((Starbase 118 Ops - Holodeck 17 - 3am))
Yael: ::he pulled his hands up and ran them over his face:: I thought I was *past* this…
The Denobulan was trying to say something without saying much at all, without giving details, but the words were still true.
DeVeau: Past what?
Yael: I thought, if I tried to freeze it out, I wouldn’t *feel* it happening anymore…
DeVeau: What happened, Ashley? He was saying words, but they were vague and held no meaning, they gave no insight thus far. Alora continued to sit at his feet, legs curled up beneath the blanket. They began to cramp, but she ignored it, concentrating on the man in the throes of desperation.
Breathing into his shaking hands and then rubbing them together, he was starting to get feeling back in his fingers. He wasn’t sure how to tell her.
Yael: I was… there was an incident. Our crew was trying to… ::he seemed to have trouble formulating the words, but pushed on::.. We were trying to dismantle the larger criminal syndicate on the Laudean homeworld, before they became Federation members. I… started spending some time with a few locals.
He left out the part where they were his suppliers.
Yael: There was one in particular… he turned out to be a low level member of the syndicate. He saw an opportunity to raise his station, by taking a Starfleet officer. And I walked right into it.
DeVeau: Taking? Yael: It took my crew two days to find me.
A loaded statement. Two days was a long time in the wrong hands.
DeVeau: A syndicate? What kind of syndicate? What happened, Ashley?
Yael: Typical high level criminal stuff. Intimidating politicians. Murders. Pushing drugs to fund their attempts to gain power. … Taking hostages.
DeVeau: What...did they do? Alora was almost afraid to ask. Those sorts of people were not the sort to treat their hostages kindly. Yet, whatever those memories were bringing out, it was obvious it was bothering him. Disturbing him. He needed to get it out.
Yael: The first thing they did was cut off a couple fingers. ::without looking at his hands, he tightly gripped the fingers that had been severed and reattached:: They sent them by courier to my Captain, warning Starfleet to leave the planet, or… they would keep mailing *pieces* to them.
The Denobulan paused, his eyes clouded over, as if he wasn’t staring into the grass past Alora’s shoulder.
DeVeau: Oh Ash…
Alora started to reach out, started to take his hands, then retreated. Physical comfort would do no good for him, so she simply remained there, present, not touching, only wrapped in the same blanket, offering what little warmth she could by her presence.
Yael: He kept me underground. There was a rave club on the ground floor, so… no one could hear me.
No one could hear his screams.
Yael: I can still *smell* that room.
Her own imagination drew a picture, and while there were many details Ashley left out, Alora’s mind had no trouble filtering some in. Shivering, she drew the blanket around both of them, but that wasn’t a physical chill to be warded off by so simple an object.
Yael: He spent two days, just… doing whatever he could dream up that he thought he would enjoy. Cutting… burning…... other… things.... The bass from above ground never stopped.
Torture. Pure, physical turture, in the most primitive sense. That’s what Ashley had experienced. Honestly, how could Alora even compare her own problems to his?
Yael: It’s been two *years*... I was just starting to get through the day without thinking about it at all. Ever since the festival, I haven’t been able to *stop* thinking about it.
DeVeau: I’m sorry, Ash.
Yael: ::he gave her an almost wry smile, but it was forced:: You know… I’ve spent the majority of my life knowing I wouldn’t live very long. It changes your perspective, staring into that promise, that every day you’re reminded of your eventual fate. But… there’s nothing… *nothing*... that prepares you for when it walks up to you… smiles at you… cuts into you. For when you suddenly realize it’s going to be *today.*
Alora winced, once more wishing she could just hold him, but doing so would only make things worse.
DeVeau: What happened to him? They found you. Did they get him?
Yael: He’s dead. He was… he doused me in fuel, when they found us. The Marines took him down before he could light it.
DeVeau: But you’re not there. You’re here. You’re among those love you and care about you and only want what's best for you.
Yael: ::frustration apparent:: I know… I know! But I *can’t* stop *thinking* about it! ::he covered his face with both hands now:: You can’t tell anyone. They’ll send me back to Earth for good if I can’t get *control* of this…
His hands pushed up into his hair, holding his head. Everything he’d worked for would be over if he couldn’t manage this. Starfleet had given him a new chance reassigning him to the Starbase, but they wouldn’t keep investing in him if he couldn’t keep it together. But ever since the Bajoran Gratitude Festival it had run non-stop through his mind, and it was wearing him down. It was as if something *triggered* it.
Alora wouldn’t say anything unless Ashley was doing something that was going to hurt others. Or himself. Her eyes shifted over to the lake and realisation dawned. He was trying to hurt himself. As that thought made its revelation, she shivered. What if it was more than just trying to freeze the memories out of himself? What if it went further than that? Her chest twisted, panic welling up inside. DeVeau: Breathe in. Just a little.
Raymond’s words came to her. It was a simple exercise. So very simple, but sometimes, when that panic began to well up inside, when her chest felt like it was going to explode, sometimes it helped. Not always. But sometimes. Like now, when her heart was twisting and she was attempting to prevent the emotions from clouding her thoughts, from running away with them.
DeVeau: In a little more.
She might have been talking to Ashley, but she was talking to herself more than anything. A reminder.
DeVeau: A little more, up the stairs….let it out...down the slide.
She did so, breathing in that tiered breath, letting it all out in one, slow motion.
DeVeau: Ashley...if this were me. If...if this was the sort of thing I was dealing with, what would you tell me? How would you help me? What could I do to break this cycle?
Yael: ::he took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, thinking:: I would tell you… to start with grounding methods. To… adhere to a routine, strictly, to establish normalcy and healthy patterns. I would send you to medical for anxiety medications, to help you sleep. I would… try to identify the triggers, to cut them out and stop the cycle reoffending.
