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Lights Out

Posted on Tue Aug 1st, 2017 @ 10:15pm by Commander Akiva ben-Avram
Edited on on Fri Aug 4th, 2017 @ 5:57am

Mission: S2E1 - Secrets
Location: Counselor's Office
Timeline: MD 100; 1900

Getting back into the saddle, to borrow from her new husband's vernacular, had been a bit of trick for Jaya. Not only were her established patients in need of catch-up, but she had a list of potential regulars submitted by various department heads and other lead personnel throughout the ship. And that did not mention the high-functioning sociopath who took over Sickbay during her wedding shore leave. It all amounted to long hours of extra processing and evaluating outside of her actual counseling time.

Fortunately, she knew her Afrikaner did not mind. If either of them pulled extra duty, or poker night in Storr's case, they simply made up for it later. Quality over quantity, it was agreed. And the quality of their time together still made Jaya's hips quiver at the mere thought. As a Deltan, she was no stranger to romance, but in their brief time together thus far, Jaya began to understand and appreciate the odd Terran rite of marriage. And, well, Terrans in general and her husband in particular. Storr had not boasted idly.

"The Foreign Ministry is right to restrict us," she said into her personal log. "Perhaps the life-threatening danger was overstated, or maybe Storr is just a superior specimen in body and soul. Either way, I've found that what Terrans lack in psychological acuity and emotional development, they more than make up for in sheer passion and determination. The ethical discussion of inter-species relations is right to question a Deltan's attraction to a Terran outside of the rite of marriage. Terrans would be helpless to rebuff an aggressive Deltan's sexual advances; it would be, as Storr puts it, shooting fish in a barrel, and at a large scale, utterly devastating to diplomatic relations."

She paused for a moment as the thought of other, more intimate relations came to mind. The tantalizing daydream delighted her so that she permitted it to linger for a moment.

A chime at her door interrupted her reverie. "Computer, pause log."

As she was not expecting anybody at that hour, Jaya got up from her lounge pad to meet whoever was at her door. She pressed the release, which opened the doors to reveal the first officer.

"Good evening, Counselor." Akiva was a statuesque paradox of standing stock-still and frantic at the same time.

Every one of her senses screamed that Akiva was either on the verge of a nervous breakdown or had just come back from one. Jaya turned to one side and made room for him to enter.

"Akiva," she said gently, "would you like to come in?"

His head bobbed repeatedly as he accepted her invitation. It had been awhile since his last session, and the office's furnishings were completely unfamiliar.

"You've redecorated." Akiva absently rubbed his sore fist.

Jaya noted his body language, particularly his hand-in-fist motions. She needed to calm him down before they could get anywhere.

"How about some tea?" she suggested. It was her custom to take requests, but Akiva was evidently here on a matter of some personal urgency that he was unprepared to blurt out. And, truly, Jaya did not want to give him the chance to request a more stimulating beverage.

Akiva merely nodded.

"Please, make yourself comfortable." Jaya turned to the replicator and requested two hot Seyalian teas. After presenting Akiva with his, she saw he had taken her lounge pad.

"Good choice," Jaya said. "That was one of my favorites." She kicked a pillow over next to him and sat down on it. The aromatic vapors tickled her nose, which never failed to make her giggle. "As is Seyalian tea. It's practically all I ever drink, yet I never grow tired of it."

Akiva simply stared down at his cup while Jaya pretended not to observe him. She simply sipped and radiated peace and serenity, forcibly raising the emotional quotient of the room. Eventually, Akiva gave in to his curiosity and took a sip.

"It's good." From the emptiness in his voice, one would not have thought so.

"The best," Jaya agreed. She took another sip, this one much bigger, long enough for Akiva to keep talking.

He didn't.

"What's on your mind, Akiva?" Jaya felt his turmoil had calmed enough for the direct approach.

"I struck someone." Akiva didn't look away from his teacup. "A fellow officer."

Jaya had felt the simmering rage when he first arrived, but never would she have thought him capable of an act of violence. Her Deltan aplomb kept her disposition calm and neutral.

