((Counseling Suite, Deck 7, USS Juneau)
Counselor Airik Tierney took a sip from a hot cup of tea as he leaned back in the comfortable chair of his office. He spent the last thirty minutes processing a session that didn’t go so well. An ensign, still in grief from the loss of a close family member, was having difficulty focusing. Grief was a highly individualized experience. It was going to be a long road for the ensign. Airik tried to provide reassurance that he was available any time.
Turning his thoughts from processing, Airik focused on his next appointment. Ensign Dekas, an engineering officer, was an Aurelian. Airik had not encountered any other Aurelians in his past. As a rare avian species, they were frequently mentioned in xenobiology and xenopsychology courses.
The sound of his door alert brought Airik’s focus back to the present. Setting down his tea, he made his way over to the door.
Tierney: Ensign, welcome. ::motioning to the room:: Please, make yourself comfortable.
The Aurelian bowed respectfully in greeting. In Airik’s case slightly more than usual, an added light dip forward of the wing. He held mental health professionals in very high regard.
Dekas: Thank you, Counselor.
Airik’s office had various different chairs available for sitting. He let those visiting him select the one they would find most comfortable.
Dekas found one that would allow him to settle his wings over the back of it easiest. (One of the downsides of the wings in a universe where most people outside of his planet didn’t have them, was the discomfort of leaning back in regular chairs not designed for a being with wings.)
Tierney: Can I get you something to drink?
Dekas: I’m alright for now, but I appreciate the offer.
Airik watched as Dekas tilted his head in a good natured way, a version of a smile that could be seen on his face despite the beak. It was very unusual to look into the sentient eyes of an avian species. While there are generalizations made to different cultures, Airik knew that you couldn’t admire the forest and forget the individual trees.
Finally, Airik nodded and joined Dekas, sitting in an adjacent chair.
Tierney: I appreciate you coming to visit. How are you finding yourself these days?
Dekas: I am doing well, and yourself?
Tierney: That’s good to hear, I’m doing well too. This is our first time chatting. I want to be sure you know that whatever we talk about will be held in full confidence. Unless you are going to hurt yourself or someone else, nothing will leave this office.
Dekas: Acknowledged and appreciated.
Tierney: How are you finding your work on the Juneau?
Dekas: The work itself is gratifying. I feel like I’m learning a lot, I like seeing that I’m helping things run the way they’re supposed to. And I do like the people I work with and around. Such a welcoming place. Lovely people. Although I do find if someone hasn’t met me yet, they are often visually surprised by me. I guess I’m a lot of people’s first experience with an Aurelian, and one with flashy coloring to boot. ::he laughed quietly:: I forget I stand out. I look like everyone back home, and I look like no one here. The double-take reaction happened so much during my time at the academy that I’m entertained when it happens now. You take the humor where you can find it.
Dekas shrugged with his wing.
Tierney: ::nodding:: It is often instinctual curiosity that brings people to surprise. Did something in particular bring you to me today?
Dekas: Basic check in, mostly. ::he hmm’d in thought:: Though there are also a few things that have been crossing my mind since we got back from Aturn VII. Nothing major, but they’re still worth talking through.
Tierney: That’s a good place to start then, I imagine.
Dekas: Well, in the short time I’ve been here there have been two situations where people were kidnapped. And that is enough to worry about in itself. But that’s not all that it made me think about.
Tierney: It’s a highly traumatizing situation.
Dekas: It reminded me of the last conversation I had with my sister Koori.
It was certainly an opening for Airik. The Counselor was willing to enter.
Tierney: Your sister? I’d like to hear more about her and your conversation.
The Aurelian nodded once.
Dekas: Out of 12 siblings, Koori is the one I felt closest to. We both relate to feeling unusual in some way. Most of my family leans into the arts, or the sciences. Maybe medical. Teaching. All great things to be proud of. Koori was the only one to feel like her purpose was more distinctly spiritual in nature than most. I am the only one of us to feel like what I have to offer isn’t contained to one small piece of the universe. I don’t know what that is yet, but I still feel that’s true to this moment. And those unique qualities in both of us led to us having a deep, spiritual bond with each other that I’ve never had with anyone else in my family.
Tierney: It sounds like your relationship with her was very important to you.
Dekas: She was the first one I told about Starfleet. And she wasn’t happy with my decision to leave. She was very strong in her opinion that I shouldn’t. She wouldn’t try to stop me if I ended up going, but she tried to persuade me out of it before I could make a decision she thought I’d regret. That was the first time I’d ever seriously fought with her and realized that any compromise would mean one of us was unhappy. I had to choose my own future, or my bond with my best friend. I chose myself.
Tierney: You’ve carried that with you for some time.
Dekas: I have. I put it out of my mind for a while. Focused on my goals. But there was a strange moment on that planet after hearing that the other part of the away team had been taken where I gave genuine thought to the possibility that I made the wrong choice. That my upset emotions about that fight kept me from thinking clearly the way that I needed to. Maybe she was right.
Tierney: I see.
Airik thought about the unfortunate reality of transference and the power of emotions that can be hidden, cropping up when they want.
Dekas mindlessly brought a hand up to feel over the tattoo on his beak.
