Luncheon

Royal Hampshire Hotel

The Penthouse suite at the Royal Hampshire Hotel in Leicester Square has been decorated exquisitely in the colours for King's College. The occasion is the Royal Hospital Alumni Association Luncheon — a semi-annual event for the alumni and faculty of King's College to raise money for the hospital. Seats are sold by the plate, and charts have been set up outside of the suite detailing who is seated at which table.


Characters

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Alexandra Deirdre

This is not the type of event that Deirdre Lancaster generally attends. While she has no issues with the charity, or sitting through a luncheon discussing her lectures with the alumni associations she more often than not declines.

A special incident wherein the Dean of the department was unable to attend has her seated at table 2 with several other lecturers as well as three alumni.

~

Normally speaking, these types of affairs aren't Alexandra's cup of tea, either. She's usually too wrapped up in her own research to care about the fundraising events. Leave that to the PR mavens and the 'real' professors — or those bucking fore tenure. Generally, she's a guest lecturer, albeit a popular one, and not likely to make tenure herself anytime soon. And, she seems perfectly well at-ease with that.

But, someone, somewhere, evidently decided her attendance at this afternoon's affair was required. And so she takes her place at table 2, pulling out a white chair and settling gracefully into it.

She glances around the room with a wry expression on her face. She'd so very much rather be elsewhere.

~

"Dr. Wainwright," Deirdre offers to the other woman as she seats herself. "I take it that you would rather be anywhere but here as well?" The soft-spoken woman raises her right eyebrow and smiles.

"Deirdre Lancaster, psychology department." Before she can say anything more two of the alumni take their seats and begin commenting on the decor. Automatically her attention falls to them, offering brief but friendly nods to each before she turns back to her colleague.

"I have been reading your most recent journal publishing. I found the article on gene expression quite intriguing."

~

Alex glances over to her tablemate. "Dr. Lancaster," she smiles, recognizing peripherally, but processing her introduction quickly. She chuckles ruefully. "It wasn't my first choice for a Saturday afternoon," she admits.

As the two alums take their seats, she, too, gives a brief nod, though she leaves them to their commentary.

A brow rises at the reference to the article. It was submitted… several months ago. Still, she gives a warm smile in response. "Thank you," she replies. "It was an interesting investigation, I can tell you. Are you interested in that, then?" An apologetic tilt of her head. "Forgive me, most psychologists I've met aren't."

~

Deirdre laughs softly. "Deirdre, please, or Dee." They are, after all, colleagues of a sort. "Nor was it my first choice but the Dean needed someone to fill his seat, and who am I to argue when he specifically requests I fill it?"

Another brief glance is offered to the alumni and she smiles over at them. "Personally I find myself enjoying the decor. Granted I do believe the scent of the flowers is a little heady but the scent should not interfere overly much with the meal."

Once again back to the discussion with Dr. Wainwright. "I could discern your interest with it based on the article. Very in-depth." Shifting slightly in her chair so as to turn herself toward the other woman a little more, she grins. "Genetics are a fascinating subject, though far beyond my specific capabilities. Still I do enjoy reading the research journals on the topic from time to time."

~

"Dee, then," Alex agrees. "Alex. Please." Her head cants gently. "What's your area of specific expertise?" she asks, deflecting the conversation from herself for at least a few moments. She, too, smiles at the alums, but she doesn't engage in the conversation. For her part, she's always liked stargazer lilies, despite their strong scent. True, though, they're best used in small quantities.

~

"Alex, then," Deirdre replies. "Clinical psychology, though I have often considered studying neuropsychology as a secondary, there has just been very little time to do so between my work at the college and elsewhere." Eyes drift toward the flowers, then toward the podium where the head of the Alumni Association begins a welcoming speech before the luncheon is served.

~

As the rest of the hall quiets, at least some, to listen to the head's speach, Alex nods an acknowledgement of what Dee say. But, she, too, falls silent, out of a courtesy. This speech, however, isn't nearly as long as the later ones will be — though Alex may sneak out before the worst of them get going. A quick nip to the loo at the tail end of dessert may serve as the perfect cover.

As the speech wraps, she offers her own polite applause and then returns her attention to the psychologist. "Neuropsychology can be fascinating," she agrees, "though I can't say I've much personal experience in it. I did once do some research into alternate neurophysical development as related to certain genetic expressions, but most of my time has been spent in teratology and related disciplines."

Teratology: The study of genetic mutations.

~

There is quiet applause as the speech wraps up and the servers begin delivering the first course to the table.

Deirdre has no issues suffering through speeches though she has things that are more pressing to her, she is determined to remain for the entire event lest the Dean find out she slipped out early and she has to deal with that lecture. The speeches are honestly the lesser of two evils.

"It would take me out of the traditional setting and place me into a more clinical one, though the change of pace would be welcome at times." Lifting the napkin up she settles it daintily upon her lap. "Have you published anything in those fields? I would be interested in reading studies of genetic mutations, particularly if they deal at all with the brain."

~

"Some…" Alex answers slowly. "But, not in recent years." In fact, most of her research in that regard has been classified. More's the pity. But, she's not in it for the academic accolades. So, it is what it is.

