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Sal Taybrim

JP: Commander Whittaker & Lt. Commander Anders: Reunion

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(( Intensive Care Unit - Hospital Complex ))

(( StarBase 118 ))

 

:: Commander Theo Whittaker was not a man who did things by half. He discharged his duties with careful precision, honed from a childhood filled with study and an aristocratic upbringing. In his personal life, he was much the same- a staunch friend who would gladly go to hell and back for those closest to him. He had fought the Starfleet JAG officer for Lieutenant Maxwell after his assault on the traitorous scientist, Martantathru, he had stood by Lieutenant Aitas when she had revealed his pregnancy, and at some point or another he had put himself in harm's way for most- if not all- of his friends. However, when it came to matters of the heart, he was completely hopeless. ::

 

:: Baylen Anders had swept Theo off of his feet and into a whirlwind romance that had been as intense as it had been loving. Through it, the young XO- so innocent in affairs of the heart- had learned to drop his carefully built walls that kept people at bay and he had begun to mellow, stripping away layers of the aristocratic and academic aloofness that his father had so rigidly insisted upon. From their first meeting aboard the late U.S.S. Albion- in the heat of battle- there had been a spark between the two of them, a frisson of chemistry that was undeniable. Even though Baylen had a tendency to be impulsive by virtue of his Risian nature, Theo had been charmed almost from the first moment. ::

 

:: Which was why Theo was so completely devastated by the relationship’s sudden and unannounced end. He had been discharged from medical care to find a message from Baylen informing him that he had resigned his commision from Starfleet and was returning to Risa, along with his ward- a young Tilanni boy, Mace. There had been no warning, no problems in their relationship. It was a bolt out of the blue and one which had shaken Theo to his core. It had taken months to fully recover and even longer to open himself up to the possibility of another romantic relationship- this time with the now Lieutenant Commander Taelon. He had been drawn to the El-Aurian’s quiet and contemplative nature, a world away from what he had been used to. Part of it, Theo suspected, had been born out of their shared experiences with the resurgent Orion Syndicate. Taelon was a sensitive soul and that appealed to Theo. Their relationship was less intense and more gentle, as each enjoyed the others companionship and outlook on life. It was a simple, uncomplicated romance. ::

 

:: Baylen Anders’ unannounced return to StarBase 118 had opened old wounds that Theo had believed had healed. Perhaps, because of this, it was the reason that he walked unsteadily down the corridor towards the room where the Risian had been recuperating from his extensive injuries. It was also the reason why he had put off visiting him for several days. He had considered turning back more than once, hoping that by ignoring the fact that Anders was here he would prevent those old wounds from tearing even more. But instead, he walked onwards, towards the unassuming grey door at the end of the unassuming hospital corridor. He had no idea what he was going to say to Baylen- no, Lieutenant Commander Anders- but he was unable to deny the fact that his emotional walls were raised once again. ::

 

:: Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Theo reached the unassuming door and hesitated for a moment- one last delaying tactic, as he contemplated walking away yet again. Then with a deep breath and stiffening of his back, he tapped the panel by the doorframe. The doors swished open with a low, hydraulic hiss and Theo stood there, looking at Anders with a carefully, neutral expression. ::

 

Whittaker: :: deliberate, controlled, almost emotionless. Almost. :: Hello.

 

Anders: ::barely able to speak, from both his wounds and his feelings at seeing Theo. A part of him thought that he would never see him again.  He gave up hope of ever seeing anyone he cared about again a long time ago.  But other than Mace, the thing that got Baylen through the long endless nights was the face of his loving partner Theo.  It was one of the few memories he held on to in that cruel and unjust place. :: Hello old friend. ::trying to force a smile through the pain and finally gave up.:: I think there is a chair in the corner. ::Pointing over to the other side of the door.::

 

:: Theo took a step into the room- he did not even glance at the chair- hovering just beyond the doorway, but not so far that the doors closed. Instead, they remained parted. The symbolism was not lost on him- just as Anders had left unannounced, so to could Theo. ::

 

