You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three
Location: Mess Hall
It was 0200, and Mindo couldn't sleep. He was suffering from mania after pulling a double shift.
I should make Brad and Tiffany scrub the turboshafts if they want another night alone, he thought. Still, the engines and ship systems were at one hundred percent for a week now, with little to no incident to cause otherwise. Mindo wanted to keep it that way, if he had to power the warp core itself.
The mess hall was quiet at this hour, with just a few crewmen burning the midnight oil. Mindo held a bottle of something called "Ebanza" under his arm. The dark blue liquid reminded him of sweet and sour chicken, an old Earth dish Mindo quite fancied. He set the bottle down at a table in the far corner and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, Ixelom was standing next to him.
The Tellarite counselor made an odd face, scrunching up her mouth, and then jabbed her finger not-so-gently into Mindo's arm. "You," she declared officiously, "look like an idiot."
Mindo's eyebrows went up at this, and he was noticeably startled by the Tellarite's out-of-nowhere appearance.
"There's an old story about a pot and a kettle," he said, letting his words trail off.
Ixelom actually had to think about that for a second, but when she realised what he meant, she snorted...a distinctly impressive sound. "I like humans, but that expression is just stupid. Who better to call a kettle black than a pot who is an expert on the subject?"
With that, she energetically jumped up on a chair opposite Mindo, grinning at him from across the table. "So," she said with a conspiratorial tone, "what has Mister Cheerful feeling so gloomy at this time in the morning?"
Mindo glared at Ixelom for a moment, never quite understanding the peculiar ship's counselor.
"Just pulled a double shift," he said. "Can't get to sleep. What's your story?"
"Oh, I'm a few hours ahead of you, dear," Ixelom said pleasantly. "I'll be off to bed soon enough. I just like to prowl around sometimes, see the night owls and all the guys on the night shift. How is everything going down there with that big death furnace of yours, anyway?"
"The 'death furnace' is at one hundred percent, I'm pleased to report," said Mindo. "How goes picking the Starfleet brain?"
Ixelom shrugged, grinning. "In-progress right now. It's my favourite late-night hobby to hammer on some innocent little victim's head. If the death furnace is fine, why the long hours?" Before he could answer, she raised a hand as if in revelation. "Does it have anything to do with why Keselowsky was looking like he'd won a Dabo jackpot? I just saw him coming down the corridor a few hours ago with a box of chocolates under his arm."
"Sounds like he really did have a night with Crewman Crismore," said Mindo. "I don't know what she sees in him. Hopefully he won't be too hungover tomorrow. The second-to-last thing I need is a grouchy shift leader. The last thing I need is a grouchy Kes."
"Uh huh," Ixelom remarked, giggling for a moment, before eyeing the bottle meaningfully, still beaming. The Tellarite girl was distinctly unlovely by most humanoid standards, with a large snort, bushy eyebrows and lots of wrinkles, but her cheerful countenance was undeniable. "Now that we're engaged in an active conversation that involves at least one joke and a common subject of interest, this when the textbooks say you should share your booze."
Mindo cocked a half-smile and passed the bottle over to the counselor. "We don't want to overrule the textbooks," he said. Mindo liked Tellarites and their blunt honesty, but he would never make the mistake of sleeping with one again. The smell alone was enough to make him nauseous.
"Good man," Ixelom said with satisfaction, bounding off her chair to grab a couple of glasses from the small bar that the Mess Hall offered. After she'd returned and filled up their glasses, she considered Mindo for a moment. "So...how's Caradan?"
Mindo shot a little look at Ixelom. "She's... managing," he said, trying to choose his words carefully. "We both are. Shagdaq, or 'The Shag' as I like to call him, doesn't quite mix with us. I think he sees our relationship as disgusting. His yeoman puppet doesn't help much either. I don't trust either of them." He grabbed the bottle and poured himself a glass. "Of course, this is all off the record... if you don't mind."
"Honey," Ixelom said with a more sedate smile, "everything you say to me is off the record. Nobody can force me to reveal what we talk about. Not Brad, not Caradan, and not even The Shag."
"Good," said Mindo. "I was never one for therapy. They tried to make me go at the Academy, with not so good results."
"Not to worry sweetie," Ixelom said with a grin. "You're far too small, far too skinny and far too pretty for me. I like my men big, hairy and Tellarite. Besides, I think Caradan has pretty much claimed you."
Mindo shrugged. "It's been a bit harder since Cara's promotion. We rarely find a time where both of us are off duty. Then there was that time on the turbolift..."
Filling up their glasses again, Ixelom waited patiently for him to continue. "And?" she prompted gently.
Mindo looked down. "I'm a little scared she thinks I'm paranoid. I felt kind of stupid after telling her about the listening device. I was so caught up in my paranoia that I forgot about her." He thought for a moment. "It was pretty cold in that turboshaft, but I really should've taken advantage of being on top of a turbolift with someone than just inside. I think I may have disappointed her."