Dekas: I’m not the first Dekas in my family. My parents gave me his name in hopes that maybe I could be so incredible. But the first Dekas was around when the Orions tried to take over, and before we were part of the federation. He was taken by the Orions, and he was one of the many that were never found again. Misfortune also isn’t unheard of in Starfleet. My sister worries deeply that I’ll end up following in the other Dekas’ footsteps somehow. Orions, or Starfleet incidents, it doesn’t matter. A loss is still a loss and that’s enough to be tragic. ::he sighed:: she didn’t say goodbye to me when I left, and any conversation I’ve had with her since is colored by a barrier I can’t seem to fly over. It’s like she can only see the other Dekas. Sometimes when I look at myself I see him, too. I feel very strongly that I’m meant to be exactly where I am right now. I have no intention of leaving Starfleet. I don’t want to, I love it here. I don’t regret that decision. But what if I was wrong?
Tierney: You don’t seem to be second-guessing yourself. This happens when we assume there is a right way and a wrong way in life. When good things are a result of second-guessing, we call that a strong sense of self-awareness, introspection. When bad things happen, we call that being self-conscious or insecure. It sounds like you are confident in your decision. Does that sound right?
Dekas: I’d say so, yes. Some part of me always has been even when it was only conceptual that I could eventually leave.
Tierney: It’s the relationship with your sibling that is most discomforting. Is that right?
Dekas ‘hmm’d in response. It wasn’t often that he felt the contradicting nature of a decision. He’d always been encouraged to choose what felt best, and back home the possibility that things would end differently never felt too daunting a thought. There was always an understanding that cooperation and working at it meant that full potential was still reached. It was only after that conversation that he’d felt the increase, however small, in the insecurity of certain things.
Dekas: It is. Her thoughts mean a lot to me. It almost makes sense that she’d feel disagreeable to this. Being here means my connection to others isn’t as tightly knit. There’s an inherently higher risk that people’s intent toward me isn't as genuine. But I don’t know if she realizes that it hurt as much as it did to try and keep me from being hurt by others.
The feathers around his face fluffed up as it occurred to him that he’d never said as much to her after the fact.
Tierney: And, ideally, what would the situation look like if you could have it your way?
Dekas: If I could have my way I’d have that conversation with her in person, and she’d learn to trust that I can handle a tough situation and come back from it. I have more resources at my disposal to help myself than people of the past did. And I can trust the people around me when I’m lacking. I can’t imagine anyone here trying to cause me harm on purpose. Nor can I imagine them not doing their very best to help me out of a rough spot. Ideally she’d trust my judgement on that. I think that would help ease both of us after being away for so long.
Tierney: Do you feel confident you could tell her that in person? If you were to arrange leave?
He ran a hand through the feathers on his head.
Dekas: I think if I took some time to visit home during a future leave I could make it happen. It would be a disservice to us both if I didn’t at least try. Plus it might be nice to be around other Aurelians again for a short time. ::soft laugh:: It’s flattering that people are intrigued by me, but I do miss feeling like I wasn’t a little, ah, visually out of place.
Dekas definitely hit a cord when mentioning wanting to be around others of the same culture. Airik hadn’t seen an Ullian in quite some time. There was something comforting about being around ‘your own kind.’ Not that being on the Juneau was unpleasant - it’s just not the same feeling as returning to your birthplace.
Airik also resonated with looking different. He’d been looked at as a ghost, a corpse. Earth certainly was a melting pot of sorts, but the majority were still humans. Many brushed off differences with ease, but some were uncomfortable around physical differences.
Tierney: I can certainly empathize with you, Dekas, and I appreciate you sharing this with me. It seems to me that you have thought this through pretty carefully and are just vocalizing it with me.
Dekas: You’re right. But I find sometimes saying things puts things into a better perspective, or allows me to sort out a solution quicker.
Airik paused for a moment, letting silence fill the space.
Tierney: While it would be wonderful if your sister were to listen and respond positively, but, Dekas, what if she doesn’t? Are you prepared to receive a negative response?
The engineer knew it was a possibility. Their last conversation in person hadn’t been so positive. And most conversations over subspace hadn’t been alone. His parents and any number of his other siblings were there, too. Sometimes a sibling’s child could be known to squawk excitedly about their whereabouts. It did enough to put certain things out of mind. However he didn’t dwell too deeply on what could happen in a scenario where things didn’t go too smoothly.
He crossed one leg over the other and leaned his face against his palm.
Dekas: Hmm, well, I pride myself on having feathers that aren’t so easily plucked. Yet I do know that it would hurt deeply if things went badly a second time. Maybe worse than the first time.
Tierney: Perhaps, at the same time you would have had the conversation which might alleviate some of your current anxiety.
Dekas: And I think if I worked on coping with the outcome, I could learn how to handle it. Handle the new dynamic between us.
Tierney: I will also be here to help if you need. We can’t control the actions of others and can only offer them information to help guide their decisions. You seem to have considered this a lot.
Dekas: ::nodding:: I’ve put it off for the entirety of being at the academy and here. I’ve had a while to think about it. But I will definitely make sure to ask for help when I need it in this process.
Dekas: Well ::a beat to remember his name:: Airik. I appreciate you taking the time to chat. I feel it’s been very helpful to me. ::he gave him a slightly playful, very avian smile:: would you say I’m fit for duty?
Tierney: ::smiling:: I think that’s a safe assumption.
Dekas: Marvelous! ::he stood, careful not to accidentally knock something over with his wings:: Perhaps we grab lunch sometime. You are lovely to talk to. Lovely in general. Otherwise I will see you around. Hopefully with similarly positive results.
Being a ship, boundaries were...interesting. Airik nodded.
Dekas gave him a respectful bow of his head and took his leave.