Mikali smiled broadly down at her friend. The low, gentle rumbling always helped soothe her, wash away whatever was wrong with her in the moment.
sh'Shar: Yes. I was proud of you today. You were obviously angry at Priard, and yet you didn't lose it even at the end. You kept it together and that really helped us both.
Catscratch: It was nothing.
sh'Shar: It was everything. You prevented a catastrophe. ::She smirked playfully.:: A Cat-astrophe.
Catscratch's face wrinkled in anger.
Catscratch: I only did it because of you. If you weren't there, I would have had a swing at him. And I wanted to. Still kind of want to slip by his quarters and weld his door closed...
sh'Shar: Sure, but... "The second thought counts for more." Yes, you might have wanted to knock his silly block off because he was rude to you for no reason, and I did too, but... you didn't. You pulled yourself back. That's what the record will show in the end. You won.
Catscratch grumbled, eyes flicking to the bulkhead.
Catscratch: Doesn't feel like I won. Feels like I'm the one who had to work past midnight grav-lifting a shuttle across the station while my boss got humiliated for no reason. Just for being our boss. I mean, if anyone’s the victim in all of this, it’s One-Joke.
sh'Shar: You won because... ::Mikali leaned down again, giving her friend a firm squeeze, her hair falling down all around Catscratch's chest.:: You didn’t give in. And you haven’t been at your best, so... I am doubly proud of you.
sh'Shar: You've been struggling lately. I can see it, everyone can see it. I don't know what's going on with you. You're late, later than usual, you're slacker than usual, you're... slipping. Something's wrong. ::She nudged Catscratch gently.:: C'mon. I might be able to help.
Catscratch yawned, flashing big sharp feline teeth, then closed her yellow eyes.
Catscratch: Dad's dying.
Mikali's antenna jerked up, her chest tightening.
sh'Shar: I'm sorry, I uh... I didn't know.
Catscratch: Because I didn't say anything, because I hate talking about it. It’s not new; he's been dying for years. Sent me here in a last-ditch attempt to get me straightened out so I can take over the company... but he's dying faster than he thought, and I'm not getting better.
Mikali dipped her head.
sh'Shar: That's awful.
Catscratch: So... he's going to be even madder after today.
sh'Shar: Actually, today was a good step. ::She brushed away her sceptical friend's glare.:: No, seriously. Today you did it.
Catscratch just looked confused.
sh'Shar: You turned the corner.
Mikali nodded emphatically.
sh'Shar: You turned the corner. You started using good judgement. You had an opportunity to take the short-sighted, easy choice and instead you took the long-sighted, difficult choice. The right choice. You now have a good memory behind you, where you know you did the right thing and you can be proud of it. ::She smiled brightly.:: You keep doing that, and eventually, the good behind you will start outweighing the bad.
There was a brief moment of silence as Catscratch digested that. And nearly fell asleep.
Catscratch: Mmf. So... what do I do? How do I stop people like him from treating me like that?
sh’Shar: The only thing you can do. Show up on time, do your work, don’t take shortcuts, especially dangerous ones. ::It was almost unbelievable for her to say it, but it was true.:: You need to be... more like me.
Catscratch: Is that how you’re going to get Valen to say she's proud of you?
sh'Shar: I don't want her to just say it.
Catscratch: Okay, so, how are you going to make her be proud of her?
sh'Shar: I can't make her feel it either.
Catscratch: You know what I mean!
She did, but it was important to be clear.
sh'Shar: The only thing I can do is just do the right thing as much and as often as I can, going forward by using good judgement instead of bad, and hopefully that's enough. If Valen doesn't change her mind about me, then I'll just have to live with that, like everything else. I'll do better next time, with the next counsellor, and if I fail then, then I'll do better again with the next one. And so on and so on.
Catscratch: Sounds like you don't have any idea how to do any of this.
sh'Shar: I don't. And it's not just Valen; there are going to be lots of people in my life that I don't know how to demonstrate change to. Benna. Her other parents. The appeals tribunal. If I get my commission back, then I have to worry about the opinions of other people in the fleet. They're going to judge me. Priard isn’t alone... I’m going to have a lot of him in my life. And they aren't villains for doing so. Everything in my life is going to be a struggle from here-on out, to be tolerated, accepted, liked, trusted... it's going to be very difficult. And there will be some failures. Every day is going to be hard.
Catscratch: Fixing up your life is hard.
sh'Shar: Sure is.
The two snuggled in together on the deck. Mikali kept stroking Catscratch's hair, something that seemed to soothe and calm her, and felt good for herself too.
Catscratch: I'm going to put in a complaint about Priard. He shouldn't have said that thing.
Mikali's antenna stood up, twitching on top of her head.
sh'Shar: I wouldn't.
Catscratch: I'm going to anyway.
It wouldn't go anywhere. There was no proof, and Priard would likely just deny it. It would be his word as a Starfleet Lieutenant against the words of two "charity cases", who both only picked up on it because of their extra senses. And he was frustrated. It wouldn’t hold up.
And even then, what? Even if it was substantiated, "charity case" was hardly the worst thing in the world to call someone.
sh'Shar: Okay. Just understand that nothing will likely happen.
Catscratch: I still want to.
sh'Shar just nodded mutely, slowly stroking at her friend's hair until both of them were asleep on the floor.