One Time Disclaimer: I do not own any rights or portions of Star Trek, The Star Trek Universe or any characters already established in the Star Trek Universe. The characters of my own Original Mind happen to be from the Star Trek Universe but I do not benefit monetarily in any way, shape or form from any of these characters.
Lieutenant Kaira Tenary rushed down to Deck 9 via turbolift. She'd met with Counselor Troi in the past under informal circumstances but she had the feeling this time there was some catch to this meeting. Besides the fact that no one had seen the counselor aboard ship for almost four weeks and during that time she wasn't listed as being on shore leave. She was, in fact, listed officially as 'active duty' status. If you tried to probe as to where that status was you were given the indirect answer of 'unspecified' and pushed out of the Starfleet Personnel Database without even being allowed to sign off. And now, yesterday, she'd suddenly reappeared on board the Enterprise and was calling to speak with a bunch of crew members including Kaira.
During the counselor's absence her case load had been handled by several other members of Starfleet. No one knew how hard the counselor worked until they tallied everything and realized it would take three people to do her job. Lieutenant Tenary had always admired the counselor, not just because she was a complement of the crew in hard times, but because of her abilities as an empath and her obvious femininity as well as her ability to roll with the punches. Some of the female crewmembers, she knew, did not like the counselor. But Kaira knew these females were simply threatened by the woman on many levels.
Once outside her quarters, she was eager to see her friend again for the first time in a month. Where had she been? And what was so urgent now? Once she rang the chime, the door swept open instantly. The counselor probably knew who was there before they even rang, thought Kaira. But who she saw was not what she'd expected. Rushing into the room, she sat down next to her friend and exclaimed, without thinking, "You look awful! I mean you're still gorgeous as sin, but what happened out there?"
"Well thank you," said Deanna as she smiled, her beauty still intact. She knew she had lost a good seven pounds and had black circles under her eyes. The captain decreed she would take another month off, this time of shore leave, especially after what she'd been through on behalf of Starfleet. "I earned looking this bad."
Kaira hugged her friend. "I'm so glad to see you again! I was so worried about you when you just disappeared on us. I knew you were probably on assignment."
"I was worried about me, too," joked the counselor as she hugged her back, except she wasn't really joking.
"You've been through hell, haven't you?" asked the Lieutenant, unable to withstand the thought of someone like Deanna being hurt in any way.
"What I've been through is classified, but yes, it was hell," she said as the shadow of something passed her face. Snapping herself out of it, she said, "It's nothing a month on Betazed won't fix."
Kaira said nothing more. If the counselor was actually going back home for her month off things must have been bad indeed. She decided to change the subject hoping it would help Deanna feel a little better. "So you've come to pack and call all your friends and ask them to give you back the clothes they borrowed? I already gave you back that dress, remember?" she smiled.
Deanna smiled again and this time it reached her eyes. "Yes, I remember. But actually, no, I've been trying to cover the reports that were waiting for me when I got back. I have to tie up some loose ends so I won't be worried while I'm away."
"And you called me because…"
"Actually I've dealt with every report except for one. I didn't quite know what to do with it. And then it occurred to me that you might be the one person who could handle this case."
Kaira frowned. "Case?"
Deanna saw the look on her face and actually laughed out loud. "It's not my fault you allowed yourself to check off 'willing to help ship's counselor' on that little box during your academy days when they directed you to the 'empath' section."
"That was before they discovered my flaw," whispered Kaira.
Deana patted her hand gently. "Don't worry. There won't be any touching of anyone's mind or feelings this time."
The lieutenant was relived. "I wouldn't want to make things worse for you when you get back."
"I think this case is unique and you're one of the only people that can handle it." Deanna stood and retrieved a data pad. "All of the particulars are on here."
Kaira retrieved the pad and began flipping through the information by pressing the page down button. And she was floored by the information on it. "You're kidding me, right? Why me?"
Deanna sighed. "Because first of all, all the other empaths are taken and he wouldn't want one of those working with him, anyway. It's not as if he'll let his screens down. Second, you're one of the most logical choices. You have a way with people and I thought that might rub off on him. And third, you understand a lot of races in Starfleet. You've actively studied most of them and you make it your business to get into their social ways and customs; who better to help someone accused of having no empathy whatsoever? And also, aren't your people related to his somehow?"
