"He's faking it too, you know."
It's not often that you can shock a Betazoid - or half-Betazoid, in this case - but this time I managed it.
Deanna Troi's head snapped towards me and her eyes grew wide. "Excuse me?" she said with not-quite-unruffled calm.
"The captain," I said, "he's faking it just as much as you are."
Deanna put her fork down with a clank, folded her hands in an attempt to appear composed and stared at me across the table. "Explain," she ordered in a clipped tone.
I gave her a lopsided grin and stole something green and leafy off her plate. "I've seen the two of you on the bridge. He asks 'So, Counselor, what do you sense?' and for just a split second, you give him this look, like you want to say 'The big scary alien on the screen just said we had two hours to retreat or die. What do you think I'm sensing?'"
I might not spend as much time on the bridge as some CMOs have (the name Dr. L. H. McCoy springs immediately to mind), but I'd spent enough time there over the last nine months to have noticed this rather interesting dynamic between our Captain and Counselor.
She had the grace to blush and didn't deny what I was saying. I reached out and patted her hand.
"It's okay, Deanna. He doesn't really expect you to perform miracles up there. He's just looking for some reassurance that his own instincts are correct."
"But he's the captain!" she protested. "And the captain of Starfleet's flag ship."
As if that somehow made him less immune to the foibles of humanity. I gave her my best doctor's stare and she dropped her eyes, realizing how silly that last statement was.
"Look, De. I've known Jean-Luc for almost twenty years, and I can tell you this: he has two major failings. First," I said, ticking off the points on my fingers, "he has a tendency to be excessively male. And like nearly all males, he's uncomfortable with his feelings. His instincts are incredible, but he's always had a hard time trusting them."
"So he's looking to me to confirm what he already thinks?"
"Exactly. And second, he always goes out of his way to use all of the tools at his disposal, even when it's redundant. You have this extra ability - your empathy - so he's going to use that as a check against what his mere human sense are telling him."
Deanna nodded and I could see her thinking about what I was saying. We poked at her salad for a few moments in silence.
"So what do you think I should do? she asked eventually.
"Tell him the truth when he asks, even if it means stating the obvious. Study physiology, psychology and culture of anyone and everything. You're trained to observe and evaluate people, even without your empathy. Use that. I know you probably took this post, only expecting to use those skills on our own crew; but out here in the black, it doesn't work that way. Jean-Luc is such a good captain because he will use all the resources at his disposal, and you're going to be a big part of that. Who knows, maybe someday you'll tell him something he doesn't know, and that could save the lives of everyone on this ship."
"Thank you, Beverly," she said, and I was gratified to see some of the tension easing out of her shoulders.
"Any time, Deanna. And feel free to drop by any time if you need to scream about him for a while. Lord knows, I've had lots of practice."
She laughed and I knew we were in good hands. Between her and the captain, they could probably get us through just about anything safe and sane. Hopefully they would realize that.
And if they didn't, I'd be glad to point it out to them.