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JP: Lt Vance Sheridan & Lt(jg) Sabina Tiam - Shadows of the Noguwi

Sedrin Belasi

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((Starbase 118: Counsellor’s Office))

::The few days following the riots had been very busy for Vance Sheridan, but it had been the type of ‘busy’ that he was accustomed to. As he had expected, the influx of referrals for appointments had been high, with a healthy dose of requests coming in from officers being proactive about talking about their experiences and the helplessness that they were still feeling following an enforced lack of control. In some cases he’d ended up reading from a similar script. In others, he’d had to be a little more inventive. Some, the patients effectively counselled themselves, and he’d ended up just being there to listen - that was what they had seemed to need, though, and if that was enough to help them along then nothing more was warranted. His schedule would remain busy for the next few weeks, too. Everyone who he met with was scheduled for a follow-up appointment to make sure that they continued towards fully coming to terms with what had happened.::

::The next name on his list was someone who he considered a friend by now. His experiences of the riot had been very similar in some ways to those of Sabina Tiam, with some key differences. The Betazoid had had issues with her telepathy and had been exposed to a strange gas aboard the Noguwip, a ship belonging to a strange species of nightmarish, telepathic creatures, as well as being exposed to the stress of mental violation, being ordered to leave Ambassador Calderan to be tortured and backing up Vance’s suggestion to the first officer to beam the same diplomat to who knows where with something that could only be described as a demonic entity.::

::It was always weird counselling friends, but it did remove a certain level of formality. That was something, at least. When the door chime rang, Vance called Sabina inside.::

Sheridan: Come in!

::The office door swooshed open to allow the petite woman access. Sabina smiled as she stepped in, the light fabric of her off-duty clothing fluttering behind her. Appointment or not, she was not one to be caught in a uniform anywhere it wasn’t strictly required.::

Tiam: Counselor. ::She nodded in greeting.::

::He stood from the seat behind his desk and smiled, walking around to the sofa and armchair that took centre stage in the office.::

Sheridan: Grab yourself a seat. Would you like a drink?

::She began making her way to the sofa.::

Tiam: Coffee would be lovely.

::Taking a seat, she realized how tense she had become. The Betazoid was still not used to verbalizing her innermost thoughts or feelings. So things like psych evals, or even just counseling sessions felt like foreign ground. But this time around she had the privilege of working with someone she had come to count as a friend. It was probably a large part of why she had been proactive in setting the appointment, in fact.::

::To the telepath, counseling sessions with strangers seemed inherently unbalanced. She would be expected to express herself openly and honestly, yet Starfleet’s policy, and what many considered to be simple consideration, required that she kept her own mental barriers up. While, due to the nature of the task at hand, the counselor themselves certainly wouldn’t be sharing about themselves. This routine gave her no chance to really get to know who she was talking to. That type of imbalance was quite rare on Betazed. At least working with a friend, Sabina knew that she could trust the officer she working with.::

::As Vance returned, coffee in tow, Sabina accepted the cup with a grateful look.::

Tiam: Thank you.

::She sipped the familiar, bitter beverage and after a moment of simple enjoyment, she set the cup down. Her eyes, darkening ever so slightly to cobalt, fell on the counselor. Before speaking, she pulled her legs up under her and assumed a more casual posture on the sofa. ::

Tiam: You’ll have to forgive me, I’m a bit out of practice when it comes to talk therapy.

::Sabina knew he would likely know this. Her file was unusually bare in the psych section. Her last formal evaluation had come at the end of her SFI training. How she had managed to not be called in for so long, she didn’t know. But she knew that their findings had been less than favorable for her, so she hadn’t minded avoiding further study, so to speak.::

::”A bit out of practice” was an understatement. If Sabina had been for a counselling appointment recently then whoever she’d seen hadn’t bothered to write anything down. Trying times like the riots tended to bring to light a few people who had slipped through the net of having their regular evaluations, but Vance hadn’t necessarily expected Sabina to be one of them. He guessed he didn’t really know her - he didn’t really know anyone after being on the station for just a few days now. Still, that would come with time and this wasn’t about lecturing people for not taking care of procedure.::

Sheridan: Don’t worry. ::He smiled.:: I won’t judge. I’ve had enough people through the doors today who haven’t seen a counsellor in a while that I’m definitely in sympathetic mode.