Kaira nodded. "Just because the Beleine are genetically very similar to Vulcans doesn't mean we have anything in common with them. Besides, I'm only half Beleine. My mother is human."
"And my father was human, too, but one half of me does not cancel out the other."
She knew she couldn't argue with Deanna on that account. If anyone understood being a hybrid, the counselor did. "All right. I'll do this…but this is for you. I know Lieutenant Commander Sarkaal and he's not going to be very cooperative with me. Not that I blame him."
Shocked, Deanna asked, "Didn't you see that list of grievances?"
"Troi, the man is a Vulcan and a superior officer. We have to take them how they are, lock, stock and barrel and stop expecting them to change who they are to fit in with how emotional we can be."
The counselor smiled. "It sounds to me like you see his point of view already. Now I'm sure you can help him loosen up, so to speak, so he doesn't have a mutiny on his hands in his department. And besides, he agreed to be loosened up."
"The Commander agreed?" she asked, in disbelief.
"The Lt. Commander knows he's lacking in what we would call social graces for more emotional species. And he wants to find ways that he can satisfy others in the ways of courtesy and surface understanding."
Deanna smiled. "Because, as he pointed out, 'logically more will be accomplished if morale were to elevate' in his department."
"That sounds like the Lt. Commander."
Deanna noticed that that sentence was spoken with no malice. "You really don't have a problem with the man like most other crewmembers."
Kaira shrugged. "Well from what I can see from the data pad, he's had next to no contact with non-Vulcans until he entered Starfleet Academy. It's a wonder he decided to join. Then he's spent the last twenty years on two different Vulcan ships. I guess I can understand what's happened here. He went into his new assignment expecting a level of efficiency that can only be met by Vulcans and what he got was…not that. And to top it all off the crew have taken to seeing him as…" she flipped through the data pad and quoted another lieutenant, "'a cold-hearted bastard with no warmth and zero feeling'. Meanwhile, the man is just being himself, he's not actively trying to piss people off by not smiling at them when someone gives him a cheerful 'good morning'."
"So you'll do it?"
"Against my better judgment, yes."
"But you don't think you'll succeed."
"I can sure as hell try," she said, though she honestly doubted it.
"I sense you have much to teach the lieutenant commander," said Deanna. "He might also have much to teach you."
"The only thing I'm going to teach the lieutenant commander is how to not get killed by his subordinates one bad day in the Advanced Genetics lab. And as for me…who knows, Surak 101 could be very entertaining," she smiled.
Lieutenant Tenary arrived, on time, the next day at the door of Lieutenant Commander Sarkaal. She rang the chimer and was admitted almost as soon as her hand dropped. She entered his quarters and nodded at him. "Sir. Reporting for duty, sir."
The Vulcan was tall and angular, dark hair and eyes, his features seemingly carefully sculpted. It was actually a very strangely handsome face and Kaira suspected it was the reason so many took offense to his straightforward abrupt manner. She thought to herself had the commander been ugly I think they could all take it better. But there was something that stung worse at the heart of the psyche, the perceived slight of a physically beautiful person as opposed to one who was not. She didn't know if it were worse that his beauty was not at all in-your-face, it rather snuck up on you after about five minutes of looking at him and became worse over time. He did not strike her overly much, however. She'd seen much beauty on her planet growing up.
"Please be seated," he said as he pointed to the pillows on the floor of his quarters and at a strange looking couch. The décor was wholly Vulcan; the commander didn't even possess a regular couch.
Kaira decided to made herself comfortable on the floor, given the choice by him, since it was very much the same way things were done back home.
"May I offer you water?" asked the commander.
And at that, her heart skipped. The similarities between their cultures were more than unnerving. But now was not the time or place to contemplate that. She answered, "I accept." She took a tumbler of water from his hands and drained it, returned it to him, thanked him.
He sat down across from her and asked another Vulcan courtesy. "May I offer you refreshments?"