"That's not like you, Akiva."

He just shook his head. "No. It's not."

Jaya leaned back with one hand planted on the floor, easing into a fixed listening position. "Why don't you tell me what happened."

"I'm not supposed to." Akiva cracked a wry smirk. "We agreed not to discuss the Brain Trust."

"Brain Trust?" Jaya raised an amused eyebrow. "And what in the world would that be?"

"It does sound rather stupid, doesn't it?" Akiva shook his head and smiled wider. Somehow it stretched the tension out of him. "There's a secret poker game in the shuttlebay, and..."

Akiva stopped when he saw Jaya grin with acknowledgement.

"I told you it's stupid," he said.

Jaya shook her head. "No, it's not that. Storr... I happen to know that Major Garlake was playing poker tonight, though he neglected to mention a 'brain trust.'"

"It was Lieutenant Dedeker's suggestion." Akiva pursed his lips, fighting the urge to spit. "Says he creates a gossip chain at every duty station."

Jaya tilted her head back and tittered. "Ah. I think I'm beginning to understand." She leaned forward and on her knees with her feet tucked under. "I have yet to speak with Ryland Dedeker in person, but his reputation precedes him. Men like him assert themselves at every opportunity, and mostly at the expense of others."

Between Storr and Akiva, it was plain to Jaya who would be on the receiving end of Ryland's derisive antics, but that observation would be unhelpful to state now. The evidence was as plain as the bruise on Akiva's hand.

"It wasn't that," Akiva said, his tone low and ragged. "It took a lot to leave home, knowing what little welcome I'd receive if I ever went back. I don't like to be insulted or belittled, but I've learned to make do. Lieu... Ryland... shamed my...."

When he trailed off, Jaya stepped in to keep his momentum going. "Your what, Akiva?"

"My wife," Akiva rasped. Tension eased off of him in the admission, burning away with every heaving sigh.

"Oh!" Jaya's eyes widened. "I'm sorry, Akiva, but I had not heard you got married."

Akiva grimaced. "I... didn't. We're betrothed, in the sense that we're bonded for life, but that does not constitute a full marriage in the eyes of my people. We'd need paternal blessings, community recognition, and a host of other details that a Hebron marriage entails." He shook his head. "It's rather complicated, more so than most other human cultures, but it's how we've endured as a people for so long. Marriages do more than unite individuals; they unite families and communities."

Jaya nodded her understanding. It had been a long time since she had simply taken such universal unity for granted among her own people. Many races required intricate and complex systems of conduct and belief in order to achieve what nature had freely granted her kind.

"And Ryland made light of all that?" Jaya wasn't entirely certain that was it, but she needed to start somewhere.

"Laena..." Akiva stopped himself, but he supposed the cat was already out of the bag. "Laena," he repeated, his tone more certain and endearing, "and I pledged ourselves to one another. I fear that I may be more committed than she is."

Jaya scrunched her face in disagreement. Traditionally humanoid females were more committed than males.

"Why do you think that?" She kept her voice soft and gentle. Rather than "fear," she intentionally used the word "think".

"She says she loves me, and I believe her." Akiva bit his lip, feeling conflicted with how much he should reveal. "I don't know the details of her past, but it's sordid. Her father sold her into slavery with the Orions." He let that sink in for a moment. "And now I have to pay the price for it. I'll prove myself, whatever it takes, but it means she is scared to commit."

And there it was. Romance had a way of scaring up a number of personal insecurities in people, and when those fears clashed against one another, they resulted in lover's quarrels. In Ryland's case, however, he had blundered directly into an introverted maelstrom of self-doubt and fear of rejection.

"And now you are hating yourself for taking that out on someone else," Jaya concluded. "Even a scoundrel like Ryland Dedeker."

Akiva shrugged, then reluctantly nodded. "Well, yes. I've never struck anyone before. As bad as that is, I know it's only a sign of something bigger. Something worse."

