After one of the most brutal riots in recent memory had taken place on the promenade of Starbase 118, Counsellor Sheridan had very much had his hands full working through appointments with members of the crew.
Fortunately, the other members of the department had not just been supportive, they had been proactive in putting in extra hours to help to reduce the backlog. Rather than assigning each member of the team to just do one thing, Vance had made sure that their appointments, and his own, were varied. Next on the books was a routine annual evaluation, although he had a feeling the riots would get at least a small mention.
The name on the appointment list was familiar. Peters. He’d run into him when things were starting to die down, and he had been in need of medical attention. He’d suffered a blow to the head, and Vance had been responsible for chasing down Dr. Pon to treat him.
The door chime rang and Vance responded automatically.
Sheridan: Come in!
:: Cadfael came into the room and smiled at Vance, though he did hate the fact that ship transfers made it necessary for him to have a mandatory psych eval after reporting for duty aboard each one. It was in the regulations. He could hate it all he wanted, but it didn’t change the fact he had to get one. ::
Peters: Hello, sir.
The counsellor smiled warmly, and gestured towards the sofa and nearby armchair, indicating that Peters should take a seat.
:: The engineer had a seat on the sofa and made himself comfortable. He tried to take a breath and forget momentarily about the fact that the man he was talking to outranked him. Rank was a formality that took place on the bridge and other places that were outside this room, as his former Rodulan counselor, Dr. Kaji, had tried to teach him. ::
Sheridan: It’s good to see you looking better than last time we met. You were in a lot of discomfort, so I’m glad Dr. Pon managed to fully patch you up.
:: Had it been discomfort from the fact he came in during some sort of a riot or lingering discomfort since the Dunbar? Cadfael didn’t get checked out since then, and a few things had come up since. ::
Peters: oO May as well let him get started, then will adjust it as needed. Oo I’m glad for the little fellow too.
Vance took a seat himself, ready to formally begin the session.
Sheridan: So, it says on my appointment card that we have to take care of your annual evaluation. I thought we’d take care of that and maybe talk a little bit about the riots. If there’s anything else that you’d like to talk about then we should be able to find time to cover that, too. Let’s start in the easiest place. How have you been the past few days?
:: The last few days had been awkward, to say the least. His return to the Darwin after his otherworldly experience led to a message he regretted reading. He didn’t know where to begin with his last few days. The letter that crushed his heart, or his reply to it? ::
:: He snapped out of his reverie and blinked a few times before speaking. ::
Peters: Last few days. Right. :: He took a breath. :: Um… I miss the Victory and certain people on her. I had a friend there that I… I corresponded with her for four years. I thought I felt like I was falling in love with her. And to find out she… :: He closed his eyes and trailed off. He couldn’t finish the thought how he wanted, so settled for a lesser phrase. :: ...and I lost her. She’s a Trill, so I shouldn’t be surprised...but it still hurts.
(( Flashback -- Peters’ Quarters, USS Darwin ))
:: He set his tool kit down on the coffee table with a sigh. As he entered the room, he saw his console flash with an unread message. Peters' brow furrowed, the only one he'd been expecting any kind of reply from being Ayiana. And, sure enough, this was from her. ::
To: Lieutenant JG Cadfael Peters, Engineer, USS Darwin
From: Lieutenant JG Ayiana Sevo, Chief Science Officer, USS Victory
I wish you could have said goodbye in person, though I heard the orders came while you were on Luxis 3. I guess you didn’t have much choice but to go then. I’m not sure I understand your relief for not being Chief Engineer anymore. If you recall, I was put in charge of Science right after my first mission. It was really tough at first, but I’m getting used to the responsibility.
I’m not sure if you realized, but in the end there I was starting to feel something for you. Joined Trills tend to take our time in life, not rushing to decisions or goals; seeing “the big picture,” as it were. But I definitely started to feel something more than friendship with you. I’m sorry you had to hear that through an email.
I wish you well on the Darwin and hope you keep in contact. I hear she’s a neat science ship. With the massive damage to the Victory here, I’m now regretting not considering putting in for a transfer to that new Vesta-class ship they just launched. You know how much I love those ships. I’m not sure if Starfleet is going to bother fixing up this old, broken bird.
