Timeline: shortly after "Report"
"That was worth the wait," said Mindo, laying naked next to a clothe-less Caradan. They were in the upper room in Mindo's old cabin on Feseria... or at least, the holodeck version of it. The air smelled of pine trees and the temperature of the room was that of a brisk spring evening. There was a small window on the adjacent wall, and through it they could see the perfect Feserian sunset, with orange and purple and red layered together in the sky. Mindo had expanded the window in this version so they could see both moons in the sky. Outside, a barge went by on the river, softly sounding its horn, its wake making waves on the shore. Mindo couldn't have programmed it better.
Caradan looked out at that sunset as she rested her head on Mindo’s chest. She had finally felt that she had found an adequate method of mimicking optic nerves to see the beauty in Mindo’s creation as he saw it. She could never be absolutely certain however, just as she could not be certain she felt the pleasures of sexual relations the same as he. Their activities were enjoyable and, “Yeah. Well worth the wait.”
Commander Shaqdac appeared marginally impressed that Caradan had gotten the report in early. Sure enough, there was more work to be done, but she was going to worry about that later. Right now there was only, “Mindo.”
“Did I,” she moved a bit to look at him, “did I react adequately? As a woman should during an encounter with a man?”
Mindo smiled at the question. He knew Caradan was doing her best to stay realistic. Truth was, it was different with her. But not in a bad way. He re-positioned himself to see her and kissed her forehead. "I have no complaints," he said. "I'm more concerned with my own performance. Do you... feel anything? When we're... you know."
“I do,” she nodded then sent her eyes back out through the window. “I’ve been working on nerve circuitry and sensitivity. I just have no way of knowing for sure if I have things right.” She smiled at the thought that, “you keep coming back for more. My experience is limited but,” she reconnected eyes with Mindo, “you perform marvelously.” She was uncertain if a change of topic was wise but the Counselor’s words kept echoing in her mind at times. She remained quiet and allowed Mindo to process her complement.
Mindo looked out at the sunset, which was programmed to simulate a transition from beautiful hues to a black and starry sky.
"It's been a while since we've done this," said Mindo. "I don't want us to drift apart."
Caradan wrapped an arm around Mindo and held him close and tight. “I don’t want us to drift apart either. I was close to Shae and Laurel and…” her body twitched and her form nearly shifted, but Caradan maintained herself. “And now they are gone.” She thought about her relationship with Riaan. It was wonderful but there seemed to be a deeper and more profound connection with Mindo. “I don’t want to lose you too.” With people like Aki and Davmorda around, “I don’t know what I would do or how I would press on without you.”
Mindo squeezed back and let his left hand move down to her stomach. He lightly traced a circle around her naval. "Our ship's counselor told me we should do something about that," he said, remembering his conversation with Ixelom earlier.
“Really?” Caradan was unaware that Mindo met with Ixelom, though knew full well that she would have no reason to know. Caradan did recall a discussion with Mindo some time ago where he appeared a nervous wreck for possibly breaking with Feserian culture. Caradan did not want to push him into a situation he did not wish to be in. “What did she say? Only if you want to share with me that is. You don’t have to. Patient/Doctor confidentiality and all.” Caradan was held captive in suspense however, though she tried to not let that translate into bodily movements.
"She said we should do things so we could spend more time together. She suggested syncing our shifts." He chuckled a little. "She even said we should share quarters." Mindo had waved off the idea immediately. What if Mindo wanted to sleep with someone else some nights? Or if Caradan had a guest some time? He was always up for multiple partners, but found that other humanoid races weren't as receptive to that. In fact, most races frowned on it.
There was a twitch in Caradan’s body. It would have been a heart flutter if she had a biological heart to begin with. This was a twitch that coursed almost throughout her entire being. There was a change that she could have Mindo all to herself, to live with him no less. A wild sensation washed over her body and she realized this was the first time she felt such a rush of emotional excitement. But there was also the issue of Mindo’s cultural upbringing. They were in love but he needed to be open to others at the same time. What if he wanted to bring someone else home?
“I could always turn myself into a chair,” her words came out barely audible. “I mean,” she looked up at Mindo. “I spoke with her as well. She told me that everything we do is a risk and that, to truly discover what we want, we have to make a leap.” She looked into his eyes. “I love you.” From the memories she possessed of other Changelings from her time in the Link, she knew, “That is a rare thing for a Changeling to say. Having little experience in this I can’t find it in myself to ask you to break from cultural scripts just to see if,” she looked down at his free hand and played with it with her hand, “if we could be together exclusively.”
"'Cultural scripts,'" Mindo repeated. "I left Feseria a long time ago. But in all of this, I haven't been able to shed the way in which I was brought up. Being around humans and other races has really changed how I think of the universe. I still don't really understand the way sex is thought of in different cultures, but I suppose that is part of being a Starfleet officer." He paused for a moment, trying to process what he wanted to say. "That said, I want the best for you. I want whatever you want. If you want to be exclusive, I'd be willing to try it."
But, “I don’t even know what I want.” Caradan spent so much time doing what she wanted and then came Starfleet and its rules and regulations, and its multitudinous cultures. Save for Changelings of course. “Changelings do not even have a culture. So, there is no exclusive rule for sex. You can bring home whomever you want I suppose.” She looked back up to Mindo and clearly had a confused expression spread about her face. “Would living together mean we need to get married?”
"No," said Mindo. "That I know for sure. Lots of people, lovers, live with each other without marrying. It's accepted in many cultures." Mindo did not add that he never wanted to get married. He'd been around long enough to know what a mistake that could be.
“That’s good I guess,” she said. “Us Changelings have had long discussions just attempting to understand the concept of marriage. I think I understand coupling.” Her body pulsed lightly from the excitement as she continued. “I…would like…for us…to share…a living space if you find that arrangement agreeable.”
She paused but spoke again before Mindo had a chance to speak. “Of course, with you being a department head, and me the Executive Officer, we will need the captain’s permission to do so. I can already see Shaqdac fuming and turning red. I wonder what he would say.”
"We'd have to go directly to him," said Mindo. "I can't stand that yeoman of his."
"Hmm," Caradan gave a short laugh. "Just wait until you get to know her. Then you may find yourself concocting various methods of body disposal." She shook her head slightly. "She is just doing her job, which is doing whatever Aki tells her to do. I think it is mostly to torment me."
"Agreed," Caradan decided to change the subject. "We shall go to Aki directly. I will set up a meeting, but let's do this tactfully. Maybe wait until this mission is done. He does not seem to want to deal with anything else."
"Sounds like a plan," said Mindo. He kissed Caradan on the lips, noticing how much she was improving in that department. "You're getting quite good at that," he said, adding, "Not that you've ever been bad at it," with a smile.
“What can I say,” said Caradan. “I’ve had a good teacher.”