((Hotel Room, Endaasi))
Cade Foster lounged back in a chair, idly waiting and watching the clock. It was one of those occasions where he was banking on his own gravitas to connect him with his recalcitrant son for a talk that was long overdue. Wyn did not want the tables turned and to have Cade Foster knocking on his door at two in the morning. Nobody wanted Cade to make a midnight house call, least of all his own kid.
Besides, he loved the kid and the kid loved him. While they were always and forever close, the knowledge that something was hidden from him had driven a hazy wedge between them. Well, hidden might be a harsh way of putting it. Overlooked, perhaps. Unmentioned.
Still, in this big crazy galaxy family was a bedrock and Cade would do anything for Wyn Foster. And yet Wyn was of that awkward adult age where he was thoroughly and totally independent and yet not old enough to come full circle and realize that one didn’t have to do everything alone. That was the curious thing about age, one grew up and then one had to keep growing. Building strengths, overcoming weaknesses and recognizing mental demons were all part of growing as an adult.
Cade was old enough to have messed it all up, pulled himself together, learn lessons the hard way and start to grow into someone he could respect. And his highest goal was to get Wyn on the right path without nearly as much pain and anguish as Cade had gone through to get himself on the right track.
Still, time was slowly slipping away and Cade kept a careful eye on the clock. He had his own, unspoken mental time limits of when he had enough and would get up off this comfortable chair and go on the prowl.
He was almost, but not quite irritated. Just tense enough to stretch but not tense enough to get up when the door chime rang. The kid had perfect timing – whether that was from instinct, personal connection or a combination of the two he had hit the point of the maximum amount of procrastination without actually [...]ing off the person on the other side of the door.
Cade hit the door controls first so it slid open without warning and then once he saw the short form with a familiar antennae silhouette did he smile and offer.
Cade: Come on in.
Cade stood watching as the awkward surface tension of the reunion was first broken by the simple act of stepping through the threshold of the doorway. Still, the unease – almost embarrassment was palpable.
His eyes narrowed at the younger Andorian, his gait was very slightly stumbling. With a snap of his fingers Cade brought the light levels up and took a step forward, watching his son’s gaze rivet towards him. Hm, the pupil dilation reaction was much better than the gait suggested. Wyn was mostly sober. Cade watched him as he neared for a few more moments, forming a quiet hypothesis in his mind. A hypothesis that would have to wait, there were more important things to tend to.
In one swift, steady gesture he crossed the room with those overly long, lanky legs and wrapped his kid up in a silent, unyielding hug.
Wyn didn’t protest. He always made a show like he was going to protest and then never did. And every single time he pulled the smaller, younger man close, he could feel the tension held like a drawn bowstring slowly loosen and drain away, muscles untangling as the younger leaned into the gestured, soaking up every bit of connection and compassion possible.
Wyn: ::After a long pause.:: I missed you, Dad.
Cade: I missed you too, Kid.
He smiled fondly as the two broke, lingering close, but now separate. Wyn kept his crystal blue eyes downwards as Cade waved him to take a seat while surreptitiously dialing down the heat and bringing up the air conditioning.
Silence, one of the constant companions in their relationship settled in and got cozy between them.
Cade was patient, hanging on to each beat of the conversation with good humor, a hint of a smile hanging on his features.
Cade: Come on, sit down, the chairs won’t bite you.
Wyn’s gaze rose furtively towards his father, cheeks tinging faintly navy as he looked forward, broke the gaze and looked back again. Inwardly he cursed himself. This was his Dad. His father, the person he loved more than anything in the world. Why couldn’t he just say things like a normal person?
Wyn: Dad, I… ::His tongue faltered on the words as he second guessed himself.::
Another round of almost comfortable silence settled in. Cade drew in a long slow breath and let it out before he smiled very faintly.
Cade: I won’t bite you, either.
Wyn drew a breath in through his teeth, realizing that he could agonize over words all day and just end up looking like a fool. He had to spit it out, something he had been ruminating on for years.