::He made himself comfortable.::

Sheridan: How’ve you been, anyway? Have you had much of a chance to take the load off?

::Sabina considered her answer to that for a moment. Between the mission, her family and her disrupted sleep, she couldn’t say she’d been great. But she had been embracing leave wholeheartedly, which helped.::

Tiam: I have, actually. While the promenade has been in the middle of repairs, I’ve gotten to explore the rest of the station. ::She nodded to herself, taking her own inventory of the past few days.:: Got some hooping in.

::Exploring the station was still on Vance’s to-do list, although he’d managed to get to know the counselling department quite well. Much better than his own quarters, in fact. He was fairly sure he knew what Sabina meant with the other thing, but he thought he’d ask to check. If it was one of her interests then it wouldn’t do any harm to chat about it.::

Sheridan: Hooping?

Tiam: ::She smiled, eyes lightening a shade.:: Hoop dance. It’s common in many cultures. Hula hooping, I think Terrans usually call it.

Sheridan: Ah, yes! Yeah, we do call it that. I’m glad you’ve found some time to have fun.

::She was aware she had dodged his real question, and part of her wondered whether he would press her on that point. But, a larger part of her decided it wouldn’t be right to make him.::

Tiam: It’s been good. But, I admit, I haven’t been sleeping well since.... ::She still didn’t quite know how to name what the station had gone through.:: well, since what happened.

::He nodded sympathetically. She’d had to face more than one extremely unpleasant situation, and she had done very well to hold it together long enough to complete the mission. He counted himself in that bracket, too, and Ambassador Calderan, who he was yet to see. Those were just the officers whose experiences he’d been around to see and be a part of. The effects of the riots had echoed through a large proportion of the station’s personnel.::

Sheridan: I think that’s understandable. Can you be more specific about how you’ve been sleeping? Have your sleep patterns been disrupted by bad dreams, for example? Or have you found it difficult to get to sleep in the first place?

::Her eyes studied him for a long moment. Sabina had come to find the counselor to be capable, trustworthy, and altogether fresh faced. She had no reason to think he would be overly scrupulous of her, but that concern still caused a sinking feeling in her stomach.::

Tiam: Falling asleep has been fine. After that gas, my body was feeling so weak that any time I was near a pillow I was falling asleep. ::She sipped her coffee.:: But I can’t seem to get a full night’s rest. I… ::She set her cup down and leaned forward slightly.:: Can I be quite blunt with you, counselor?

Sheridan: Of course.

::That would make it much easier to try to help her, after all. ::

Tiam: I keep ending up in the same dream. The past few nights, I fall asleep and eventually, there I am, reliving an old memory until suddenly it’s different. Suddenly, Y-rocck appears, in all his potential savagery and I wake up.

::Well that sounded perfectly horrible. Vance’s own memories had been violated back aboard the Noguwip, but he hadn’t seen the snake-like Y-rocck anywhere in them. He was glad of that, too.::

Sheridan: I can see how that would be distressing. I’m guessing that once you wake up you don’t really feel like you can go back to sleep again, or that you want to?

Tiam: ::She shrugged.:: Sometimes it’s just easier to get up, start the day.

::Unfortunately, that kind of a recurring dream had the potential to work like a kind of aversion therapy. If they let it build up for too much longer then Sabina would probably develop a pathological fear of falling asleep, which would cause no end of additional problems. Fortunately, she had been brave enough to take action sooner rather than later.::

Sheridan: OK, so do you feel comfortable with talking about the dream a little more? Maybe we can figure out why it keeps coming back. Sometimes that can help to tackle the problem right at the roots.

::He often tried not to be too ‘counsellory’, but aspects of his teachers occasionally leaked through, even this long after he had left the academy. He caught himself gesticulating in a kind of chopping motion to emphasise his point, cleared his throat, and then sat on his hands.::

Tiam: ::Sabina took a deep breath, preparing herself for the subject to come.:: I don’t think ignoring it would be as productive. ::She gave a tired smirk.::

Sheridan: OK, so let’s start at the beginning. What’s the memory that you’re reliving in the dream?