Hope to hear from you.
:: As he read it, his heart sank into his boots. She returned his love, and he was finding out like this. He didn't know how to react. How could he? He'd just found out that the one friend he had was starting to feel something more than friendship for him, and he was on another ship. With a resigned sigh, he decided not to bother with the shower and headed off for sickbay, leaving the message open on his console. ::
(( End Flashback ))
::It was easy for a counsellor to appear to be sympathetic; that was part of doing the job professionally in some cases. Right now, though, Vance didn’t have to try to do anything. He felt a rush of sympathy for Cadfael, and he understood how painful things like that could be.::
Sheridan: I’m sorry to hear that. It’s never easy when you’re hoping something like that will play out the way you want, but it doesn’t.
Peters: I spent days thinking how to respond to her. Managed to do so on the way here.
(( Flashback -- Shuttle Helwraieth interior, on approach to Starbase 118 ))
:: Peters was curled up in his bunk reading a PADD. With a sigh, he began composing another letter to answer a previous one he received while serving aboard the Darwin. ::
To: Lieutenant JG Ayiana Sevo, Chief Science Officer, USS Victory
From: Lieutenant JG Cadfael Peters, Engineer, Starbase 118 Ops
I really wish I could have. Starfleet seems to have other plans for me. I do recall. I don't think I can explain why some people are happy to not be in charge. It's a cultural thing for humans.
I didn't know. I still love you, and the fact I'm getting pushed farther away by the brass means that I'm farther away from you. One thing that I don't want to change: the fact we are still friends.
I spent time on the Darwin, then the Dunbar, then the Darwin again; though nearly all my time on the Dunbar I spent caught between worlds. Like I was phased out. I was ordered to report to a shuttle instead for a new assignment. I've been transferred to Starbase 118 Ops.
Take care of yourself, and I'll be in touch soon.
(( End Flashback ))
Sheridan: That’s good. Hopefully you’ll be able to keep in touch. It may not seem like it now, but things like this usually have a good chance to right themselves, and who knows what might happen in the future?
He smiled. He felt hopeful even if the engineer wasn’t thinking in the same way. Where romantic interest was concerned, pride was easily wounded and egos were easily bruised but once the initial shock passed there was usually a chance to mend bridges.
Sheridan: Do you think that you have, or that you could create, a good enough network of friends aboard the station to help you get a handle on the way you feel? Would talking to Pon Pon help, for example?
:: He sighed heavily and leaned back on the sofa, thinking back to yesterday and the strange social awkwardness that accompanied it -- more specifically, Pon Pon’s attempt at playing matchmaker at the end of his physical. ::
Peters: Well...the doc did make me nervous yesterday. He took me to one of the pubs and tried being a matchmaker.
(( Flashback -- Sickbay, Deck 503, the previous day ))
:: If Cadfael was any judge of emotion, which he wasn’t (it wasn’t a human trait, after all…) , he was certain something was troubling Pon Pon besides the massive influx of patients from the hell breaking
loose that preceded his arrival. So, with a quizzically arched eyebrow, he asked casually. ::
Peters: Something bothering you, doc?
Avoiding the question and instead choosing to run the regenerator across Peters’ face and all affected scarred areas, it took only a few moments until the device completed its’ task. Looking down, the
Pelian blushed once more, not in embarrassment, but rather due to the attractiveness of the officer that lay in the biobed. Attempting to hide his feelings, Pon Pon hopped down towards the floor, hoping that
the few seconds of silence did not betray his feelings. He was a doctor of course.
learing his throat.
:: Pon Pon declares you entirely suitable for duty…. ::
He paused for a second.
:: You can return to party with confidence… yes.
Peters: I told you it wasn’t a party. I was just enjoying a drink.
Pon: ::Shaking his head.:: Pon Pon does not believe that young attractive engineer does not party. No no…. such a thing is impossible.