:: Baylen… no, Lieutenant Commander Anders, he chided himself (feeling the need to remain professional so as to keep a clear head), looked a great deal different to the last time the two had seen each other. There was a gaunt quality to the man, likely from the months he spent malnourished and from the biological weapon that he had been struck with prior to his collapse in The Hub. Gone was the larger-than-life, magnetic man that he had known, replaced instead with a poor approximation. His eyes no longer sparkled, his lips looked thin and his jaw had been hidden by a large, matted beard that resembled one could find adorning a Klingon drunked. ::

 

Whittaker: I’d… prefer to stand, thank you. :: he almost referred to Anders by his given name, stopping himself only at the last second. He felt supremely uncomfortable and he suspected that it showed. His father, had been present, would have no doubt approved at Theo’s restrained and almost emotionless inflections.:: oO It would be the first time. Oo :: he thought with no small amount of bitterness. ::

 

Anders: ::eyes lowering a bit:: Ah yes, of course. I understand. I must be the last person you expected to see?  ::He had meant in general but his ability to say anything was hard a mixture of the drugs, pain and emotions that ran through him.  He wanted nothing more than to jump from bed and run to Theo and hug him and hold him tight and be embraced by him in return.  Of course he knew that Theo had his own emotions to deal with.  He knew of the communication that was sent to him and how shocking it must have been for Theo.  That pain made Baylen feel all the worst.::

 

:: A rebuttal sprang into Theo’s mind. He had known precisely where to find Anders- he would have been more shocked had somebody else occupied the room. It was a sarcastic retort, one that would have stung with any luck. He held his tongue through sheer force of will, however, knowing that a low blow would only make things a great deal worse. Instead Theo replied blandly. ::

 

Whittaker: I would ask how you are doing, but Doctor Nijil has already briefed me on your circumstances. I’m not a physician- but I got the gist of it. :: he knew he was grasping at straws, not knowing what to say. On some level, he was aware of the emotional battle being fought within his psyche- but he ignored it, pushed it deeper into its recesses. Just as he had been taught as a child. oO Show them no trace of emotion. It is a weakness. You do not show weakness to others, Theo. Oo::

 

Anders: That is more than I know to be honest. I still have not been briefed on what they did in surgery. ::It was true, the doctors had been rather tight lipped about it, but he knew that he was not doing well with physical therapy at all, he was down right failing it, or at least in his mind.  He still could not walk yet.  But in his mind he should be able to, it was just simple will.  Yet the will was not enough it seemed.::

 

Whittaker: :: he nodded, his lips pursed. :: Well I am sure that you will be informed in due course. I expect Nijil would rather you focus on your recovery. Which is… understandable. :: he hesitated anew, wondering what else there was to possibly say to a man who he had not seen for eighteen months. Finally, he decided to observe formalities. In situations such as the one Anders now found himself, there were protocols that the Commanding and First Officers had to follow. :: I have some questions for you, if you feel up to them. :: a short pause. :: Lieutenant Commander.

 

:: It was the first time that Theo had referred to Anders by his rank and not his given name in so long that he couldn't remember a time that he had done so before. As soon as he had said it, he knew that it had come off more hurtful than he had intended. But what was done was done. An apology would be a sign of weakness. oO How strange that I am so keen to follow my father’s example after years of doing everything I can not to do so. Oo. ::

 

Anders: I have no other place to be ::seeing the third pip was now gold:: Commander sir. ::adjusting in his bed and pulling his blanket up suddenly feeling more exposed and more uncomfortable with the ice that hung in the air like a pal. :: ask away. ::trying to stay as friendly and upbeat as possible. By no means were Risians as skilled in reading emotions as that of a Betazoid, but you really had no need of a Betazoid in this room.  Baylen was able to get a general feeling of emotions as were most all Risians but the feelings he got now were so confused and jumbled.  They were all over the spectrum.::

 

Whittaker: Very well. :: he retrieved the ever present PADD from the back pocket of his trousers and opened a blank document on it, replacing the location of Anders’ room and the latest medical update he had had access to. :: This will be preliminary and I will not go into too much detail. Our Chief of Intelligence, Commander Aitas, will no doubt be visiting you with questions of her own. As will a representative of Starfleet Security, I imagine:: he cleared his throat and looked down at the PADD, grateful for the opportunity to look away from the man who he still blamed for the dissolution of their relationship, even if- deep down- he knew he had had no say in the matter. :: I understand you were captured by the Relexians along with your son?

