BACKPOST: Mindo, Riaan, and the Scientific Method
Timeline: Before the split
There really had been nowhere good to have this talk. Her office was for Starfleet duties. This was not one of them. The Mess Hall was too public. The Holodeck was too informal. Her own quarters were too personal, his quarters even more so. After thinking about the problem, she had settled on her quarters.
Their last private meeting had been when Mindo had invited her over for Movie night and Riaan had been forced to come to grips with Mindo and Caradan's relationship. She was still struggling with that. So she had thought it best to talk to Mindo as well. So she waited nervously for Mindo to arrive.
The chime rang.
Riaan moved to the door and opened it for Mindo. "Hey Mindo."
The doors swished open and Mindo walked a few steps in. "Hey Riaan," he said, a little concern in his voice. "What's up?"
Mindo was unaware of Riaan's inner conflict, as he had detected none of the tension during the movie they had watched. But Riaan's words in the message she had sent to him suggested there was something wrong. Mindo wondered why she was coming to him and not Caradan. Were she and Caradan having trouble? Or was there something else?
Riaan moved towards the couch and motioned for him to take a seat. "A lot of things. However, there is something I want to talk to you about that's been happening with me." Riaan explained.
Riaan waited for him to take a seat before continuing. "What do you know about Ziara and I's relationship?" She asked.
Mindo was a little confused by the question, and he began to wonder if this was about him and Ziara. It suddenly occurred to him that he and Riaan had a few likewise connections with the same people.
He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "I don't really know anything," he said, trying to be as delicate as he could. "I know you are married and I know Ziara has an assignment elsewhere... is this about the shuttlecraft?"
Riaan was confused for a moment, "No, I knew about that before most of the crew. Ziara and I have been together for a while, and because of that I can trust her reactions in certain situations. We are also polyamerous, meaning that I don't have any hard feelings about you and Ziara."
Riaan paused to collect her thoughts, "In short, I've been with Ziara for long enough that I know what's going to happen when you and her hook up. Not the physical stuff, but the emotional things that happen and what it means for our relationship."
Riaan considered what to say next. "I'm not at that point with Caradan yet. I typically like to take things slow and controlled. Things that rock the boat, change the status quo are to be avoided as I figure out a relationship. Does that make sense?" Riaan asked.
Mindo was definitely confused. What did she mean by emotional stuff? What was this "status quo?" What the hell was she trying to say?
"No," Mindo said at last. The word came out slowly, almost cautiously. "I didn't understand any of that." There was an uncomfortable pause, and Mindo felt he needed to say something more.
"My... 'relationship' with Ziara was just a fling. More of a typical friendship, really. At least, for me. Feserians view sexual relations as a casual thing amongst friends. Our view of exclusive relationships are so non-existent I'm still trying to figure out all the odds and ends." There was another pause. There was something else wrong. "Is this about Cara and me?" he asked.
Riaan shook her head, "No, it's not. Or at least it's not directly. It's about my feelings and relationship with Caradan. Even though I know my feelings are unreasonable, I still feel them. I'm committed to being in a relationship where I'm not the only one who cares for Caradan or Ziara in the same way I do. It's very beautiful in the abstract. However, the implementation and reality of it are a lot more messy and if I'm perfectly honest, I'm not coping with it as well as I thought."
Riaan paused thoughtfully, trying to think about how to explain to Mindo what the problem was. "I think we are all trying to figure this relationship out. So, let me ask you a question, 'What is love?'"
Mindo was taken aback. He hadn't realized how complicated this whole thing was. Come to think of it, he'd actually thought it had been rather simple up to this point. But the question 'What is love' hung in the air. How does one define love? Mindo loved Romulan ale. Mindo loved being in Starfleet.
Mindo loved Caradan.
He could not deny that the word "love" had different meanings for different situations. So... what is love, Mindo?
"Love..." Mindo started, "...is surrender. It is not a tangible object that is easily seen or defined. It is not something that controls us. People choose to hate. They don't choose to love. Love chooses itself. I didn't ask to care for Caradan as deeply as I do. It just happened. I love her. And in loving her, I think that means I want and desire the best for her. My race doesn't know jealousy. If she wants to be with someone else, I won't despair. I just want her to be as happy as she can be."
Mindo paused for just a second, but he wasn't done. "I consider you a friend, Riaan. So I want you to be happy too. How you go about that is your business, not mine. I'm in no way trying to 'compete' with you. This isn't a tug of war. It's whatever love chooses to do."
Riaan nodded, considering what he had said. "I agree, it isn't a tug of war. And well, I want the same for Caradan and you. However, I think you got off lightly with being a part of a species that doesn't know jealousy in the same way that mine does. Just because that's how I know I'm supposed to feel and want to feel doesn't mean that's how I actually feel."
"How do you feel?" asked Mindo.
Riaan thought for a moment about how best to explain it. "Confused, uncertain, worried. I could probably use a sciency example, but that might go over your head. So I'll try to use an an engineering one that Ziara talked to me about. Every ship has it's unique sound and rhythm. Ziara pointed it out to me the first time we moved ships together. The fans near our quarters on our old ship, the Norway, had this sort of a 'Shhuuuuuuum. Shhuuuuuuum.' sort of sound. Of course the Christian is much bigger with an upgraded ventilation system. It had more of a 'tktuh-tktuh-tktuh-tktuh'. Ziara couldn't sleep easily the first few nights we were there because she wasn't sure if the sound was normal or it meant something was wrong with the ship. It's like that. Being on a new ship with all of these strange new sounds so you don't know what is normal and what means that there is a problem."