Wyn: Dad… I’m sorry. ::He fixed his eyes on Cade again, antennae curled down into the snowy tufts of his hair.:: Sometimes I go over conversations we had and I am so embarrassed.
Cade perked a brow, vaguely surprised. He was expecting this to start off about conversations they didn’t have rather than ones they did have. Curiosity drained in.
Cade: Conversations, eh? Which ones?
Setting his jaw in a thin, hard line, Wyn took a step forward, his eyes trailing off to the side as if replaying something in his head.
Wyn: Remember when you decided to stay on the Constitution the first time? And we argued and I said I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I needed my father to follow me into space and take care of me?
Slowly Cade gave a nod. He did remember that, but clearly not as strongly or painfully as Wyn did. Cade has passed it off as part and parcel of being wounded and off duty. He had said plenty of stupid things to well meaning caretakers that he most certainly didn’t mean, and had automatically and generously passed the same on to Wyn.
But clearly from the deeply troubled expression Shar’Wyn Foster had throught about this far more than Cade had. Perhaps that was because Wyn had said exactly the opposite of what he felt and wanted and had regretted it ever since.
Cade: I do ::he said carefully, not trying to stop words that needed to be said from being said.::
Wyn: ::He took in a deep breath and ended up looking downward at the floor, murmuring the words with a low sobriety.:: I am so, so sorry, Dad. I want you to know that I was a stupid fool and that I not only need you, but I wish I could have stayed there with you.
Cade: Wyn… ::His voice started to grow a touch hoarse as he moved forward in his seat.:: You know you always have my support whether I’m in the room or not. I am always a comm call away.
Shar’Wyn Foster blinked a little, possibly expecting a bit more pushback than he got. Instead he was countered with an open invitation and now he felt like he was slightly floating in a pool of indecision.
Wyn: I don’t like commline calls.
Cade: I know. They’re not my favorite either. But it’s good to talk to you. And sometimes good is better than great.
Wyn let his antennae sink downwards, and his eyes drift upwards, taking in a long slow breath. He couldn’t really argue that. Good was better than being alone and suffering alone even when there were others offering support. But when one was alone and suffering it was so hard to see the unlocked doors that only needed to be opened.
He sighed and sank heavily into a chair close to Cade.
Wyn: I should have told you sooner.
Damn skippy he should have. Not on the unappreciated comment or any verbal altercations the two had in the past. No. From the shift in the young Andorian’s posture and tone he was clearly now focused on the thing. The big thing. The thing he had expressly stated they were going to talk about.
Cade knew. He had friends in Starfleet medical. High ranking friends in Starfleet medical. Including one high ranking Denobulan friend who had no concept of proper filtering of conversational details who, as they had been discussing specific medical judicial cases asked if Cade was going to weigh in on the trial of a young half-Vulcan, half-Human ex-Starfleet officer named Janeway (an ironic name, all Starfleet things considered, but a common one on Earth) guilty of assaulting several fellow crewmembers while undergoing Pon Farr.
Cade had shook his head, waving a hand and stating that unmoderated Pon Farr was a consistent issue with Vulcan hybrids that Starfleet medical and Starfleet Counselling needed better game plans for when his Denobulan companion had made an unmistakable fumble, and then changed subjects all too quickly. Seriously suspiciously quickly. So Cade jotted down the name and looked it up.
What he found made him so mad that he briefly considered becoming a vigilante and then decided to just send some anonymous tips to people with enough pips to get some legitimately good things done. Then he made a fateful commline call which confirmed every fear he had, hopped a ship and ended up on the Constitution less than a week later.
He knew the whole story, but not from Wyn’s lips.
It was important to him. It still was.
Cade: Tell me now. ::gentle.::
No admonishment. He could confirm ‘you should have’ but what was the point in guilt when he had the chance to get what he wanted – the conversation that they should have had years ago, and the chance to start the person he loved the most in the universe down a path of healing.
Wyn Foster sighed, putting his hands by his temples to support his head. Cade watched as the right hand antennae tracked a hair slower than the left one, and frowned. Hypothesis again.