"No, that's all right," she smiled. "I am only here for a short time."
"Yes, of course," he said politely.
"Commander, I was asked to come and speak with you concerning the problems in your department with the officers that work under you."
"They find my manner offensive," he said. He didn't show it, but he was truly puzzled. "I have endeavored to be respectful of my fellow researchers and lab partners."
"I know, sir. I don't think anyone ever wants to offend." She thought carefully about what she was about to say next. "Sir, I'd like to ask you a question."
"'May I ask'," he corrected.
"The correct way to term it on Vulcan would be 'May I ask'."
She stared at him. He was actually serious. She didn't know whether to laugh out loud or threaten to smack him. "Sir, I think I see what the problem is. May I ask, Commander, did you realize that by correcting my sentence you were being rude?"
He seemed taken aback. "I fail to see the logic of considering the mere readjustment of words as 'rude'."
"Sir, if you do that the person thinks you're telling them what to do, at best. At worst, they think that you think that they're an imbecile who can't even form a proper sentence."
He said not another word for a few seconds, only looked across at her, puzzled. "I have never done so with any other officer besides yourself," he clarified.
"Oh my my," she murmured as a feeling of anger began to rise in her stomach. "All right, I'll bite. May I ask why?"
"I knew you were coming to speak with me, so I took the liberty of researching you as I am sure you have researched me. I noticed who you were and where you came from. I also noticed you have never been to Vulcan. I was simply endeavoring to teach you Vulcan etiquette for your sake if you were to ever find yourself there."
"So you don't teach anyone else Vulcan etiquette except myself?" she asked, anger on hold, but still taken aback.
"I knew perhaps if you went, simply by the sight of you, you might be mistaken for a Vulcan. I did not wish you to experience social malaise for lack of manners."
Kaira looked away from him as she suppressed her emotions. He'd hit a nerve and had no idea. "Sir, listen to me…I'm not ready to talk about anything like that right now."
"Surely you realize why our people are genetically similar-"
"I'm not ready for this, sir!" she found herself raising her voice. The two sat in silence for what must have been ten seconds. "I apologize," she whispered.
"I did not mean to offend," he said. He should have realized it was, indeed, a very loaded subject and one he should not have entered so casually. He had much to learn.
She nodded at his words but did not absolve him. He had offended most royally. But he hadn't meant to, she knew that. And for that reason, she was willing to go on. "We need to figure out how to make it so you don't rub people the wrong way left and right, sir."
His mind took the term 'left and right' and stored it for later contemplation and research. "There is one thing I have learned living amongst humans for this year."
"And that is?" she asked.
"The art of 'the deal'."
There was a sinking feeling in her stomach. "All right, sir. You want to make a deal with me and I bet it has to do with my Beleine heritage."
"You are correct. I will allow you to help me. I will submit to whatever you think will mold me if you will allow me to someday broach the subject for that which you do not wish to discuss this day."
She swallowed hard. "Sir, I'm only half Beleine."
"It does not matter. According to the notes in your Starfleet records, the Beleine genome was allowed to take precedence in your formation by the geneticists when they put you together for your parents. Being a geneticist, I was allowed to peek at them."
So he certainly had studied her, down to her deepest darkest chromosomes, more so than she had done for him. Well the man was a geneticist after all, who could blame him? Mother was always saying 'don't wag a bone at a dog'. "That's so true," she found herself muttering aloud. She thought about it for a minute. Counselor Troi was counting on her for this. She owed Deanna for that unfortunate incident in her past that she had to talk her through, that was for sure. But what the Lieutenant Commander wanted to discuss, on her world it was treason. It was the reason her father had ultimately lost his life. But why, she wondered, should she leave questions unanswered? Her father had had them and he had his suspicions and beliefs. He'd done countless years of research and when he tried to bring them out into the open he was killed for doing so. Despite the fact that she'd never even had the chance to read her father's findings… No. No! Why should the past continue to be buried? "Sir, I'm wiling to deal. We help you and then maybe someday…you help me."
He nodded. "That is acceptable to me."