Riaan paused, "Does that help?" She asked.
The analogy made Mindo think of Ziara, how she purred when they were close. How all people breathed different when close.
"That's probably the sexiest analogy anyone has ever used with me," he said on impulse. "How different ships are like different people. Their sounds... smells... tastes..."
He stood up, realizing his alcohol level must be low. Suddenly he was very aroused.
"I really need to get a drink now," he said, starting to sweat. "Unless, of course, you want me to get in your space and show you my constellations..." He grimaced. "OK, bad line... do you have anything to drink? Something strong? I need to dull my senses."
Mindo had never "jumped" someone full-on without their permission, but he hated finding himself in situations where his own libido drove him crazy. This talk had turned from uncomfortable to... well, uncomfortably comfortable.
Now Riaan was uncomfortable. "Umm. Sure." She said, getting up and replicating a bottle of whisky and two glasses. She sat it down on the table and poured them each a glass.
Riaan wasn't sure what to do about Mindo. She took a drink as she considered. It wasn't good whisky, but it was strong. "Mindo, I don't talk a lot about certain parts of my past. They are not pleasant memories. I was forced into prostitution for some years. After that, well... I've got issues with touching and intimacy. It took a long time to break through those barriers with people I'm close to. I'm not close to you so it would probably be closer to the former rather then the latter. I could come to hate you, and I don't want to do that."
Riaan took another drink, considering the situation. "That said, both of my partners trust you. If I were to explore that part of me, you do make an obvious choice. So if I were to say yes, how would you approach me?" She asked.
Mindo downed the nasty whiskey fast and poured himself another glass, already beginning to feel better... awkward, but better.
He took another sip and cleared his throat. "I'd be a little more careful than I was just now. Feserians drink alcohol to dull their more carnal instincts. We enjoy being intimate with many different kinds of people. Intimacy is a larger part of our culture and customs than many other races. I suppose my 'approach' would be similar to your engine analogy. I'd have to get a real feel of your mechanics before giving them my touch. Engines are like people. They all require different treatment, but they all need one thing: fuel. I suppose my approach would be to find something in me or about me that you need and... well, feed you."
Riaan considered it, there were several people who she wanted to talk to before she would make a decision. She was also worried that she hadn't communicated her worries to Mindo. "That's an interesting strategy. Do you have any leads on what that might be?" She asked in her soft voice.
"Security," Mindo replied. "Right now I think you need security. The reassurance that someone loves you above everyone else."
Riaan swirled the whisky in her glass as she thought, "Keep talking."
Mindo continued. "This is just a guess. I admit I don't know you well enough to truly have a conclusion, so any 'leads' I may have are hardly substantial. I don't know, maybe we should change that."
Riaan thought for a moment. "Perhaps we should. Your suggestions?" She asked.
"You're the scientist," said Mindo. "Isn't there some kind of procedure here? A scientific method? You ask a question, make a hypothesis, and then..."
Riaan nodded, "To be honest, not really. I've found romance to be somewhat irrational at times. However, if you want to look at it from the point of view of the scientific method. My question is if you are someone who I can explore myself with. The null hypothesis is that you aren't and the alternative hypothesis is that you are. So what happens next is you ask questions to help clarify the answer."
Mindo set down his drink and scooted closer to Riaan, his eyes locked onto hers. He put his hand on hers and brought it up to his chest, carefully caressing it. Riaan was shocked into stillness by Mindo's forwardness.
"Engineers don't ask questions," he said. "We prefer to go straight to the core. My core tells me two people I care about, care about you a great deal. I could tell by the moment I saw you that you are a beautiful woman. But I feel like you don't trust me. But Cara loves you and so does Ziara. And you love and trust them. I don't want to force you into anything, but I do desperately want that trust. Truth is, I care a great deal for you. So the only question to ask is, Will you have me?"
Riaan's voice went to a place of cold anger. "No. Get out." She hissed.
Having faced rejection several times (to make an omelet you have to break some eggs) Mindo's first inclination was to leave. But this response startled him. Never had anyone been so frigid with him. He hesitated for a moment, wondering what kind of trouble he'd stirred up now. But he wasn't the type to persist whenever someone said no.
"I'm sorry if I offended you," he said softly, and hopped off the couch. He started to say something else, but then decided against it. Quietly he exited Riaan's quarters, shocked and a little confused.
Once Mindo was gone, Riaan stood and looked out the window. She took a breath to calm herself down. That had not gone the way she wanted. When he had touched her, the spell had been broken. She had liked the idea, or at least the possibility of the idea of Mindo. However, Mindo in fact had turned out to be just like all the rest.
She deliberately unclinched the fists that her hands were making. She glanced over to the Mandala on the wall and wondered what the prophets might say. Probably something about forgiving Mindo. She wasn't sure she wanted to forgive him, and she certainly wouldn't forget.