Wyn: You know the details. ::He murmured, really not wanting to relive or rehash the moments.::
Cade: I do. ::He leaned forward again.:: But I’m not interested in the details academically. I’m interested in your experience. That’s what the reports leave out, the actual experience of the people involved.
The little Andorian gave a sigh. He opened his mouth, perhaps hoping that words would just tumble out. None did.
He had struggled so long with his own experience because none of it made sense to him. From his point of view a crime was committed and the victims and anyone who supported them was vilified and ostracized. That made no sense to him. He had spent a very long, lonely week in a haze of painkillers and confusion wondering if the world had gone mad or if he, himself was crazy.
Wyn: I don’t remember much ::He said pulling his shoulders in towards his chest, physically shrinking away on the chair.:: Kortantol painkillers are a hell of a thing.
Cade: Bull[...]. You remember plenty and it haunts you.
He would call that one out. Wyn was not getting away and he was going to put up verbal brick walls to get the hard part started.
He watched Wyn’s head jerk up, feeling an empathetic flash of pain. Oh yeah, that stung. He knew it stung. He had been there before and done it before. It sucked.
It sucked and it had to be done.
The Andorian set his mouth in a thin, hard line, not breaking Cade’s gaze, but not speaking either. It was a tenuous teeter-totter on a line of not wanting to show weakness, but an unwillingness to move forward. But like all unbalanced things it could not hold on forever.
Wyn: ::He started with a sigh, almost a stutter.:: I see it play out some nights, when I close my eyes, when I least expect it. It sneaks up in my dreams and steals away my thoughts when I’m tired and alone. And the more I think about it the more I’m convinced that if put in the same situation I would make the same choices, no matter how stupid the results turned out to be. ::The words slowly grew faster, taking on a thin, tense, anguished tone.:: I did the right thing, Dad! I did what I thought was right, I tried to protect someone, I got my [...] kicked for it, and then everyone vilified me!
Why was he shouting? He didn’t know. His Dad was the least guilty. But to his credit Cade Foster also looked the least bothered by it.
Cade: Almost everyone. ::He offered as a quiet counterpoint.:: It is deeply unfair that those who supported truth and justice were removed from the ship before they had a chance to express that support. ::He offered evenly. Though he knew that at least two had gone to the Constitution- at the time the Apollo – as well.::
Wyn: It was unfair! ::he protested, waving a hand in front of his face as if he was trying to gather up words that were floating like leaves in front of him.:: How could people be OK with what happened? The CO left a crewmember behind, a crewmember in danger who was murdered while we were on a mission! The crew protected a man who attacked me at a party and sexually assaulted a senior officer! Not protected her… not protected me. Protected the guy who did it! I don’t understand, Dad! That doesn’t make any sense! None of it makes any sense! ::He stopped himself from yelling, taking in a short breath, suddenly feeling very raw, exposed and he had barely even started this conversation.::
Cade nodded gently, keeping his voice measured.
Cade: It was unfair. ::he repeated, with a tone of validation.::
Wyn: If it was so clearly unfair why did only three people seem to actually see that are gave a crap about it? ::he shot back. In about ten minutes he would be extremely ashamed of yelling at his Dad, but in the heat of the moment the words were loud with venom.::
Again, Cade was unphased by this. He had done plenty of yelling in his days, yelling that was not directed at the listener. It was just a way to process emotions. That much they had in common. Heck, if Cade were being brutally honest he would have to admit that he most likely taught Wyn that.
Cade: Do you really want an answer? ::he asked evenly, firmly, indicating that he had one.::
Wyn: Yes. ::He shot back a little too quickly and then reinforced it:: Yes.
Wyn’s big blue eyes were searching, looking for something that he couldn’t grasp, even after all these years. That was one of the problems of being in the middle of something – one could not see the forest, only the trees.