:: The doc’s reaction came as a surprise, as surely Pon Pon must have some sort of authority on the subject in order to make such an audacious statement. Daring, bold, and the engineer thought perhaps
that maybe Pon Pon was trying to hit on him. Again. ::
Peters: You seem to think I actually have some kind of relationship or something going on. Hate to tell you this, doc….but you’ll be disappointed to hear I’m a single bachelor.
Folding his arms, Pon Pon again shook his head.
Pon: Pon Pon will look into this immediately… ::
He looked up towards Peters.
:: Where is party occurring, yes?
Peters: oO Persistent little blighter, ain’t he? Oo
::And with that, the Pelian walked towards the door, exiting the sickbay.::
With a mischievous grin.
:: Lucky for Lieutenant Peters, Pon Pon’s shift just ended.
Peters: oO Uh
h. Oo Um...thanks, doc, but that’s not going to be necessary...
Refusing to take no for answer, the Pelian dragged the engineer out of the sickbay, and likely out of his comfort zone towards Kael’s Pub.
(( End Flashback ))
Vance cracked a grin at the thought of the diminutive Pelian acting as someone’s wing man. He couldn’t help but think there was a script for a comedy film in there, somewhere.
Sheridan: Did it work?
Peters: No, no. I’m still single, I still felt over half the crew of the Darwin denied my existence once we were on the Dunbar, and I felt rather invisibile-like because I was caught in between two or three worlds.
Vance couldn’t help but notice that the lieutenant was skipping between issues quite quickly. It was quite common in patients who were experiencing anxiety about a number of issues - everyone had a limit to the number of things that their brain could deal with and process all at once. It seemed as though Peters had been ricocheting through a series of events that had all had an impact on his mood, and possibly his confidence as well. This invisibility issue had been referenced before, in jest, by Dr. Pon on the promenade, but it seemed like something that needed to be discussed seriously.
Sheridan: That sounds like quite an interesting experience. I would like to hear in more detail why you felt like you were ignored, because I think that’s important. Would you mind taking a minute to describe what being caught between worlds was like, though?
The Canadian counsellor shifted in his seat, attention fixed on Peters as he spoke. It was important to try to determine whether or not being exposed to… whatever it was that had caused him to experience this had left a psychological effect, or been as much of a trigger for making him feel like he was being ignored as the way he had perceived the members of the Darwin crew’s behaviour.
:: He paused for a moment and ran a hand along his face as he attempted to compose his words. There was a little bit of a story in between...three worlds? Or was it two? Not that it mattered, it was in the past. It was a difficult situation for him to attempt to explain, and even harder to form words. ::
Peters: It’s hard to describe. Imagine, for a moment, that you cross the threshold into engineering. You’d heard from your XO that the ship’s engine room is a mess with sparking consoles everywhere, bodies on the floor, wires hanging out of one console leading into the next, held together by duct tape. A’right?
Sheridan: ::Nodding to indicate he understood:: OK, I’m with you so far.
:: He took a deep breath and continued. ::
Peters: In the first reality, I can see it. For only a moment. Then in the...second…? I suddenly see the room change: engineering is pristine, with no jury-rigged consoles. No dead or unconscious bodies, no people in it, nothing. Still with me?
Sheridan: Yeah, I think so. Almost like you’re seeing different possible realities?
:: That had to be the only explanation for what happened. He was probably affected by some sort of temporal phase shift. And yet, he had to explain the third reality. ::
Peters: And in the...I guess it was the third… reality, if you want to consider it as such: I saw the jury-rigged consoles. The crew of the Dunbar, the away team, and….I saw….everything.
Vance’s eyebrows furrowed as he tried to imagine what that might be like. It must have been very confusing, and difficult to keep a track of.
Sheridan: How about the Darwin crew? What did they do to make you feel like you were invisible? Is it a case of them ignoring you when you tried to directly engage them? Did you feel like you had an issue with some people more than others?
It was rare that a large proportion of a starship’s crew would just flat out ignore someone - that tended not to be the way of things in Starfleet. However, Vance knew that Peters wouldn’t feel the way he felt without good reason, and he wanted to examine that.
Peters: I could hear my crew, but they didn’t seem to hear me. At all.
