The Denobulan took a long breath as he processed her words, her tone… and her laughter.
Yael: I… did. Until… you laughed. Now… I’m confused.
DeVeau: I’m confused myself. Why did you think I was indicating I was interested in you romantically?
Yael: The Christmas gift was so *personal.* You… put a lot of thought into the triggering device. I thought…
Alora stared at him again, then smiled gently.
DeVeau: You are so dumb sometimes.
Whatever was happening in his mind came to a screeching halt, and the expression on his face probably said what he wanted to say better than he could say it. He was still confused.
DeVeau: I do love you, Ash, but not like that. You’re one of my best friends. I care about you. And when I give a gift to someone, I don’t like it to be just something I found and though ‘oh this is nice’. I like gifts I give to people to have meaning for them.
Even if they weren’t close friends, Alora liked to personalize presents. She’d always been that way.
Yael: Oh… ::processing, and realizing he’d overthought the gift situation:: … then… I suppose it was just *me*.
He stopped himself talking as he realized what those words potentially revealed, and he gave her another smile, but this one wasn’t so nervous as the one prior. Though he was glad she wasn’t upset at the rejection, he was also swept up in it himself… and a little disappointment on his own part. Time to recover.
Yael: It was all in my head, I mean. ::pausing, he glanced at the water again::: I’m just gunna throw myself into the shark pool now.
Once again, Alora let out a laugh, softer, more musical in its quality.
DeVeau: Would you feel better if I told you the gifts I got other people? And feel free to jump in the water . They won’t bite. ::She paused.:: Hard.
Yael: Okay. ::he ran a hand over his face, pushing his wet hair off his forehead:: Well, that was the easiest rejection in history.
Hers, or his, he wouldn’t say.
Alora glanced at him briefly, but turned her gaze to focus on the pool and the sharks once more.
DeVeau: It’d be easy to fall in love with you, you know.
Very easy. Ashley was so sweet. He was caring, thoughtful, kind, respectful. So many things that were positive in a man. He deserved someone who would love him unconditionally. He deserved many good things in his life, even if it seemed like he didn’t believe that about himself.
Yael: ::with some forced humor now:: I bet you say that to *all* the hearts you break.
DeVeau: Ha! I haven’t broken any. You’re a wonderful guy. But...it would never work out, even if I did have that type of inclination.
Yael: ::more seriously now:: Out of curiosity… why wouldn’t it work?
DeVeau: Well, am I wrong that you’re probably inclined to be involved in a polygamous relationship?
Alora knew about Denobulans and their culture. That was just how they were, and while there wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, she just wasn’t wired that way. She just knew she couldn’t handle that.
Yael: ::nodding, agreeing naturally:: Typically, yes. Most Denobulans are polygamous. Three wives, with three husbands, and all that. ::then, adding a bit more quietly:: Not that the gender is terribly important.
It was a documented fact that most Denobulans were bisexual, though most endeavored to have biological children in some way regardless of their orientation, as it was expected. He was no exception to all that.
DeVeau: I couldn’t do that. I’m a one person girl, and I just couldn’t be in a relationship that had more than myself and a man. When I give myself, I give myself completely - and that’s what I want in return.
Glancing at her, he hadn’t even considered that would be an issue. But many Humans *were* monogamous, after all, so perhaps it was his own internal assumption and mistake.
Yael: Yeah, that would definitely not be a great situation. Sounds like a good way to hurt everyone involved. ::then, smiling more naturally:: A good reason to put our cards on the table now, so… maybe I *won’t* sacrifice myself to the shark tank. It’s nice to know where you stand.
Though, he couldn’t help but be even a little more disappointed. He restrained it and kept the smile firmly in place. *He* was the one initially doing the rejecting, so it didn’t make sense to be disappointed… did it?
DeVeau: Heh. Besides, you wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with me, even if it were something to be considered.
Now he just gave her a confused, raised eyebrow, clearly intending for her to explain.
Yael: I can’t see why I… or someone, I mean… *shouldn’t* consider it. You’re incredibly accomplished, intelligent. The chief of your division.
Beautiful, forward thinking, thoughtful. He could go on, but he didn’t want to overdo it.
Alora rolled her eyes and continued the list.
DeVeau: Let’s see, I’ve been called, stubborn, mule-headed (which is the same thing, but maybe not as nice), hyperactive, overly emotional, and annoying. I’m sure there are other things I’ve been called, but I can’t read people’s minds so…
Yael: Yeah. And? ::he laughed lightly:: I talk too much. Kind of neurotic. I overthink *everything*. I can’t even *touch* people freely. Who’s going to want to deal with all that?
He wasn’t competing, but his tone was a positive one. They *all* had flaws and faults. The right people would see through them. Isn’t that how love worked?
Yael: We’ve all got our issues. I can’t imagine you’ll go long without someone pestering you for your attention.