"How so?" Ixelom said quietly, cooling her typically boisterous nature in response to Mindo's serious tone.
Mindo took a drink, then poured himself another. "We didn't do much in the physical sense. I was a little preoccupied with other things." He took another drink. "I think we've both been preoccupied lately. We had a nice encounter recently, but it was a bit short. When she and I were in the same department we had plenty of time to spend together. I guess that would make sense, though." Mindo thought for a moment. "My drive has been going crazy, though. This ship's pretty small. It gets difficult to find someone to... you know."
Sipping her drink, Ixelom nodded slowly. "You miss her, don't you?"
Mindo nodded. "I do."
Now Ixelom couldn't help but smile warmly, even as she double-checked that there was nobody nearby who could hear them. Indeed, they had the Mess Hall to themselves.
"I know that you've said the words to each other," she said softly, "but honey, that's your proof. You are officially and gloriously in love." Pausing, she considered for a moment. "Have you considered synchronising shifts? Or sharing quarters, so you can at least sleep together?"
"What if we want to sleep with someone else?" asked Mindo.
The counselor took another sip of her blue drink, considering. It was extremely tricky to avoid discussing what she'd learned from Caradan in their own talk, when the Changeling had indicated her desire for a monogamous relationship with Mindo.
"Then that's something that you and Caradan will have to talk about," she answered, "and make arrangements for. Hun, there's a difference between sexual promiscuity and romantic promiscuity. One does not necessarily lead to the other. The important thing, as clichéd as it sounds, is to talk to Caradan and lay out exactly what you both desire."
"Has she said anything?" Mindo asked, but seeing the neutral expression on the counselor's face made him double back. "Of course. You can't tell me." Mindo sighed. "You're probably right. I should talk to her."
Ixelom smiled in response, even as another question tugged at her with all its consequent problems. "Bingo. I love it when my patients follow my advice. It means I don't have to ram the idea into their brain until they get the message." Pausing, her smile gained an amused edge. "Now, when you mentioned that listening device earlier, do you mean that you recorded you and her...?"
"What?!" Mindo shouted, a little too loud. The other conversations in the room got quiet as their attention was suddenly turned to Mindo and Ixelom. Mindo ignored them and leaned forward, talking much more quietly. "What would I do with tapes of her and I doing it?"
"I don't know," Ixelom said quietly, her voice strangely meek even though she held her ground, looking straight back at him. "I'm sorry Mindo, I didn't mean anything, it was a joke in poor taste. You just mentioned a listening device..."
Mindo looked away again, making sure everyone had gone back to their drinks and their business. "I found out my quarters were bugged. For what reason, I'm not entirely sure. Shae, a friend who left the ship around the same time you came on, told me she knew that there were still spies on board the Tornado." Mindo caught himself before saying anything more. He suddenly felt very conscious of his words. He poured himself another drink, a stalling tactic he was sure the counselor could spot immediately. "It's rather complicated," he said, taking a drink.
"I can see that," Ixelom replied gently, letting Mindo stall as much he liked.
"You've read the report," said Mindo. "Haven't you? Of what happened on the USS Rhys?"
Ixelom nodded sadly. "Yes. It...it wasn't comfortable reading. It felt like one of the test cases they gave us at the Academy, the really awful ones..."
"I learned, first from Greep and again from Shae, that there were more spies on the Tornado. I don't know who they are or what their motives are. But I've decided I don't care. I'm putting all of this past me." He paused for a moment and there was a brief silence. "Sometimes I wish I'd never left my home world."
"But you did," Ixelom said firmly, her voice gaining strength. She sighed after a moment. "Mindo...that only works in the short term. For a time you can live like that and you can be happy, but in the long term, you need to find a solution. Otherwise, that sensation of being watched can consume you."
Mindo shook his head. "I wish I had answers."
Now Ixelom just outright laughed. "Oh honey...we all do! Do you know how many of my patients say exactly the same thing?" She giggled again. "Just focus on the short term, okay? Chat with Caradan soon, then if you feel like it, make love to her until you're both delirious. Right now you're depressed and fatigued, which is no way to find answers, but I think you at least know the right questions. What happened to these people you were talking about, anyway? Your friends?"
"Cailus and Shae?" said Mindo. "They got transferred. In fact, last I heard they're on the complete opposite side of the galaxy. They've probably forgotten about me already. But I do miss them."
"Cailus?" Ixelom frowned. "Is he that grumpy guy I met on Earth? Security?"
At this, Mindo busted up laughing. "That sounds like Cailus," he said smiling. "But he's a good guy once you get to know him."
"If you say so," Ixelom said doubtfully. She glanced at the bottle of Ebanza which was now quite finished, before grinning. "Okay, you. Professional advice: go sleep or go have sex. I don't care which. Just get off your ass and get out of here, because I'm both tired and drunk and I want to sleep."
"I think that is a great idea," said Mindo. They stood and Mindo picked up the empty bottle and went to dispose of it. When he turned around, Ixelom was already gone.