Regardless of what I did. I tried stealing Jorey’s badge to get his attention, and nothing. My hand passed right through him. They weren’t able to hear a damn thing. Doctor Malon tried reaching out with telepathy to find me, which hurt like hell both times.
Vance didn’t know a lot about science, but it sounded like Peters had been phased or something? Putting his hand through another crewmate suggested there was some kind of a reason why they wouldn’t be able to hear him, but that didn’t mean the negative psychological impact of being able to see your crew but not being able to interact with them would be any less.
Sheridan: That sounds like it could have been difficult to process. I’m assuming that things returned to normal eventually, though?
:: Normal? Is that what it was? Being pulled back through some strange feat of science he didn’t follow and then fixing the problem before he was recalled to the Darwin? No…. it was Starfleet. There was no such thing as normal. ::
Peters: About as normal as a Starfleeter’s life gets….
Sheridan: And did you have a chance to interact with the crew after that?
He had to wonder whether the lieutenant’s experiences might have made him feel less inclined to speak to them.
Peters: I got pulled back into this reality somehow through some science that escapes me. I helped my section of the engineering team seal a hull breach, then we got recalled to the Darwin. I was ordered to a physical, but instead I found transfer orders to the starbase.
The fact Cadfael had been ordered to transfer from pillar to post was probably not particularly settling for him either.
Sheridan: And then straight into the riots.
:: Cadfael gave a faint nod and tried to recall the events, which were probably a little blurry for him. ::
Peters: I get here, I find the CO, I go to the promenade. Got clocked in the face and landed at his feet. Hearing in my right ear was shot...Then don’t remember anything until you started talking to me the first time.
Vance took in a slow breath through his nose, and leaned forward a little in his seat. He felt like he was up to speed now on things that had been happening in Cadfael’s life recently, and there had been a lot of upheaval.
Sheridan: Here’s hoping you get a little bit of a chance to settle down for a while. Being reassigned is one thing, but being bounced from ship to ship is another, I guess.
:: The engineer couldn’t help but chuckle at that minor detail. They were in Starfleet, the likelihood of transferring was ridiculously high, as any officer below admiral rank was effectively a pawn who could be moved at the whim of the admiral based on the needs of the fleet. ::
Peters: Such is the life of a Starfleet officer, Counselor. You go where the brass tells you to, don’t ask any questions, and if you get the urge to fight it make sure nobody is around to catch you.
Sheridan: To a degree, I guess, but rapid transfers between ships don’t tend to happen for extended periods of time. I think it’s fair to say that you haven’t really had chance to catch a breath recently, and it’s been kind of like going from the frying pan and into the fire a couple of times. Would you agree?
He didn’t want to put words in Peters’s mouth, but that certainly seemed to be the picture that had been painted.
Peters: :: nodded faintly :: I was on the Victory for five months out of the academy, then transferred to the Darwin for nearly two months, then here. So….yeah. I’d say, yes.
In that case, making sure Cadfael had a chance to actually catch his breath seemed like the most important thing.
Sheridan: Alright, well in that case, I would recommend that you take some time to get to know the station and make the absolute most of your off-duty time. Commander Handley-Page has granted us shore leave, so make sure you have at least a couple of days where you don’t set foot inside your department unless it’s to invite someone to the holodeck, or to go have a meal. Get to know a few people, see how much you can enjoy yourself and just generally try to unwind.
:: The Canadian’s description of the commanding officer seemed like an apt description, based on what little he’d seen thus far. The phrasing made it sound like an order, however. Interesting. Perhaps all would make sense once he had time to actually enjoy himself. ::
Peters: Any suggestions who I should start with, besides my security buddy Mr. Cumar?
::The fact that the lieutenant was immediately able to name a friend was a good sign that he wouldn’t be taking too long to settle in.::
Sheridan: I guess it’s up to you, really - there’s no good or bad place to start, but maybe someone you’re going to be working with is a good idea. How about… ::
He reached for his PADD, which was on the table near to his seat.:: Ensign Rix? It looks like your paths might cross while you’re on duty, so if you already know him then it might be easier to get your professional relationship off on the right foot.
