Counseling An Explorer
Location: XO's Office
Timeline: After "The Many Complexities of Riaan"
Ixelom, for once, was visibly exhausted as she walked the ship's corridors. The relentless pace of appointments, personal crises and paperwork over the past forty eight hours had worn the squat Tellarite down to the bone. There was just this final bit of business, a meeting with Caradan, and then she could collapse into her bunk...only, Ixelom knew, to repeat the whole process again.
She'd feel despair at that if she had the energy. For that matter, despite being about to be in the same room as the ship's Changeling first officer alone for the first time, Ixelom found that she was too tired to feel nervous. When she reached the XO's office and tapped the chime, she rubbed her eyes wearily.
Caradan was sitting at her desk, leaning forward with her head resting in her hands, elbows on the desktop. Her resting position was not through any form of exhaustion, though she was emotionally tired. Both searching for the missing transport and the animosity she received from Commander Shaqdac constantly was wearing on her. She had seen many rest themselves thus and figured she would give it a go.
“Enter,” she said without lifting her head. Though she knew the commander would love to see her like that, she also knew he would never show at her office. He would call her away instead. It did not matter to Caradan who her caller was. She simply wanted the hardship of the past few days to be done and away. She wanted to find Captain Takato.
Eyeing the lieutenant from the doorway, Ixelom snorted loudly. "You look about as bad as I feel," she grumbled as she ambled into the office, jumping up onto a chair without invitation. "Which is one hell of an accomplishment given that you can actually change how you look, so if you're aiming for 'seriously tired Caradan', then hey, congratulations."
“There are times I find myself longing for the Link. Instead of climbing under a rock, I could just as easily be the rock.”
Rubbing her large, hairy nostrils after a moment, Ixelom shook her head as if to clear it. "Sorry. I get grumpy when I'm...grumpy."
Letting out a short laugh, Caradan sat up and regarded the counselor. “Sorry if I seem,” and her words ended. There was work to be done. At the very least, try to make the best from a bad situation. “What can I do for you Counselor?”
"Our meeting?" Ixelom said, scratching her chin. "An update on ship morale? Oh...it is 2130, isn't it?"
That made Caradan shoot fully aware, “Yes. You are right. Apologies. I…” she shook her head slightly, “…it slipped my mind. My work…and Shaqdac…and…” she eyes the Tellarite, “you are not going to turn this meeting into a psychoanalysis are you?”
Ixelom chuckled, shaking her head. "Don't tempt me. I've been psychoanalysing people all day long, and it's honestly a relief to turn it off." Considering the first officer for a moment, she smiled weakly. The idea of dealing with yet another patient was exhausting, but Caradan was plainly in distress. "That said, if you want to rant and scream for a few minutes, go right ahead. Just let me get some decent whiskey first."
Caradan laughed shortly. “There is no need for that. Just know that if you ever enter my quarters and see me, if you see me anywhere to be honest, as a puddle of liquid swirling and flowing this way and that, waving over itself, like a wild wall of water with nowhere to go…yeah…that will be me screaming and ranting.” She sat back. “I take it your report is about the same as before. Us going on a wild goose chase as opposed to saving Captain Takato is not sitting very well with anyone. Several of the crew left when we were at Earth last. All that and we have a new commander foreign to every one of us. I take it your report levels the morale of this ship,” she held up a level hand and lowered it below the desktop, “somewhere around here I take it.”
"Seems optimistic," Ixelom grumbled. Leaning back into the chair, she stared up at the ceiling and closed her eyes briefly. "When a crew loses a captain, especially when their condition is unknown, it's natural for a crew to resent the new one. They knew Takato, and they liked her, which makes it even worse. All that stupidity about the captain not trusting you isn't really helping, either. What the hell is that all about, anyway?"
“Commander Shaqdac fought in the Dominion War. Furthermore, being a Bajoran himself, he was on the front lines. The Dominion absorbed Cardassia into their empire. Then they attempted the same with Bajor. Instead of going there in force, they attempted trickery and subterfuge. Then it was all our war. For the Bajorans, the war was terrible. For any of them that fought the Dominion openly, it was worse. Commander Shaqdac’s experiences must have been atrocious. Should you speak to him, try to get across a level of reason. He will not hear it from me.” Caradan finished her thought and was not even attempting to mimic a sorrowful expression spread about her face. “Is there anything you have in mind to improve morale Counselor?”
"Besides what we're already doing?" Considering Caradan for a moment, Ixelom dove straight in. "Get a win. A big win, something the crew can be proud of, something to restore their faith in this ship's leadership. It doesn't really matter whether that means rescuing Takato, making first contact with some exotic species or blowing up a bunch of Klingon rebels; just do something."
“That is exactly what we are speeding toward. A bunch of Klingon rebels as well as a missing prisoner transport. How big of a win will it be?” she asked herself. “I do not know, but we are prepared. There has been no word from Shaqdac or his Trill of a yeoman. It seems he keeps her on a tight leash and is simply waiting for me to make a mistake.” Caradan started shaking her head. “But I shan’t.” She shook her head harder. “I will not let this mission become a blunder.”
"How?" Ixelom said simply, her eyebrows raised skeptically.
“I…uh…” Caradan started realizing she really did not have much in the way of a plan. “I don’t really know. But we shall not lose this prisoner transport. The Empire needs us and we will prevail. I guarantee that and the crew morale will benefit.”
"Well, I'm convinced," Ixelom said with a tired grin as she drew up her knees to sit cross-legged on her chair. "I patch up the crew, you get us a big win, we all have a wild party on the nearest starbase. Sounds like a plan!"