That was where he would start with anyone else who was struggling.
DeVeau: Then let’s start there with you.
Her words seemed to echo his thoughts and Alora shifted, trying to get off her legs and let feeling back into them. Slowly, her toes began to tingle as the blood began to flow once more.
DeVeau: Is there room for friends somewhere in that treatment plan too?
Yael: ::nodding, he lifted his head and tried to smile:: Right. That too.
DeVeau: Tell me about the grounding methods.
Raymond had talked about those, about the different ways. The breathing was only one among many, but at that moment, she wasn’t trying to search for herself, she was trying to get Ashley back.
Yael: ::sounding almost clinical:: Grounding methods rely on the senses to disrupt the dissociation associated with PTSD. Sight, smell, sound, touch, taste. ::he glanced at the water:: I suppose… a dunk in freezing water would be touch.
There was a pause where he closed his eyes and thought. It seemed to be coming to him a little easier.
Yael: Computer. Rigellian truffles. ::a bowl was replicated near them on the ground in a small round bowl:: Are you a fan of chocolate?
DeVeau: Oh Ashley, do you really not know me that well? Chocolate. Chocolate was life.
He popped one in his mouth and savoured the rich flavor.
Yael: The first time I was here, that night with you and Anthony, I was able to sort of… zen out. The water, the sounds of the forest, the fire cracking. I was trying to recreate the moment. ::pausing:: I know it probably seems strange.
Alora shook her head, took a chocolate and slipped it into her mouth. She rolled it around, savouring the sweetness, the sharp tang that accompanied it.
Yael: I haven’t been able to focus since the Gratitude Festival.
DeVeau: Raymond would do this...focusing, grounding exercise with me. To sort of bring me back to the here and now. Yael: What’s that…?
DeVeau: Tell me one thing you feel, that you can touch with your hands. Describe it.
He smiled a small smile, realizing she was using one of his own methods. He followed the process with her.
Yael: The chair. ::he had a hand on one of the arm rests:: It’s metal, and fabric.
DeVeau: Tell me one thing you can hear, and describe that.
Yael: ::he closed his eyes and listened:: The wind through the leaves.
DeVeau: Tell me one thing you see...give me details.
Yael: ::now he looked past her, taking a breath:: The fire… the wood is breaking down.
DeVeau: Go back to what you feel...tell me two things you can reach out and touch and feel, and describe them.
Yael: The blanket… it’s heavy, thick… and… ::he avoided using her::... the grass, it’s soft to the touch.
DeVeau: Two things you can hear…
Yael: I hear… ::he listened again::... there’s a bug buzzing, nearby. And there’s a fish playing near the surface of the water behind us.
DeVeau: Two things you can see.
Yael: The light from the fire. ::he finally looked at her directly:: And you.
DeVeau: Now do them all again….but tell me three.
He took a deeper, more stable breath, and began to run through new senses, this time in threes.
DeVeau: Again, but back to two…
Again he went through the process, listing off the things he could see, hear, and touch.
DeVeau: And now one…
By the time he was done, he did feel a bit more centered. His mind felt calmer… it was a useful technique, and he wasn’t nearly as cold now that they’d been tucked under the blanket for a while.
Yael: Can you… do me a favor?
DeVeau: I can try.
Yael: ::he smiled, and it was more genuine now:: Can you stop showing up every time I’m naked? If this keeps up, I’m going to start thinking it’s on purpose.
He kind of meant it, but he also didn’t, and it was said with a lighter heart now that he was calmer.
Alora blinked at him for a moment, then flushed, lowering her gaze.
DeVeau: I assure you, that was entirely unintentional. Besides, I didn’t see anything.
Oh thank goodness she hadn’t, though in the moment, other things would have distracted her from that little fact. She had been too concerned about Ashley’s health to worry about whether or not he was wearing clothes.
DeVeau: Anyway...I know about grounding. I...have to use it myself sometimes.
And sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. When it didn’t...or when she didn’t start doing it early enough, things got messy. Shaking her head, Alora managed to pull herself together and look back up at Ashley.
DeVeau: What about medical? Have you been seen by any of the doctors?
Surely Ashley had gone through a physical. Surely that had been on his record. Surely they were watching him and any medications he took.
Yael: I *have* been to medical, just… ::more quietly now:: … not for this.
DeVeau: Maybe it’s time you should.
Yael: … that’s probably a good idea.
DeVeau: I can go with you if you want.
Yael: ::immediately:: No. No… I’ll… go in today. After my walk-in block is finished. ::he paused:: Thank you though.
DeVeau: Bah. Thank me for what? I didn’t do anything.
Once more Alora reached out, and once more she had to withdraw, wanting to offer comfort in the way she wanted to receive it, and instead having to make sure she didn’t make things worse.
DeVeau: We’re in this together. Right?
Yael: ::nodding:: Always. But… for now… I’m going to try to get a couple hours sleep. Maybe you can too.
It was still only about 4am, after all.
DeVeau: Maybe. I can try.
And she might actually succeed. After she had found out Ashley had accessed the program, after coming there, she felt much calmer. In helping, perhaps she’d helped herself.
DeVeau: Walk you to your quarters?
He stood, but made his way first to the water line, retrieving his electro-stabilizing braces. He didn’t put them on, just tucked them in his arms, which he kept tucked round himself. He was still a little cold, but not nearly as bad as he’d been. A couple hours sleep would do them both good.
Ensign Ashley Yael
Starbase 118 Ops
Lt. Cmdr. Alora DeVeau
Starbase 118 Ops