:: The moment in the Watering Hole came and went. He’d seen the Trill, then had the call with Pon Pon and wandered off toward Sickbay. He wouldn’t recognize Rix on sight at this point. ::
Peters: Never met the man, actually.
Vance shrugged. Everyone would fall into that category to begin with, until Peters had bumped into enough people during his on-duty time or chanced across them in one of the bars. The alternative was to be proactive.
Sheridan: Well, it’s just a suggestion, but you never know. Meeting up for a coffee, or a synthale or something might open a few doors, and the more friends you make, the quicker you’ll come to terms with, or even forget, that experience you had on the Darwin.
:: The mere mention of the word Darwin left a sour taste in his mouth. He hated the fact that he was only stationed there for a short time, hated the fact that the only good thing to come out of that was an EARS implant, and hated everything about his visibility level. ::
Peters: It’d be awesome to hang out with people, yes. Though, as I told the doc, I’m a single bachelor. I don’t know how asking someone for drinks is going to change that. You volunteering to be my wingman for my next bar-crawl?
Vance smiled, reminded of the earlier mental image of wingman Pon.
Sheridan: You’re sure Dr. Pon wouldn’t be offended?
Peters: Not sure at all.
Sheridan: If you’re stuck for someone and you need a right hand man out there then I guess I could help. It’s been a while since I did it, though. It’d probably be better if it was somewhere I’m not immediately recognisable as the ship’s counsellor, though, or you mind find people running for the exits.
He chuckled at the idea of people fleeing for their lives in case he used some kind of psychological trick to snare them in.
:: It was a blasted inconvenience to consider the thought he wasn’t entirely sure of the implications. Would going out with the counselor be better than going out with a Pelian? He had no idea, and it made his brain hurt. ::
Peters: I don’t know what the best choices are around here for places to hide. I don’t know anything about this station, really…
Sheridan: ...but you will! It will just take some time is all. ::He smiled.:: I’m looking forward either to hearing what you got up to next time we run into each other or getting a call to say you do need a wingman after all.
:: The counselor’s apparent vote of confidence made Cadfael sigh a little. He didn’t know what to reply with. So he settled on the most neutral answer he could. ::
Peters: I...will be in touch….
Vance was sure that Cadfael would be a lot more sure of himself the next time they spoke. He’d met enough of the crew on Starbase 118 himself to know that they were friendly and accommodating, and all it was going to take was for them to collectively make the engineer feel comfortable enough that he could come out of his shell. Once he’d done that, Vance had a feeling he would be able to take care of being a bachelor as well.
Sheridan: Good man. Was there anything else you felt like you wanted to discuss while we’re here?
:: He’d woken up in sickbay and didn’t actually know if he knew where his quarters were. His last pub crawl ended with him unconscious, either from drink or another crack on the head he wasn’t sure. ::
Peters: I can’t seem to think of anything…
Vance lifted his PADD again and ticked a couple of checkboxes at the top of the form he would need to file to mark the annual psych evaluation as complete. There wasn’t anything that looked like it needed to be followed up on his file from previous appointments, so it seemed that they were just about done.
Sheridan: Alright, well in that case I think I can declare you as officially not crazy and let you get back to the rest of your day. I’ll catch up with you soon.
Peters: oO Soon...right. Wingman in the making. Oo We’ll be in touch.
Vance rose from his seat and offered Peters a handshake before he left. When he was on his own in the office once more, he realised that he was going to have to spend a little time refreshing his memory on how to be a good wingman. It would do no good to be called on and fall flat on his face, after all…
:: Cadfael shook the man’s hand and took his leave. A hand ran along his face as he tried to get over the fact he just offloaded a ton of information about the last seventy two hours on the counselor, and in the same conversation asked for the guy to be his wingman. It was rather gratifying to have all of that unloaded… ::
Lieutenant JG Cadfael Peters
Starbase 118 Ops
PNPC Lieutenant Vance Sheridan
Starbase 118 Ops
As simmed by: Lt. Cmdr. Chen