 

:: Theo did not refer to Mace by his name. He had been one of Anders’ more impulsive decision- extreme, even for him, rescuing him from a life of poverty and abuse on the formerly neutral world of Tilanna V. He had not consulted with the relevant authorities before deciding to raise the boy as his own. Nevertheless, he had been granted custody of the boy shortly before their departure from StarBase 118. Theo had agreed to help Anders raise him, but his name was never added to the guardianship. ::

 

:: As cold-hearted as some might of viewed it, Theo clung to that detail in that particular moment. oO One less thing to worry about. Oo. ::

 

Anders: Yes, Mace!  ::adding an emphasis to the name. :: Right after my birthday party I decided I should try and take him camping as my dad did for me and my brother as boys. I had a few days off and I thought we could go to a nearby moon and camp under the stars. That night we were beamed onto a transport ship. ::Baylen hid the pain of recalling that night, but he knew he was going to have to tell this story many times. He better get use to it.:: We never got through the first night. ::Baylen made a fake cough sound just so he could move his hand to his face and discreetly wipe away a tear that was forming in the corner of the eye. ::  We were transported up to some kind of transport and cargo ship.  Locked into cells and scanned and tattooed.  I tried to resist and they have very effective shock sticks and I found one thrust up into my side and felt the full effects.

 

:: Theo nodded, not immediately responding. He knew Anders well enough to know that the man was becoming emotional which was perfectly understandable. In fact he could not deny that the facts were also causing himself emotional distress- a lump had begun to form in his throat. He swallowed once, not wishing to focus on it. ::

 

:: He did not look at Anders when he spoke again. ::

 

Whittaker: I see. And you were taken to Relexis VI in the Archanis sector?

 

Anders: I don't know where it was. It was a planet with four suns. I guess that would be right, was the data from the flight recorder recovered? :: He thought about the run through the fields and over the flight way. Being hit in the leg with the energy beam and climbing up into the short Range Shuttle. He then wondered if there was anything left of the shuttle at all after the ways he had to fly to escape the interceptors.  He did not think much could be left of the small ship.::

 

Whittaker: :: he nodded again. :: Yes, we recovered your shuttle and the flight recorder confirmed that. You were also pursued by Relexian interceptors. The Starfleet Intelligence section for that sector are investigating how you went unnoticed for so long. :: beat :: Do you know why the Orion Syndicate wanted you and your son?

 

:: A part of Theo wanted to take the Columbia and close the labour camp down with extreme prejudice. He had come to despise the Orion Syndicate over the past two years for all that they had wrought against the Federation- and the crew of StarBase 118 in particular. Of course, Relexis VI was more than fifty light years distant and under the purview of another sector command. For now, all StarBase 118 could do was question Anders and pass the information along while the U.S.S. Avalon-A investigated further. ::

 

Anders: ::He thought of the many days spent in those volcanic pockets with old tools beating rocks drilling into the ground.  Carrying Ore to processing chambers and so much more, so much worse stuff.. :: they wanted free labor for their fuel mines and they found extra benefits with a Starfleet officer. They would beat you for days at time to get cargo transportation protocols from you. ::Baylen looked at the scarred hands from holding tools that Theo once bandaged after being burned while escaping a rather large plasma fire. Another emotion hit his gut, at least what was left of it.::  They wanted so much to hijack high-value cargo transports.

 

:: For the first time since he stepped into the room, Theo displayed an overt sign of emotion- a frown. He abhorred slave labour in any form and there was absolutely no excuse for it. He also glanced up from his PADD, memory guiding his hands across the keyboard on the screen. ::

 

Whittaker: I don’t need to ask you whether you gave them any information. :: he already knew that the man would never do so. ::

 

Anders: ::frowning as he thought of all those beating and days with no food and all those times in the sun pits lying in the heat or in a hot box praying for death. :: No I never gave any information, but there were days, more than a few I regret, that I came close to it. :: now his eyes, cheeks and face were full of tears and his voice was cracking and there was no hiding it:: They made  poor Mace work as well. Of course he was too small for any hardcore manual labor but he was required to shuttle tools back and forth or push the ore carts. The day before I escaped with him I was told that if I did not start cooperating they were going to kill him slowly and painfully ::His voice had a full break in it and the words were hard to get out.:: In front of me. ::Baylen turned to wipe his eyes. ::