DeVeau: Oh, that’s right. Talk too much. I forgot to put that on my list.
Someone pestering her for her attention. She cringed at that, even outwardly.
Yael: Unless… you already have someone on your mind?
Yael: ::his eyebrow rising in disbelief:: No?
She repeated herself, the word softer than before.
Her frown reappeared, deepening the shadows on her face, and Alora looked askance at him.
Yael: It sounds very much like there’s something going on. Or someone, on your mind.
There it was. That expression. That hardness that came over her when she was fighting something, ready to either meet it head on, or walk away because she refused to .
Yael: You can *tell* me, Alora. These sharks bite more than I do.
DeVeau: I can’t, Ashley.
Yael: Why not?
DeVeau: Because...I just can’t.
He sat in silence for a moment, recalling the last time she’d said such a thing to him. She’d rather *exploded* at him after he pushed further, and he didn’t want to do any harm. Time to retreat.
Yael: Okay. ::pausing:: But if you change your mind, your chatty, neurotic friend is here to listen.
What could she say? That she still had confusion over Sal? Over what happened? That maybe those feelings weren’t completely gone at all? That all these what ifs about him kept running through her head and she knew they weren’t supposed to?
DeVeau: It’s not right.
She muttered under her breath, not quite realizing she’d said it allowed.
Yael: What isn’t right?
Yael: ::smiling knowingly:: You may as well tell me now. I’d have you tell me, so I can try to help.
Try to help? How could he help with this? Alora reached up, a hand running over her face, then shook her head.
The Denobulan noted the hemming and hawing, and decided to dive into it. It was going to happen sooner or later, and with Alora, if he didn’t push, it was usually later. MUCH later.
Yael: Does this have anything to do with the Gratitude Festival issue? … did you go for treatment?
Alora took a deep breath. Already she could feel the tension in her throat and she desperately didn’t want it to go any further. Gathering herself together, she answered softly.
Yael: Did you get to feeling better?
Ashley’s question was met with silence as Alora mulled over what she could possibly answer to that. There were so many things running through her mind, she wasn’t sure what to think.
DeVeau: Yes and no.
Yael: Yes *and* no? How so? Did the treatment not work?
It had seemed pretty effective on most other people, himself included. He briefly recalled that gloriously humiliating night where he’d hit on Nijil, driving the First Officer away, then planted a kiss right on Doctor Foster in Sickbay. It was all crystal clear after being treated.
Alora squirmed. Actually physically squirmed, her face scrunching up, either in distaste or confusion.
DeVeau: I don’t know.
Yael: ::confused:: … you don’t know?
DeVeau: I can’t help but...think. About things.
Yael: ::almost biting his tongue:: About Sal?
Yael: Did you tell Doctor Bailey the treatment wasn’t effective? She could try again. A stronger dose?
Yael: ::extrapolating from her minimal answers:: You’re saying you think the treatment worked, but… you’re dwelling on what you felt?
DeVeau: I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m still feeling what I felt or if I am only thinking about what I felt so it feels like I’m feeling, or...or what.
Tears began to well up in her eyes, though Alora struggled to prevent them from escaping.
DeVeau: And….and...I know I shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t be thinking about it. I shouldn’t be thinking about him, or about the way I felt with him. I shouldn’t be feeling this way at all.
Amethyst eyes set on her, and he realized this was an ongoing issue that she’d been dwelling on since the Festival. That was a long time… but why would she be obsessing over how she felt about Captain Taybrim? It wasn’t that the feelings were *offensive.* In fact, they were kind of *nice* while it was happening.
Yael: Why shouldn’t you feel that way at all? You’re *allowed* to feel these things. Especially since it was a chemical response… it wasn’t in your control.
But that was *logic,* and logic didn’t always work on feelings. Alora wasn’t processing her feelings for some reason, and there was probably a cause for that.
DeVeau: No. No, I’m not supposed to.
He thought on her answer for a long moment, then his head lifted and he turned to look at her again from his position facing the shark pool. He had a feeling he knew the answer before he asked the question.
Yael: When *was* the last time you felt this way?
There was another intake of breath, shaky, an attempt to calm herself. To some extent, it worked. Although a couple of tears escaped, trickling down her cheeks, although she didn’t turn and look at him, as if she couldn’t quite face him, she didn’t rise and run, didn’t try to flee - something that had been all too common an occurrence prior. However, she also didn’t answer. She didn’t need to. He knew what she would say.
Yael: ::nodding toward her:: Right… I get it. I get it.
Did he? Did he really get it? Alora didn’t think he did. How could he? How could he possibly understand? Once more, she shook her head, another tear spilling over. Alora reached up, fingers wiping the moisture away.
Yael: By feeling these things for Sal… for *anyone*, maybe… it’s reminding you how you felt for *him*. ::he paused, then continued:: Do you feel as if you betrayed him, by feeling those things for Sal?