Cade: ::he took in a long deep breath.:: Ok, let me break it down. Your CO had a fight with his friend and lover, a fellow member of your crew and that guy marched off ship. And your CO told the crew ‘don’t go looking for him’ because he feeling wounded from the fight. Then you and your crewmates saw some evidence that the guy was well and truly in trouble, your crewmates said ‘Captain says don’t go looking for him’ and you say ‘screw that, this could be important, I’m telling him.’ Do I have it right so far?
Wyn gave a silent nod and Cade leaned forward to continue on.
Cade: Captain says ‘he’s done this before, don’t worry about him we’re leaving.’ ::he took in a breath and held up a hand:: Now in my humble opinion that should have been a full stop moment because no commanding officer should ever leave a member of the crew behind on a space station, no matter how many times they have run off before or what set them off. You beam their butt onboard and hold them in the brig if you have to and if you release them from Starfleet service you take them to a place like StarBase 118 where you can officially – and safely discharge them, not some half wild deep space station. But anyways, your ship heads out. You have a mission, bad stuff happens, you get back, surprise, surprise, the guy is dead. Now let me ask you – did you CO let the crew know that they were leaving without an officer?
Wyn: Yes. ::he nodded feeling a bit numb,::
Cade: And you already confirmed that the crew knew that the CO’s wish was to no go looking for the guy. So now you are part of a crew that has confirmation that if you [...] off the CO, you get left behind. ::He said this with a dark punctuation.:: I get it, there were nuances, but that’s what it boils down to, right? You cross the CO, you get left out in the cold.
A curious, and very cutting choice of words. Wyn’s head jerked upwards as if he had been stung. Ostracism, being left behind. That’s what cut to the quick.
Cade knew this all too well. He had picked the half-frozen child up from the snow where the tribe had left him and his mother to die for being different. It didn’t matter if Wyn was a toddler barely old enough to walk. That memory had seared itself in his psyche as some half-formed, looming, nameless monster.
Wyn: ::biting his bottom lip, he tried to stave away the shadows of memories.:: Are you saying I should have seen it coming?
Cade: ::gently, with compassion.:: I’m saying I think you had at least some awareness that you were going against the status quo and that would have consequences. I’m also not saying that is a bad thing. ::he paused and when Wyn was silent he carried on.:: So your crew has a miserable shore leave, and all your CO wants to do is indulge in his own misery and deny he had a hand in the death of his lover. And then your crewmate goes into Pon Farr, which seriously screws up the wallowing in misery process. Sure, the senior staff isn’t involved in the altercation, but now there’s something they have to deal with, and they have to stop feeling sorry for themselves. But, Wyn, let me tell you – the combination of denial and feeling sorry for yourself is one of the most powerful narcotics you can imagine. So the senior staff wants this thing over with as soon as possible so they can go back to their comfortable misery. And almost everyone else is happy with staying complacent and keeping quiet because they all know if you cross the CO you get tossed out.
Again Wyn gave the softest of nods of assent, just trying to let the words sink in and finally process.
Cade: Counselor speaks up? Boom, gone. Medical staff speaks up? Boom, gone. Did you really think after those examples were made that others would speak up? ::he shook his head:: Wyn, authority can be terrifying to some people. They don’t understand the whole picture but they know who has the pips. And they say ‘yes Sir’ and trust that the person with the pips has crew’s best interests at heart. And, for the best COs that’s true. ::He would firmly argue Jalana was one of them.:: But not everyone can handle that pressure, And one mistake will snowball into a cascade of mistakes covered up by defensiveness and denial. And everyone knows the best way to cover up mistakes is to get rid of roadblocks.
Wyn looked up, his expression pained, brows and antennae twining together.
Wyn: Dad… I saved that man’s life once… ::He reached out as if trying to understand.:: I did everything I could to support him and he discarded me.
Cade: ::Gently, he reached out and put a hand on Wyn’s shoulder.:: Wyn… it’s not personal. I know that may be unfathomable to you. But some people don’t process things like you do. You weren’t cut because you were Shar’Wyn Foster. You were cut because you were a roadblock. I don’t know if that helps at all, but again, stop beating yourself personally up for this. It wasn’t personal.
Wyn: ::Softly.:: That doesn’t make it better.