Tiam: ::She leaned back on the sofa, folding her arms across her chest.:: How old were you during the Dominion War, counselor?

::She could have guessed, sure. But Sabina wasn’t one for assumptions.::

Sheridan: Uhm, like… ::he narrowed his eyes as he worked out dates.:: 12 or something? Like, that was when it finished and the announcement about the Treaty of Bajor was made on the news service.

Tiam: ::She nodded stiffly. The young woman’s features were noticeably hardened but her eyes shined a little brighter than before.:: I was young too. I was around ten when the Dominion came to Betazed. I was visiting the capitol during their first assault, in fact.

::Coffee cup held between her fingers, she gazed absently at the dark liquid.::

Tiam: I was there with my father. He’s always worked for the government there. When they attacked, he got me to safety as quickly as he could. He ::beat:: took me to his assistant so that I could have safe transport back home to our isolated village. ::She looked up once again.:: But I saw the beginning of the attack. And I watched my father run back to help, and to fight. That’s the memory I keep dreaming. And as my father runs back, up from the ground comes Y-rocck and I wake up.

::Vance took a deep breath as he recognised signs of something that he’d spent a considerable amount of time dealing with during his first year of service, but he didn’t want to leap to any conclusions. Re-living traumatic events over and over was a symptom of post-traumatic stress. However, Y-rocck’s appearance in those memories suggested another degree of complication.::

Sheridan: What happens when you wake up? Does it take you a long time to calm down, or do you keep thinking of parts of the nightmare?

::Sabina made a poor attempt to speak, but didn’t produce anything audible. This moment exemplified the difficulties she had faced when transitioning to a world where telepathy and telepathic communication were, usually, quite rare. Explaining how she felt after waking up from her nightmare seemed to require a vocabulary she just didn’t have. But despite that, she composed herself and did her best to carry on.::

Tiam: I’m fairly rooted in reality. Once I wake up, I know it was a dream. I can tell myself that. That it wasn’t real and that I’m fine. But I just… ::She attempted to describe how she felt again, giving a small sigh of frustration.:: I end up angry.

::The young Betazoid wasn’t one for anger. Truth be told, she usually kept herself distant enough from things to avoid any impassioned fervor. Her discomfort at her own reaction was apparent.::

::She seemed uncomfortable, but that was to be expected. It was never easy to talk about feelings without stirring some of them back up again, along with a few others. It was like tracing a stick through a puddle and dredging up the sediment from the bottom; what once had been clear tended to become muddy very quickly.::

Sheridan: Do you have a clear focus for that anger? Maybe Y-rocck, or at the Jem’Hadar for attacking the capital? Or does it feel more general?

::She sipped her coffee, intentionally avoiding having to answer right away.::

Tiam: Is it possible for me to answer “yes” to all of those?

::Sabina’s telepathic abilities had been thrown out of balance after her encounter with Y-rocck, too. Vance remembered her being prescribed some kind of psilosynine inhibitor when they had both been in sickbay and asking her whether she had been struggling while the demon-like entity had been terrorising the promenade.::

Sheridan: So, just to make sure I understand the lay of the land - last time I spoke to you, you’d been having some problems with your telepathy, but after R’Marr gave you that shot, you said you felt like things had settled. Does it still feel OK? Any issues… headaches, feelings of being overwhelmed?

::It was always important to check that out. Betazoids were receptive to telepathic influence on a scale that humans weren’t. With so many members of the starbase’s crew feeling distressed after the riots, Vance wouldn’t have been surprised if things were less comfortable for empaths.::

Tiam: ::She chuckled and spoke lightheartedly for a moment, relieved he had taken the conversation in a different direction for the time being.:: Any feelings I have of being overwhelmed come from circumstance rather than brain chemistry, I think. But no, no issues thus far. Adjusting after the inhibitor wore off, especially with things on the station being what they are right now was… a process. But I’ve had time to meditate and that makes a big difference.