After talking for about an hour Kaira realized several things. The Lieutenant Commander truly had had no exposure to other cultures before attending Starfleet Academy. Even then he'd taken the one year advanced course on Vulcan for his first two years and then went to Earth and entered Command School. Twenty years on Vulcan ships and he'd suddenly decided to try his hand on a human vessel. He was one of the best in his field, so of course the Enterprise, flagship of the Federation, requested him when his name was up for grabs. And what Captain Picard wants, in the form of personnel, he gets when in competition against other captains.
"Sir, may I ask, what made you suddenly decide to come outside your comfort zone?" she asked the next day.
He seemed to think long and hard before answering. She wondered if he would answer at all when he finally said, "T'Maar. She is my sister, fourteen years my junior. Recently she went to Earth and worked there, simply to experience a culture not her own. I thought it very admirable of her to do so. I realized that I had never done so in my life. When I found myself authorizing another five years of service to Starfleet, this time I asked for a transfer to a ship that did not contain an all Vulcan crew. What better way to observe Surak's philosophy of IDIC than to do so up close?"
"Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations: It is the concept that together, along with our differences, we can learn much and become stronger, even enrich the existence of one another."
Kaira simply swallowed back a lump in her throat. "Sir, that's beautiful."
"Can a concept of logic possess beauty?" he asked honestly.
"More so than a face, sir," she said.
Kaira was authorized to go through the lab logs and recordings for seven days straight so she could observe, firsthand, whatever the problem happened to be between the Lieutenant Commander and the other members of Advanced Genetics. And it was as she suspected. Despite the diversity of the department, none of its members knew that the little things done by Lieutenant Commander Sarkaal were not meant in rudeness, or rather the little things left undone. He never uttered one 'please' or 'thank you'. Whenever anyone said "Good morning" or something along those lines, he never verbally answered, he simply said nothing or only nodded. When he gave orders he did not wait for acknowledgement, he simply turned and walked away, even if the recipient happened to be in the middle of a sentence.
She found herself with her mouth dropped open on more than one occasion while viewing the logs. She also found herself nodding in disbelief or her hand slapping her forehead in a 'oh my goodness!' gesture. He had no clue at all. And that wasn't the worst of it.
She arrived at his quarters forty-eight hours later, data pad in hand, and rang. He allowed her access and she entered, sat down on his backless couch that time and waited for the formalities to be over. Once water was offered, accepted and drank, she accepted further refreshments. He knew then this was going to be a long visit.
"Sir, what is wrong with you saying 'please' or 'thank you'?"
"They are mere words of convention. One does not thank a logical act. And to not say 'please', does this mean it will not get done with the utterance of one word?" he asked.
"Sir, it's not a situation to be analyzed. It's pure courtesy, a sign of respect to another person to say 'please' and 'thank you'. They don't do that on Vulcan?" she asked, truly curious then.
She was very upset with him, he could tell, and he couldn't understand why. "If I thank you for doing what you ought, it is saying that I did not expect you to do the logical thing and since you have decided to this time around, I am grateful. That would be the sign of disrespect. And if I say 'please' it invalidates what I precede my request with which is usually a polite, 'if you perhaps would' or something along those lines."
Kaira thought about the logs. He'd most certainly usually qualified his requests either before or after making them with words that amounted to 'please'. She exhaled tiredly. This was going to take a long time. "Sir, for races you deal with that are *not* Vulcans, you have to say 'thank you' or else you'll be seen as terribly rude."
"But logic dictates-"
"For them, logic has nothing to do with it. If you don't say 'thank you', you'll be seen as rude. If you don't say 'please'…" She searched for the correct words. "They will think you see them as beneath you, and not in the way of a superior to a subordinate, more like you're a parental figure or something. But since you aren't, the disrespect is just racking up for them. A lot of races, as it is, see Vulcans as high-handed, haughty. They think that they think of themselves as better than everyone else."
For the first time his face showed concern. "I certainly did not wish to connote disrespect to my fellows in Advanced Genetics." He sat there for a moment and thought long and hard. "This is a grievous oversight on my part. It must be rectified."
She sighed, relieved. She thought he was going to fight her tooth and nail on something as simple as 'please' and 'thank you'. But it bothered her that the commander was actually troubled. "Sir, don't worry. This can be fixed."