The Denobulan hybrid counselor wasn’t pulling any punches.
Hadn’t they already gone over that? Alora pulled her legs close, wrapping her arms around them. It didn’t make sense. None of it made sense.
DeVeau: I’m not supposed to…
To love him? Alora remembered saying that to him at the festival.
DeVeau: I’m not supposed to have feelings for him. For anyone.
She still loved Kalin. How could she have feelings for anyone else? How could she choose anyone else?
Yael: That’s… not really realistic, Alora. It’s bound to happen eventually, right?
DeVeau: I don’t know.
Alora shook her head again and released her knees so she could run both hands over her face.
DeVeau: I feel like...it’s wrong.
And yet it wasn’t wrong She didn’t know what it was.
Yael: That’s okay. You can feel that way. But maybe… just for a moment… consider the possibility that your feelings might not be wrong… just *inaccurate.* Not that they aren’t valid, or real. But… it can’t be wrong to feel affection, or love.
DeVeau: I don’t know, Ashley. It doesn’t feel right. I loved Kalin. I love Kalin.
Yael: You’ve felt a strong bond, and it was taken away from you. It can be easy to think it can never happen again. Or that it’s a betrayal if it does. But it’s *not* a betrayal. You’re still alive and you deserve to feel love again.
DeVeau: It feels like a betrayal. Not that it matters.
Yael: Why doesn’t it matter?
DeVeau: He’s not interested. Even if he was, I shouldn’t be.
The Denobulan hybrid smiled at her, but a little sadly.
Yael: I think you’re being too hard on yourself. Though, I completely understand how *jarring* it must have been, to suddenly realize it could happen again.
Jarring? Confusing? Ashley didn’t know what it was like, to have that cavernous whole in your heart. Then to have it suddenly filled again, without warning? Jarring? Yes. And yet...she hadn’t wanted to let it go. That was why Alora had been so hesitant to get treated. If nothing else, she felt less like she was about to tumble over the edge, like there was somewhere there to catch her should she fall.
Yael: Have you *asked* him? You can’t know if you don’t ask.
DeVeau: Ask? Ask? No. No way. If he’s interested, he’ll say something. Since he hasn’t, he’s not.
Alora shook her head vehemently and crossed her hands, then separated in a sharp motion.
Yael: Okay, nothing says you have to. ::trying not to chuckle at her exaggerated response:: Just a thought. So… how are you processing your feelings, then?
DeVeau: I’m processing them.
Yael: So, just clamping them down and ignoring them so they can fester quietly as a mental illness, then?
He gave her a smile that hinted at the humor in his dismal assessment.
The scientist heaved another sigh, then shook her.
DeVeau: I acknowledge I have these emotions and am struggling with them right now. There. Now, how about you? Sounds like you had some rather...interesting reactions to the spiked spring wine.
Yael: Hey. We’re talking about *you* right now. Don’t change the subject.
DeVeau: So it’s okay for us to talk about my feelings, but not yours?
Alora frowned, tilting toward her friend.
DeVeau: Why are you so hesitant to process your thoughts on things?
Yael: I don’t know what you mean.
His smile was solidly in place as he lied through his teeth. His feelings during the Gratitude Festival had been very… instinctual. Not love, but *amorous*, and toward several people. It was the Denobulan in him… but they were feelings he didn’t let himself act on, normally. With his aversion to touch, the most he could hope to handle was getting smashed into on the ice rink during iceball with Ithri, or a slap on the back while shooting with Meeks.
DeVeau: Liar. You know exactly what I mean. I love you Ashley, but you’re really bad at taking care of yourself. How are you feeling about what happened?
His smile diminished now somewhat, and he looked back into the shark pool. After a while he finally answered honestly.
Yael: ::softly:: Lonely. Actually.
Boy did Alora understand that. She had been lonely before. After finding Kalin, then losing him, even the presence of her friends had done little to ease that ache, an ache that was second only to grief. Part of the trouble with what had happened during the Festival had been that the experience had only compounded the feeling. It sounded like Ashley felt similarly.
Yael: It was a nice reminder of all the things I can’t reciprocate in the way people need.
DeVeau: It was a nice reminder of what I’ve lost.
Yael: So… we’re on the same boat.
Which was an ironic thing to say while on a holographic cruise ship.
That elicited a smile and Alora glanced down, her emotions bouncing between amusement and, honestly, wanting to cry.
DeVeau: Seems like it.
Yael: Maybe we could *both* work on processing those things.
Another small shark broke the surface, gliding along and splashing with its tail before submerging again.
Yael: I’m so *done* swimming for today.
DeVeau: Yeah. Me too.
Heaving a sigh, Alora pushed herself to her feet and gazed down at her friend.
DeVeau: What else does this ship have to offer?
Yael: Let’s find out.
Ensign Ashley Yael
Starbase 118 Ops
Lt. Cmdr. Alora DeVeau
Starbase 118 Ops