::Vance smiled sympathetically. They had both felt overwhelmed at various times. He had certainly felt out of his depth on more than one occasion. The meditation she had mentioned was also likely to be partially responsible for keeping her going despite being sleep deprived.::

Sheridan: Alright. Do you think maybe there’s a reason why you’re reliving that particular memory? Your mind seems to be making an association between that particular event and Y-rocck.

::Vance certainly thought there was a reason, and a very specific one at that, but he wanted to give Sabina a chance to think about it first. If she came to the same conclusion that he had then there would be a degree of proof that it was accurate. People usually found it easier to come to terms with things that they realised themselves than things that they had been told by their counsellor in any case.::

Tiam: ::She thought for a moment.:: Aside from the obvious, they’re both frightening experiences, nothing jumps out at me. Should there be more to it than that?

Sheridan: I think it’s possible that there’s an emotional connection between the two things. The scene where your father leaves you to go and help defend the capital when you were really too young to join in, and the alien aggressor that forced his way into your mind. Feeling that degree of helplessness is paralysing at the time, and feeling angry is a common aftereffect.

::He was finding it quite difficult to explain that, because it was impossible not to be reminded of his own experiences with Y-rocck. He had been stripped of the privacy of his own mind and forced to inflict major injury on himself under the snake’s stewardship. In Vance’s opinion, Y-rocck was no less of a demon than the creature they had beamed off the promenade.::

::The air in the room seemed to change. Vance’s words had hit a nerve within Sabina but they must have rung true in some way for him as well, as she felt his emotional presence in the room shift along with their topic. For a long moment she found herself digging through her own emotions; wrestling with the idea of helplessness, and how it had butted it’s ugly head into her life once more. She glanced at Vance, hoping that this session hadn’t become too triggering for him.::

::He cleared his throat, aware he’d been quiet for too long, and that Sabina could sense what he was thinking. He forced himself to think of something else before he dwelled on the fact that she was a telepath, just like Y-rocck, because he knew it would make him uncomfortable.::

::A touch embarrassed, he looked up at her and smiled.::

Sheridan: Sorry. If you’re happy to go into more detail then it might be good to talk about what happened on that day with your father. Maybe that will help to stop it from resurfacing as often. Take Y-rocck out of the picture, kind of thing.

::Sabina nodded, considering. On the one hand, she was happy to move the conversation away from Y-rocck, lest the counselor becomes the one in need of counsel. But on the other hand, well, that day had been… significant.::

Tiam: It was my first visit to Rixx. I was thrilled. That morning, my father had gotten called into some meeting, or something of the like. He had asked me to stay put in his office but, ::She shrugged.:: that wasn’t really my style at that age. I wandered around the building exploring, harmless really.

::Or at least, at the time she thought it would be harmless. In truth her choice to wander had caused her father a great deal of panic.::

Tiam: And then, I heard it, the start of the attack. They were firing from their ships before they ever set foot on the planet. You could feel the ground rumble as structures fell. I… I didn’t know what to do.

Sheridan: So what happened?

Tiam: I ran. ::She was not proud of that, and it showed on her face.:: I just, took off in one direction, no plan...

Sheridan: ::Nodding slowly:: That’s what I would have done.

::He was aware that wasn’t necessarily relevant, but it provided Sabina with validation. He picked up on the change in her expression, but running away from danger was something that was hard-wired into all but the most belligerent of humanoid species. She couldn’t blame herself for it.::

Tiam: Eventually, I literally ran into my father. He, of course, had been trying to find me. And my father, he’s a man of action. Once he had me, that was it. He didn’t stop moving. He ran, carrying me the whole way until he got me to safety. ::She paused.:: Well, relative safety.

::She recalled the memory of those moments as her father ran wordlessly with her in his arms. Over his shoulder, she had seen the initial reactions to the attack.::

Tiam: We moved a short distance through the city center. I don’t think my father liked that we had to go outside to reach an escape route. He tried to move as quickly as he could but, while he ran, all I could do was watch what was happening.