"It is not logical to worry," he reminded her. "Worry alone will not do what needs to be done. However, I agree, the situation will be handled. I will endeavor to learn much under your tutelage." She stifled a grin at first and then let it burst through. When it came down to it the Lieutenant Commander was kind of funny.
"Lieutenant," he said as he sat there with her. "Do you find Vulcans high-handed and haughty?"
She frowned. "No, sir, I do not," she answered honestly.
"And why not when others do?"
"Sir, you're simply being who you are. Just by 'being' sometimes one can give off an impression to someone else they entirely do not mean to." Resembling a Vulcan so much she had faced several instances of prejudice herself, so she knew it was certainly unfair to prejudge someone on looks alone, let alone their race.
He looked at the lieutenant and remembered the pictures of her parents he'd seen in her classified genetic file. She physically resembled her mother in a very striking way. Her genome was almost completely Beleine but her looks were made to resemble her human mother. Her skin was quite brown and her eyes were a deep true green. Yet… "Is that why you have covered your ears with your hair, lieutenant, you do not wish to be mistaken for a Vulcan?"
She sighed. She thought she might exit his quarters unscathed, that day, but it was not to be. "Sir, why do you always have to go there?"
The following week went well with the others in his department. He used 'please' and 'thank you' in the appropriate situations. When he came to her quarters the following weekend, she allowed him in and had him sit on her couch. She offered him water, as was the custom with her own people as well as his and he accepted. Over refreshments they had casual talk about his work and hers. When she was not assisting the ship's counselor with wayward Vulcans, she was the ship Court Reporter. He admitted to a fascination with her ability. "It's not what others think," she found herself saying as they finished their refreshments. "In order to work on the machine I literally have to enter a state of blankness so that I may become the conduit for the words of others, that's all."
He nodded. "I suppose it is akin to my meditative state each evening. I must empty my mind before I may begin."
She nodded. "Yes, I suppose so. I wouldn't know." To his credit he did not bring up the connection between their peoples at that time or any other for the next month.
The next weekend they discussed his need to allow others to finish their sentences, even if their words were long, tiresome and drawn out. "You can't cut people off, sir."
"I have never done so," he affirmed.
"On several occasions I noticed on the logs you cut people's words off."
"Only when I already had gotten the gist of what they meant to say," he said, simply.
And she found herself giggling. "I know, sir. Sometimes people say more words than they need to to convey a thought and it's aggravating but…" She thought about it. "It's just a courtesy. Let them finish their sentence before you walk away. Otherwise it seems like you-" She didn't want to say it again. She remembered that look on his face the last time she'd said the same thing.
"It is the issue of disrespect again, is it not?" he asked.
Her face screwed up and she looked very apologetic. "Yes, sir. I'm sorry."
"I am seen as disrespectful," he said, truly troubled.
"Not completely anymore. Your 'please' and 'thank you' week went over really well."
"And I suppose this coming week will be the beginning of my attending every word instead of departing when I think I have already received the message." He nodded. "It will be a most inefficient week in the lab."
Kaira laughed again not believing her ears.
"Do I amuse you?" he asked. From anyone else it would have been insulting but he found her reaction puzzling and, though he would never admit, endearing. She was the only person that he was able to make laugh, ever.
"I'm sorry, sir. I shouldn't have laughed. It's just, you're so innocent in all of this and no one knows."
"Except for you, lieutenant," he said.
She pulled out a data pad. "I did some research and I found a guidebook given by the Vulcan embassy. It was written for embassy staff living on Earth so I suppose you've never seen it, have you?"
He nodded. "No, I have not."
"Okay, perfect. The embassy wrote it, Ambassador Sarek overhauled it a century ago and then it was overhauled by his son, Ambassador Spock about twenty years ago. I would expect it has a lot of advice for dealing with humans. Since over half your department is human that should do something for you right there."
He reached out and took it a bit eagerly. "I look forward to discussing much of this with you."
"If you ever need help, sir, or get stuck, just call me and I'll be there. All right?"
"As you say, lieutenant."