Cade: I know it doesn’t. ::He said soberly.:: Sometimes you can’t make things fair. If things were fair the girl would have been in counseling, the Vulcan in a mental hospital and you would have been supported for your decisions. Instead she committed suicide, he got thrown into a high security penitentiary and you got canned. ::He patted Wyn shoulder.:: But sometimes time tried to fix things. The people who caused this mess retired or stepped down. The Vulcan was eventually transferred to a proper mental health facility. You carried on and found yourself a Commanding officer or two that you can trust, if you let yourself. I can’t bring the girl back, but sometimes you have to move forward and build what you can with what you have in front of you.
Wyn shot his father a short look that wondered if that was a subtle way of telling him to date Rue. Still, he was trying to let this sink in.
Wyn: Moving forward isn’t easy. ::he admitted quietly.::
Cade: That’s because you see this thing as one huge looming monster. And you can never defeat a monster. What you need to do is break it down into specific problems – you can overcome problems. So, start to recognize each little think that causes you pain and anxiety and keep track of them. Record ‘em, write ‘em down, tell them to someone, whatever – get a record and then fix one small thing at a time.
Wyn gave his father a very well-known hard, almost disbelieving look. The sort of teenaged pout that said ‘prove it.’
Cade: Wyn, do you think I un-screwed my life all at once? ::he said matter of factly.:: No Kid. It was a process that took years one little step at a time. Sure, the first step was the biggest – I had to get sober. But after that there was still a ton of work. I had to train myself to pick up all my socks and put them in the recycler so I didn’t always walk into a room that looked and smelled like a lonely old man lived there. I had to commit to having one breakfast a week with someone I actually cared about talking to rebuild relationships I had broken. I had to apologize to people, offer amends and stick with them. You only saw the back half of my work, and trust me the front half wasn’t pretty. ::He offered a soft smile.:: But it was worth it.
Wyn let his head fall into his hands. Cade kept his hand reassuringly on the younger man’s back.
Wyn: I don’t even know how to begin, Dad.
Cade: Begin by defining what is important to you, Kid. You’re not nearly as far gone as I was and unlike me, you didn’t do most of the damage to yourself. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I’m saying you’ll mor readily get allies. All you have to do is ask.
Wyn: More talking to people… ::he said with a sigh.::
Cade: ::With some humor.:: Are you in pain right now? Do you hate this?
Sometimes Wyn still was the teenager who liked to complain just to complain. Maybe he got that from Cade, but maybe that was just him.
Wyn: … no. ::He admitted sheepishly.:: I’m just tired and have too much to think about.
Cade: You gonna sleep OK? ::He asked gently, well aware of how the shadows could creep in at night.::
Wyn: I don’t know. ::He took in a long slow breath and let his muscles relax.:: I think so?
Cade shifted to wrap an arm around Wyn’s skinny shoulders
Cade: I am always here for you, Kid. Always. No matter what, OK?
Wyn: ::barely above a whisper:: I’m sorry, Dad.
For a moment he pulled the kid in reassuringly close.
Cade: Stop being sorry. I get what happened and I understand why you did what you did. You pulled away to protect yourself and try to somehow build callouses to operate in the outside world. I would have done the same. But now time has passed and those callouses have formed and you’re still not happy. So now it’s time to break down the monster, deal with the problems and build what makes you happy. And that is exactly what I’m here to help you with.
Wyn Foster wasn’t very good at processing emotions. Sometimes he just had to shut up and try to let everything sink in. The open offer of support, the hazy view of a path forward, they all swirled around in his tired mind
He opened his mouth, almost ready to protest. But something did actually sink in, it was starting to process, however slowly.
Wyn: Thanks, Dad. ::He spoke in soft, deep tones choked with emotion.:: I love you.
Cade would never admit it, but when no one could see him, he teared up.
Cade: Love you too, Kid.
~fin, for now~
Lt Commander Cade Foster
Lt Commander Shar’Wyn Foster
Interim Chief Medical officer
StarBase 118 ops