 

Whittaker: They put Mace to work in the labour camp? :: he had said the boy’s name before he could stop himself and he was also unable to keep the revulsion he felt creeping into his voice. Child labour was the worst kind of enforced work he could imagine- and threatening the life of a defenceless young boy- one who had already endured a lifetime of horror- was even worse. He could feel the bile rising from his stomach. Once again, the urge to glass the surface of Relexis VI blossomed in his mind. ::

 

:: He could feel the first crack in his emotional walls. He took a deep breath, imagining plastering over it- but still, he knew that it was there. oO Perhaps it is time to leave. I should never have come. Oo. He could not deny how disgusted he was at himself for being cold with Anders. oO I can’t even bring myself to say his given name. Oo. ::

 

Anders: As I said ::still wiping away tears. :: it was a truly unbearable hell. One I could never wish on the worst person, EVER… It was like an endless nightmare that one woke up to find he was still in the nightmare.

 

Whittaker: :: a sad nod. :: I should leave you be. This has clearly been a traumatic experience for you. I’m sorry to have disturbed you, Lieutenant Commander.

 

:: He turned to leave, a sense of relief taking hold. However, Anders’ voice caused to stop mid turn. He looked back around. ::

 

Anders: Theo  ::The hell with it, I may now be Lt. Commander, but he was still Theo.  Someone he cared deeply about.:: it was good to see you, I only wish this could have been under better circumstances. And you have never been a bother nor will you ever be. I know this is hard on you I've been gone for 18 months and you received a faked communication from me I can imagine how that felt. All I can say is I'm sorry. As soon as I'm recovered and back on my feet I can ask for a transfer if you would like me to?  I don’t want to keep disrupting your life.

 

:: Theo’s first instinct was to accept the offer and he almost did so, reigning in the impulse when he realised how unprofessional it would have been- and he prided himself on his professionalism. He chewed out Anders’ words for several seconds in his head, biting his lower lip as he did so. There was no need for the Commander to apologise, Theo knew that he was not responsible for his or the boy’s capture. The anger that he was feeling was irrational and completely unnecessary- yet he could not stop himself. oO Oh to be a Vulcan. Oo he mused, sorrowfully. ::

 

:: He turned around, facing Anders and shook his head. ::

 

Whittaker: You need time to heal, physically and psychologically. Being in familiar surroundings such as 118 will help with your recovery. :: he hesitated, unsure of whether to proceed. :: If Captain Taybrim wishes you to stay on then I will not challenge him. However, I think it would be best if you and I kept our relationship strictly professional for the time being. :: beat :: There has been a lot of anguish, on both sides. It is for the best if we do complicate your recovery.

 

:: He wondered whether he should tell Anders’ about his relationship with Taelon, but decided against doing so. The Risian was already anguished, having to relive whatever horrors the Orion Syndicate inflicted upon him on Relexis VI, and Theo saw no sense in adding to it. He would simply have to wait for a more opportune time. ::

 

Anders:  ::He understood exactly what Theo was saying to be logical, but those words cut deeper into Baylen than any whip of his cruel captors had used. He waited a moment for his nerves to calm.  The unclinching of his gut so he could speak, the time it would take to talk without his voice breaking into a thousand little shards of emothions :: I understand completely. ::forcing a half smile.::  You know best.

 

Whittaker: Very well then. :: he lingered in the still open doorway, wondering whether to wish the man well. :: I shall be in contact if I have any further questions, Lieutenant Commander. Take care of yourself.

 

:: And with that he turned and left the room. As the door finally swished shut behind him, Theo let out a long, deep sigh. He knew that their reunion could have been a lot worse, had he indulged in his emotions and lashed out at Anders. He had kept things professional and at a remove from his personal feelings. ::

 

:: Yet he could not escape the fact that he felt like the worst person in the quadrant at that moment in time. By the time he had left the hospital, he had already checked to see when the next available counselling appointment with Counsellor Lyndsay was. ::

 

--

Commander Theo Whittaker

Executive Officer

StarBase 118 Ops/USS Columbia

C239203TW0

 

&

 

Lieutenant Commander Baylen M. Anders

Mission Specialist

Fleet Operations 118th Fleet

StarBase 118 Ops/USS Columbia

R238606GH0

 

 

--

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