::And there it was. That same, but altogether unfamiliar feeling of anger welled inside Sabina and manifested in her tone.::

Tiam: ::Shaking her head.:: There was no warning. Not for the people, at least. The panic that filled the city, the screams… Once my father had passed me off to our family friend, he ran back. He had to. There was no help for us. No cavalry coming. Our peacekeepers were overwhelmed. Starfleet was no where to be found, despite their promises of protection. There were no choices left to us, no allies but ourselves. So as the city seemed to crumble, my father ran back into the chaos. But I couldn’t. I was too young, too weak. I had to be protected. ::She bit at her lip.:: In a world where there were only the helpful and the burdensome, I had ended up on the wrong side of that distinction.

::Vance could hear the anger in her voice. Even if she had been able to help, he imagined she would still be angry for what the Dominion had done, but the fact she had to just stand by and watch it happen had intensified that emotion.::

Sheridan: Maybe so, but you were a kid. Even though you could physically hold and point a weapon, it doesn’t mean you should have had to fight that kind of battle. How did things play out in the end?

::The way the story was progressing, Vance felt as though Sabina might have lost her father during the Dominion occupation. There was nothing in her file to indicate that, but then her records were far from complete.::

Tiam: ::Her words dripped with bitterness.:: When everything was said and done, we lost countless citizens. But we survived. We won. ::Her eyes shifted to a flat, dark navy.:: Our leadership, people like my father, everyday people… They all came together and through mastery of the Betazoid mind, we prevailed. But no later victory could change what had happened. We entrusted our safety to the Federation and to Starfleet, but it came down to us. When everything was on the line, we only had our strongest to look to. I remember, in my fathers arms, deciding I would be like him. I would run into danger to help instead of fleeing. I would be strong enough to make a difference.

::Tiam took a breath, realizing she had gone on what was a difficult tangent.::

Tiam: I’m sorry, counselor. I thought this was something I had a better handle on. Clearly I was mistaken.

::Vance didn’t know why Starfleet hadn’t arrived in time to help the people of Betazed. He’d lost his grandfather during the Dominion War, and missed out on any of the stories he might have told and, although he’d looked into it, his knowledge was patchy. What he did know, though, was that overcoming the Dominion Occupation had taken immense courage and strength. And he also knew that Sabina was being anything but weak now.::

Sheridan: Confronting things like this is the only way to really get a handle on them. Telling me about it took exactly the kind of bravery that you’re talking about. It was a choice to run into danger instead of running away from it.

::Sabina looked at him, and a small smile graced her features. She could see the truth in what he said, and it brought her small sense of validation.::

Sheridan: When it comes down to it, you should know that your actions back then came as a result of things your brain is hard-wired to do. There are times when you can’t override your natural survival instinct and it doesn’t make you a coward. After experiencing that event, you have made several conscious decisions that are really more the kind of thing that define you as a person. You chose to put on a gold uniform and risk your life for others in Starfleet security. You live up to the standards and the expectations of that job every day. And even though Starfleet didn’t come to help Betazed when they were needed, you’re still prepared to serve, because you know you can stop other people on other worlds from having to experience the same things that you lived through.

::He felt that was admirable. It would have been quite easy for her to hang the anger and helplessness she had felt on the Starfleet emblem and use it as something to hate. Hatred was often used as that kind of crutch, a defensive response that cut off emotions that were less easy to process.::

Tiam: Counselor, I hesitate to taint your image of me, but I’m not sure I deserve such praise.

::Whatever mix of anger, trepidation and validation she had been experience before settled into the quiet cold that came with facing who you were when that imagine was something you weren’t proud of.::

Tiam: I didn’t choose the gold collar. I didn’t choose Starfleet out of a noble desire to protect others. I wanted a desk job. I trained in Intel for a position sat safe somewhere, pouring over data. And I did it so that I’d have a way off of Betazed. ::She laughed.:: I’ve been running this whole time. And when SFI realized that, they transfered me right out of black.