"I know several psychologists who effectively split their time between clinical studies and patient care. Doctors, too." For her part, she doesn't have her own practice. But, she has found herself called in by hospitals around the world for her expertise.

"You do a lot of work here, at the College, though, don't you? Have you published anything recently?" Most academics do. It's doubtful Lancaster is any exception.

~

"That is my eventual goal," Deirdre admits. She does split her time between the clinical studies at the College, and her work with the Foundation — which could be considered patient care for all intents and purposes.

"The last article I had published was several months back on the psychological perception of emotions. A bit dry, I'm afraid," she says, chuckling slightly afterward.

"I will see about looking up the older articles then. The thought that a slight genetic mutation on a cellular level can effect the psychological behavior of an individual is vastly intriguing."

~

"Oh, it's amazing what a small mutation can lead to," Alex says dryly, with a lopsided smile. She makes a mental note, however, to look up the woman's work. You never know what might come in handy, in her true line of work.

"Still, the article you mention sounds interesting. What was your hypothesis?" A chuckle. "Abridged version?"

~

"It truly is." Considering that she herself can feel the emotions of others, genetic study on the brain seems to be right up Deirdre's alley.

"In essence it was that certain societies, based on their upbringing, pay more attention to the inflection in the voice rather than the facial expression. It is quite easy to hide a negative phrase behind a smile after all."

Afterward, she finally spears a piece of the salad onto her fork, and smiles over to the alumni again who are now discussing the roasted red pepper with a lemon reduction dressing salad.

~

Alex settles her napkin on her lap and picks up her own fork as the salad is served. "That is interesting, actually," she agrees. "Did you find there were some correlations between such societies? Common historical development or some sort of other outside influence? Or perhaps even some sort of common mythic elements?"

And she's a biologist?

~

"There were quite a few correlations, actually. Asians tend to reflect more upon the tone of voice, and Europeans the facial expressions. Which of course caused me to look at language development within the countries that were used in the study." Deirdre lowers her fork and reaches for a glass of water.

"Needless to say in societies where emotional control is the cultural norm, eye expressions were the key to interpretation, and in cultures where there is more open expression of emotion, the mouth is the key to interpretation." A slightly stilted laugh follows.

"I apologize, as I stated it is a rather dry subject. Not at all as intriguing as genetic mutations."

~

"Hardly," Alex assures her, her face animated with her interest. "It sounds fascinating, actually. So, are you saying, then, that Asian societies are fixated more on mouth than eye?"

Her mind sifts through the idea, mixing and matching it with other ideas she's occasionally considered. "It would be interesting to see how it matches up with other cultural and historical influences — not really my field of study, mind, but it's a bit of a hobby." She chuckles self-deprecatingly.

"Still, I won't make you spend the whole meal talking shop, if you don't wish to."

~

"The opposite actually. They watch the eyes to determine the emotion through the words, whereas we focus more intently on the mouth formations of the word to determine emotion. Therefore, their success rate with such determination is generally far better than ours." Deirdre smiles gently, "Needless to say it definitely makes me study eyes more than mouths."

Several more bites of the salad are taken, a mere nod offered in regards to the mention of the hobby.

The alumni across from them are just sort of boggling momentarily at their conversation.

"Ah, perhaps that is a good idea. I should hate to bore our companions," she says with a subtle nod across the way.

~

"Really…" Alex muses softly. She glances over to the poor alumnae. "Sorry," she offers to them. "I get a little enthusiastic. You never know what might come in handy in research."

Still, she lets the conversation lapse. It's a pity, really, but she does make the note to look up pertinent studies and cross reference them with Vampire myths. That part, certainly doesn't need to be said aloud. Still, she'll mention it to Sean, as well.

~

The couple (are they a couple? Man and woman anyhow) chuckle it off and begin to discuss the potential of the next course.

Deirdre on the other hand raises her left eyebrow at Dr. Wainwright. "If you are truly interested in the study I can have one of the assistants deliver the research to your office come Monday. Though I think you will honestly be bored with the clinical study portion, the videos should at least offer a bit of amusement."

~

"I'd love to see it," Alex nods. "That'd be great." She'll share it with Sean, while she's at it.

The couple across the way become engrossed in their own conversation soon enough. And the other professors at the table tend to be given to drier debates than the two women. Alex tries to be courteous and keep at least half an ear on everything, but… well, there's a reason she hates these affairs.

~

"Monday afternoon at the latest then." Deirdre apparently has no qualms with sharing her research. Then again, she has no idea of Dr. Wainwright's affiliations or what they could mean to the Foundation.

It's not like her research will give much about her own affiliations away, however, and her work with the Foundation is hardly hidden.

While they eat, several more speeches go on. None that are absolutely important to listen to. Just more of the "we are so happy for all the charitable contributions" variety.

~

"I very much appreciate it, Dee. Thanks so very much."

As the meal begins to wind down and dessert approaches, Alex shifts a little restlessly. She really doesn't want to stay for the post-dessert diatribes. Frankly, she'd sooner be home, arguing with Charlie over whether it's another Simpson's night or a MacGyver marathon. Though, she has very much enjoyed meeting Dee.

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