Alex had been formulating a hypothesis about Eleya. He had originally thought she had a drinking problem. Sergeant Zhenshen confirmed that alcoholism also affected the Tslao, a growing problem after the near-destruction of their homeworld. Attending a variety of social functions with her allowed him to refine it beyond that.
“He has not told me that he has a brother! This is wonderful news!” She clapped Audry on the shoulder, beaming.
She appeared to drink a lot at official dinners. As with everything Eleya did in public, there was some slight of hand at work. Constant sips and refills of an oddly shaped glass made it look like she was hitting the wine pretty hard. Alex may have been persona non grata to most on the Sword, but since the Empress wanted him there they just ignored him really hard. That gave him the opportunity to snoop, which she wanted him to do anyway. Alex had determined that she almost never drank an entire serving of wine, let alone the bottles she appeared to finish. It was just another layer of illusion for her to play with.
“It is?” She looked to Carbon, searching for information that would let her make sense of why this was wonderful news. She added hastily, “but he’s married already. Has a son of his own now, too.”
But in quiet places, with those that were her family, Eleya actually did drink quite heavily. It relaxed her, words and emotions broken loose from their moors, a carefully built facade put away for a few hours. It let her be who she had been, as Carbon put it.
Carbon shook her head. She had no idea what her aunt was on about, either.
Eleya considered dinner at Noonan's to be one of these times to loosen up. “Good, good. What does he do? Is he also a pilot?”
“No, Peter is an architect. He’s been with his company for over a decade now.”
There were gears turning behind Eyela’s slightly glazed eyes, antennae raised with excitement. She cooed in approval and clicked her tongue. “A creator with a family and devotion to a cause. Yes, this is wonderful.”
The table drew silent, no one sure what to make of Eleya’s scheming. Carbon was the first to break it, turning to Audry. “I have been negligent in my inquiry. How are Peter and his family?”
“They’re doing well. Gaspari is gearing up for a new project and he’s a little stressed out about it. He always gets that way with big ventures. Jason’s going to start pre-k soon, he’s actually excited about that.”
“I am pleased to know that.” Carbon had a tendency to become more formal as Eleya became more drunk. “Next time you see them, would you send our regards and be sure they are still at ease about the... incident with Jason. I know he had no ill intentions.”
Audry smiled, “of course. Jason still wants to meet you again and get a picture with you. I understand his friends don’t believe he met an actual alien.”
“Server.” Eleya spotted their waiter, Derek, clapping twice to get his attention. That she was unaccustomed to the experience of dining in a regular restaurant was an understatement. “This drink is empty, I require another one immediately.”
Derek didn’t have a translator and he didn’t speak Tsla. This was a problem that Eleya had successfully ignored so far.
“She wants another one of those Titan Iced Teas.” Thankfully, she was sitting next to Audry, who could translate for him.
That lack of translation was how Eleya had ended up with a third Titan Iced Tea. She simply held up the glass and Derek brought her another. The first one had eased her complaints about Noonan’s, the second succesfully lubricated her humanity gears well enough that she had started talking about family stuff, which Audry was actually interested in. The third one was still taking effect.
“Another Titan...” Derek sounded a bit unsure. The Titan Iced Tea was just a Long Island Iced Tea that had been mixed in space, but Noonan’s had always poured them large and strong.
"Hey, you should try a few other things while you’re on station." Alex held up a finger, stopping the exchange between the trio on the other side of the table. "I think you’d really like a strawberry daiquiri. A virgin strawberry daiquiri. They make a great one here."
“But I enjoy these.” She picked up the pint glass the Titan came in and finished it off. “I did not expect to, but I do.”
“I’m just saying, you don’t get over here too often, you should try something a little exotic.” Alex had begun to learn how to manipulate her, at least when she was drunk. Baby steps.
“Yes, I have had strawberries before, they are quite good.” Carbon chipped in, also a little surprised at how much Eleya had been putting away. “Sweet, like olaya.”
Eleya looked to Alex and then Carbon, head and eyes uncoordinated in a way that clearly illustrated just how much she’d consumed in the thirty minutes they’d been seated. She snorted and her eyes slid back to the waiter. "Is it so? Do they taste like olaya?"
Derek still did not speak Tsla.
"Ah...” Audry omitted the specifics of the question. “She wants to know if you think they are good, too."
"Yes." Derek’s eyes darted to Alex vigorously nodding an affirmative at him. "Absolutely. Everyone says they're excellent."
"Very well. I shall have one."
“She’d like that.”
“All right, it’ll be up in just a minute.” Derek smiled and started to leave before Alex waved him over.
He leaned in to Derek, dropping his voice. “Can you bring up some appetizers? I don’t care what, just as long as it’s fast. Please.”
“Certainly.” And with that, he was gone.
Alex heaved a sigh and leaned over to Ed, his voice still low. “I’m going to leave him the biggest tip he's ever seen.”