::This, of course, was simply her interpretation of what had happened. Starfleet Intelligence was rarely good at communicating their true intentions, even to some of their operatives. And ultimately, she may not have chosen her current position, but she had stuck to it. The transfer of departments hadn’t caused her to quit. Rather, it had pushed her to sharpen skills she hadn’t known she’d come to rely on. Traveling along this line of thinking, Sabina could feel herself calm down a little. She was even aware of the shift in her eye color to a lighter, brighter blue.::

Tiam: But that’s a bit self-deprecating, isn’t it? I mean, I’ve stuck it out. In the face of danger, I have risked myself for others. And I’ve learned firsthand that there are good people in Starfleet. ::She smiled cautiously.::

::Vance readjusted the way he was sitting, folding one leg up and tucking it under another to get a little more comfortable. His image of her wasn’t going to be tainted by something like that; everyone’s careers took different paths and everyone was motivated by different things. He didn’t need to know her history to see that could be brave, even if she didn’t believe she was herself.::

Sheridan: ::Genuinely:: Me too.

::Frustrated, and tired, Sabina ran her hands through her wavy mane of hair.::

Tiam: This business with Y-rocck and that creature… ::She shook her head.:: I hate that it’s getting to me this way. I just…

Sheridan: They made you feel weak. Like you were the little girl in the capitol all over again.

::The parallel was undeniable, really. Sabina’s dream had painted the picture all too well.::

Tiam: I worked so hard, Vance. I trained my mind. I studied telepathy. I practiced my abilities. ::She gestured, emphasizing her words.:: I put in the hours, day after day after day. And do you know what? I am a powerful telepath because of it. But it didn’t mean anything.

::The counsellor folded his arms. Out of Sabina’s sight, his hands gripped at his sides. There was that ‘t’ word again, but it needed to be discussed.::

Sheridan: Sometimes… ::he paused:: it’s harder to take getting beat at something when you’ve spent a long time preparing yourself for it. I mean, if you were awful at hockey, and you played a game against a pro, you would expect them to make you look bad. If you were really good, though, one of the best because you practised every day, and another player came along and had you outplayed, it would be very difficult to swallow.

Tiam: Sure, but how often are lives on the line in hockey? It’s not my ego that’s bruised here. We’re talking about survival.

Sheridan: No-one can be strong all the time. That’s one of the toughest things about living in a galaxy where every species is so different. I would lose in an arm wrestling match against a Klingon. We both might lose in a sprint race against a Ktarian. Being a member of a species gives you a whole array of advantages and disadvantages over others, and it just so happened that whatever Y-rocck is had more telepathic power than Betazoids do. That was decided before either of you even met. I don’t really put much stock in fate, but I guess that’s how you might describe it if you did - something that has an outcome that’s been decided before it even happens.

::There was a saying from Earth that he had always felt was useful for counselling sessions, and some of his patients had found to be a comfort.::

Sheridan: Back on Earth, there’s a saying that you might find appropriate. It’s a prayer actually, but it’s quite often used without any form of religious meaning. It goes ‘grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

::Sabina nodded, content to listen for a moment. She had run into a similar sentiment, on Earth in fact, and she couldn’t deny it’s relevance.::

Sheridan: The last part is the hardest. I’d like to tell you something as well. ::His eyebrows knotted and his jaw set as he did so. It was something that wasn’t easy to share, but that he felt he needed to, for her sake as much as his.:: I tried to resist Y-rocck. I tried to drag him into different memories than the ones he was trying to access. He punished me for it by making me relive something embarrassing - nothing anywhere near as bad as the memory you dreamed about - but enough for him to show me that he was in control of my mind, not me. I stood up to him the best I could, but it made no difference.

::He knew he was going to have to stop avoiding that issue and talk to someone with a counselling qualification before it started to fester, too. It was about time he took some action instead of hiding in the counselling office all day, using work as an excuse not to have to go and face his own problems.::

::Sabina leaned forward slightly, placing a friendly hand on the counselor’s knee. She could only imagine what the experience must have been like for someone without telepathic experience. Sabina had certainly never faced Y-rocck’s level of invasion before, but at least she had been used to telepathy as a part of life.::

Tiam: ::She spoke empathetically.:: I’m sorry, Vance.