~Keep going~ Jaya thought. ~You can do it~

"Everybody I've ever loved has left me," Akiva rasped through his frayed emotions. "They've rejected me... or died... or forgotten all about me."

It did not take an empathic sense for Jaya to tell that last one was worse than the others. Had Akiva come to terms with his brother's death since their last talk? Or had Akiva bonded so strongly and quickly with Laena that it eclipsed the void in his life?

"Being forgotten is a terrible thing," Jaya agreed. "But you may be bringing the past into the present. Has Laena done anything to remind you of those awful times?"

Akiva smiled again at the mention of her name. "No. When she is near, I feel... free." A dark cloud floated over his sunny disposition. "Except... well, lately she's been more reserved. Something has been bothering her, but she won't tell me what."

"Communication is an integral part of love," Jaya said, "but its equal is trust. The two cannot happen for long apart from one another."

"Exactly!" Akiva said with clenched fists. "How can I trust her if she won't talk to me?"

Jaya looked at him with a cheery smirk. "How can she talk to you if you won't trust her?"

Akiva made to respond, but he found his mouth hanging open without anything to say. He closed behind a sheepish smile. "Point taken, Counselor." He sighed deeply. "So how can I show her I trust her? I've taken her into my life and into my bed." The following admission was easier than the first time he made it. "I've never done either before."

"Show her you aren't leaving or creating distance just because she doesn't know how to say what she's thinking or feeling." Jaya reached out and gave his arm a reassuring brush. "Even if she never finds the right words, your constant presence will lend her the courage to risk saying the wrong ones."

Akiva glanced at Jaya's hand on his forearm, then gave it a pat with his. He could not deny the wisdom in her words; her advice was basically what he had already sworn to do. "Nothing is ever easy."

"And the best things never are, Akiva." Jaya smiled and took their cups back to the replicator for dematerialization. The brief intermission allowed her to assess his emotional state without putting him on the spot. Turmoil still wracked him from within, but at least he was not longer teetering over the edge.

"What about striking another officer?" Akiva posed. "That's not the sort of thing that can just be swept under the rug."

"Was he disrespecting you?" Jaya asked. "In front of witnesses?"

Akiva nodded.

"Then I'll recommend counseling for him in addition to your own."

"I don't like it," Akiva said with a shake of his head. "Cover-ups are wrong."

Jaya snorted. "Akiva, you have been under my treatment for clinical anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress ever since I came aboard. Believe me, there's no cover-up. If anything, this event has given me cause to formally require Mr Dedeker to show his face in my office, so I should really thank you."

"I never would've thought of it like that." Akiva scoffed, then shrugged his agreement.

"Besides, I know physical violence is out of character for you." Jaya wagged a finger up to his face. "But don't go making a habit out of it. Typically I would throw the book at physical assault, no matter the reason."

Akiva cracked a smile. "Yes, ma'am."

"That's enough of that." Jaya waved her hands at the door dismissively. "You're free to go, Commander."

"I came here of my own free will." Akiva arched his eyebrows.

"And unannounced," Jaya reminded with mock scolding. "So you may leave as you came." The teasing left her face, leaving only kind affection. "Thank you for coming, Akiva. Please stop by any time."

The sincerity of her words bludgeoned Akiva. He coughed into his hand and averted his eyes. "Uh, sure. Most certainly. Good night, Counselor."

Jaya only smiled as the man made his awkward egress. Alone again, she returned to the lounge pad that Akiva had taken (and that she had been reclining on before his arrival).

"Computer, resume log."

Once the warble acknowledged her command, though, Jaya could not bring her mind back to her previous line of thought.

"Computer, cancel that. Access personal file: Garlake-Romeo-2-Juliet."

The computer trilled in response and then listed in monotone, "Item List: essential oil, cup warmer, hot towels, aromatic candles."

Jaya grinned ear to ear, fully relishing the surprise for her husband after poker night. As she rhythmically strut her way toward the door, she nearly forgot to say, "Computer. Lights out."


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