter, just read it. Something about the pronunciation stumps me every time.", he replied with a chuckle. "What about yourself? Are you a linguist?", he asked.
Maralen thought about that question for a moment. "If you mean was I properly trained in it, I would have to say no. I was, however, required to learn many languages by the Realm. Once they discovered my ability to adapt within minutes to a new language, they decided to put me into their libraries and see how many I could learn. Fortunately for me, this only lasted two years. But in that time, I did learn many. The language sets in this sector of space, however, I know only a few of." he admitted.
"Fair enough, some of them are a bit, odd...", he said, trailing off there at the end, not wanting to sound like he was judging.
Maralen understood. It was why he had not said any more than he had himself. Silence hung between them for a moment as each thought his own thoughts before it was interrupted by a soft chime from Maralen's pocket. Frowning slightly, he took out the small data pad from the inner pocket and looked at it. Putting it back, he sighed. "I apologize, but I have to be going. I have enjoyed this chat and do hope we can do it again sometime." He stood, gathering up his sketching supplies and tucking the book under one arm. He knew that felt sudden, and he was truly sorry for it, but some things could not be helped.
Standing along with his fellow officer Dante smiled, "No need to apologize, I should probably be heading out soon as well. I really enjoyed talking to you also, and I do believe we will find time for our again soon.", he replied.