::She removed her hand and collected her coffee cup and saucer as he began to speak again. While she listened, she stood and brought the glassware to the replicator for recycling.::

Sheridan: What we both have to think about is how we made ourselves bounce back afterwards. We came back to the station in awful physical condition, and the first thing we did after being treated was run an evacuation of the surgical ward. Then you figured out a way to track down that girl and, in the end, it was you that gave everyone the opening that they needed to throw it off balance for long enough to remove it from the station and end the riots. I don’t think there’s anyone who could argue that you’re weak, or that you ran away from anything at all.

::And if they did then he would be the first to contradict them. While Vance held the highest rank between the two of them, and had been responsible for having the final say on some of the actions that they had taken, he had depended heavily on Sabina’s guidance and it had been more of an equal partnership than anything else.::

::Her back to him still as she stood at the replicator, Sabina took a deep breath and let his words sink in before turning to face him again.::

Tiam: Thank you. I appreciate hearing that. ::She returned to the sofa, perching herself on the edge of her seat.:: And you’re right, it’s something we both need to remind ourselves of going forward. I don’t know that most people could have stepped up the way you did after what happened on the Noguwip.

::He laughed and shook his head. Part of him wanted to accept the compliment, but part of him wanted to protest that abandoning Ambassador Calderan to potentially be killed on two separate occasions was hardly stepping up. He scratched his temple and looked at the carpet, deploying emotional barricades. It would hardly do to lose control of himself now, when the appointment was almost done.::

Sheridan: Thanks. ::He cleared his throat.:: I guess we really didn’t have much choice.

Tiam: Funny, isn’t it, that it’s only when we have a moment to stop and think that these things affect us so much? I think I’m beginning to understand the Starfleet officer’s tendency to throw themselves into work.

::That was exactly what Vance had been doing. He’d hardly set foot outside of the counsellor’s office and there were still bags sitting unpacked in his quarters. The truth was that it had been easier to focus on helping other people than to truly allow himself the down time that he knew he needed, because that would bring about a confrontation with the experiences he’d had on the Noguwip and the promenade.::

::This time the laugh was much more genuine and much more honest.::

Sheridan: I think that’s something Starfleet requires you to learn. They just don’t tell you that when you sign up. It’s important to remember to take a break every now and again.

::It was advice that he really needed to heed himself.::

Tiam: Life is far too enjoyable to be a workaholic. ::One corner of her mouth raised in a smile that was only slightly sassy.::

Sheridan: You got that right. ::He leaned forward in his seat, hands on his knees.:: That’s why I’m giving you your discharge papers.

::He had a feeling that their appointment wouldn’t make the dreams go away immediately, but hopefully it had given Sabina the tools she needed to process the resulting anger and find a way to get back to sleep.::

Tiam: I thank you for your time today, counselor. I hope you’ve got at least some leave ahead of you?

Sheridan: I… think there’s an outside chance I’ll get a break in the next couple of days. They tend to give you time off for good behaviour, I’ve heard. If those dreams persist then just make sure you call me again, OK?

::As the two said their goodbyes, they stood and Sabina felt considerably better after having talked through the difficulties of the last few days. Going to a counselor was like going to the gym; leaving to get there can be really difficult, but you never regret it once you’ve gone. She hoped the counselor himself had plans for an appointment of his own.::

Tiam: I’m hoping this bit of catharsis will have done the trick, but I know where to go if the issue persists. ::She went to the office door and look back into the room at him as it opened.:: I’ll see you. Hopefully next time under less, ::She looked for the word momentarily.:: trying circumstances.

Sheridan: Hopefully so. See you soon, Sabina.

::With a smile and a slight bow of her head, Sabina left the counselor to the rest of his day.::

::Vance stood looking at the door for a few moments, his mind turning inwards. It was funny how other people’s appointments had the potential to shine a light on the needs of the counsellor who was running them from time to time. He was happy enough that Sabina would be able to move past the incidents from the last few days. Now it was time to take care of his own needs.::

Sheridan: Computer, reassign tomorrow’s appointments to available, on-duty counselling personnel, prioritising Lieutenant Pritzker, and display a list of crew members from outside this department with counselling training…


A JP by

Lieutenant (j.g.) Sabina Tiam

Security Officer

Starbase 118 Ops


Lieutenant Vance Sheridan


Starbase 118 Ops

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