"Yeah," Cardan smiled weakly. "Big win. Big party. Despite what happens, I do not think much will enliven me. Also, I'm not very sociable in big gatherings. Seems like everytime I leave the ship, someone wants to kill me." Caradan shook herself as though attempting to throw that thought away. "I'm sorry Counselor. I am making your day worse aren't I?"
Seeing what was about to happen, Ixelom resigned herself to it with tired cheer. She had been hoping to unpick the XO's mind, after all, even if the idea of such a task had scared the hell out of her.
"Honey," she said with a sincere smile, "this is what I do for a living. It's lovely of you to care, though." Quirking her head to the side, Ixelom smiled sincerely. "So...I hear you've been busy in the smoochy smoochy department," she suggested, delighted mischief alive in her beady eyes.
That startled Caradan a bit as she straightened. Her face took on an unmimicked expression of near offense but more of confusion. "How did you...hear...I...I mean we...but..." and her words ceased just as she realized her thoughts were just a jumbled. A twinge of a nervous fit hit her and her form pulsed ever so slightly as though a heart pounded away within her chest.
With a decidedly evil grin at how flustered Caradan was, Ixelom leaned forward. "I was just guessing, but...oh, that's fantastic!" Pausing to calm herself, she added "You don't have to tell me who he...or she...or it...is, but...oh come on, you have to tell me something. Are you having fun? Have you been on a date?" Blinking, she suddenly pulled back, backpedalling like her life depended on it. "Oh, I mean...I'm sorry, it's none of my business, but...um...it really is great!"
Caradan allowed the anxiety wane as Ixelom spoke. She actually was silently thanking the counselor for carrying on, because Caradan finally found the ability to speak. She did smile first however. "I...I am having fun Counselor. There is someone." Caradan smiled quickly and let out a short laugh. "He...uh...yes, he is a HE...and I...have not gone on a date. But..." she hesitated a moment, but this was the Counselor she was speaking to. "He and I have been meeting in secret as of late. There are no regulations being broken. It just seems...fun. We've done things. Things that one could only imagine. I mean...a Changeling and a Feserian..." Caradan stopped her words as she singled out Mindo since he was the only Feserian on the ship.
"Uh huh," Ixelom remarked lightly, waggling her eyebrows suggestively. "You seem quite smitten with him, if you don't mind me saying so."
"Yes," Caradan admitted. "I am, if I understand 'smitten' correctly." She continued. "He...uh...he showed me...did to me...things that I could never have imagined on my own." Smiling, "apparently I performed likewise to him."
With a smug grin, Ixelom nodded lightly as she considered the XO's smile, radiating a joy that bypassed species. "That's truly wonderful that you've found someone, Caradan. If you ever want to talk, whether it's big, meaningful stuff or just tips on being intimate, my door is always open."
“I do have a question Counselor. There was something I asked our previous two counselors. I asked them to help me learn what it means to be female. Being a Changeling, I am naturally neuter.” Caradan shook her head. “I do not understand what it means to be female. Looking back on all my encounters with Mindo, the way he touches me, speaks to me, treats me, I think I have something of an understanding. But I also have feelings, I think that is the way to put it, for Riaan Rrareth, but these feelings are somehow different. On top of all that, and from my studies, I understand that people have a tendency to…couple…together.” Caradan paused before admitting that, “I think I have such feelings for Mindo but am unsure how to approach the subject. Feserian culture does not include coupling. And Changelings have no culture to speak of. I am essentially making myself up as I go along. I know this is a lot to put on you…but…I do not expect an immediate or even an easy answer. In this matter, I seek guidance and,” she smiled, “counseling.”
"You're right," Ixelom said gently, carefully restraining her excitement at being able to explore the subject. It was a psychiatrist's dream, but it would entirely unprofessional to show that to Caradan, not to mention insensitive. "There is no easy answer. This is a problem that entire worlds and species have struggled with for millennia."
Considering for a moment, Ixelom peered at Caradan across the desk, taking care to look directly into Caradan's eyes. "Honestly, dear, in my experience, we all make it up as we go along. You aren't alone in that. I know that Mindo must seem irritatingly confident, but I promise you that he is just as uncertain as you. As for Riaan...have you told her how you feel?"
Caradan pondered the question a moment. How much would Riaan want her to tell or not tell. This was the Counselor after all. Any and all was certain to be confidential. "Riaan does know how I feel. Only, when I told her, I think that even I was uncertain of my true feelings. We went on a date, her and I, and...we discovered it is better to be close friends as well as colleagues. You see, it was Mindo that my thoughts kept going back to." Caradan leaned forward closer to Ixelom. "Counselor, do you think it would be prudent for me to ask Mindo, to see if he would be willing to break from Feserian culture so that he and I could be together exclusively? But...in asking that...I need to know if this is what I want as well. Ixelom, how do I know these things?"
"I think you just answered your own question," Ixelom said with a wide, toothy smile, still snugly ensconced within the chair. She had already known the answer from Riaan, of course, but she had to feign ignorance. "Caradan, all such things are a risk. Every time we tell someone how we feel, every time we ask them to engage in a romantic relationship, it's a step in the dark. There are no certainties, as you discovered with Riaan. That's part of what makes it so frightening...but also so exciting, so thrilling. Right now, what you're describing, that sounds like a very deep affection, but the only way to truly discover what you want is to make the leap."
Her advice, Ixelom realised ruefully, was very similar to what she'd told Riaan just yesterday. Shaking off that amusing thought, she continued, "You're an explorer, dear...so explore."