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Lt Blackwell and LtC Foster - Placing the Pieces

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((Starbase 118 - Doctor Foster’s Quarters))

Rue considered herself rationally brave and functionally adult. She had her duties, and responsibilities, and day to day routines. She took care of herself...mostly. 

And then there was the consideration that she had her own moments where her emotional fuses just blew.

And then there was the Andorian doctor who for so long, she considered her rock. Her anchor. And then in the holosim she had watched that facade cracked and now she was filled with questions upon questions. How had she missed it? Was she blind, or just was he that careful about hiding things? Why did he hide it - did he not trust her? The questions were piling up and she didn’t want to let them fester. 

And so she made the difficult choice of going to talk to him. She made a light call, just offered to stop by. She had to be honest and genuine, couldn’t contrive, and she also knew - she had to be ready for a climb. One that likely..would require multiple tries.

She steeled herself as she approached the doctor’s door and pressed the panel to alert that she was there, waiting for him to invite her in, or open the doors.

Foster: … ::in the dim light of his quarters he rolled over to give the door a vicious bit of side-eye::

Oh, come on now.  He was having a perfectly good time brooding all alone is his quarters.  It was that enjoyable sort of brooding, the sort before you fell too far when the darkness and the silence and the melancholy just felt good.  Like a bit of relief from the intensity of the mission.

Of course such brooding would easily go too far, turn into a vast lonely wasteland, cut off from friends and family.

That stupid chime rang again and he rolled his eyes at it.

Foster: Yeah, yeah, come in.

Blackwell::As she entered, she kept an unguarded smile on her face: Hey Wyn - ::And before he could contrive an excuse, she brought up a box - a puzzle:: I was hoping you were not too busy today, and thought we could share a quiet afternoon together.

He looked around his quite plain, quite bare, quite standard quarters.  They had been better decorated in times past, but now he felt he was living like a transient, hopping from ship to ship, position to position.  

It was painfully apparent how spartan they were, and he was still looking for an excuse to say he was busy.  He was… reading… technical… journals… on shore leave…

Yeah, that was pitiful.

Foster: I mean, sure?  I didn’t think that was your thing.

Blackwell: On occasion, when the mood strikes. It tended to be the one thing Lucas and I could do together and not fight when we were kids. :She glanced for a place to place down the puzzle:: 

Foster: Sounds thrilling.  ::He intoned, stretching to lounge bonelessly on the couch.:: Here I thought prime shore leave activities included hot tubs and loungers on Little Risa and getting embarrassingly drunk…

Which he usually didn’t do any of those things.  But he might be cajoled to go to Little Risa after sundown when it wasn’t so hot.

Blackwell::She gave a light shrug. She was dressed in a comfortable long sleeved top with blue and black stripes and rather old fashioned denim jeans. It was something she appreciated from her father’s studies on ancient Earth antiquities as denim tended to be sturdy enough for her not to worry about ripping, and yet comfortable. She slipped off her shoes as she walked in, preferring to be barefoot:: Oh, I know that a lot of the crew is getting into various forms of harmless trouble ::she smiled lightly, while she positioned a coffee table between them, and opening the box to set out the pieces. The picture on the box suggested the completed picture would be a winter scene - a lovely cabin and snow against a night sky.::  I have been more just taking it a bit slow this leave. Nothing wrong with a vacation that includes a bit of actual down time. 

Suspicious doctor was suspicious.  He watched her all in good cheer and pleasant commentary and decided that it was all too nice, too happy and too pleasant.  Then again he might be paranoid.

Might.  No.  He was paranoid.  Starfleet had made him paranoid.

Foster: Next you’re gonna tell me that something mindless is the very best thing to take your mind off of the fact that we almost got killed by a pack of Klingon ships.

As she set out the pieces, she could feel his eyes on him and knew that the [...]ly senses he possessed were quite alert. That made the proverbial ice a bit slippery, but she decided regardless of her own trepidations - not impossible to pass. And if she slipped, she’d just get back up. She had to. But it was when he was the first one to speak that she felt a proverbial foot slide a bit under her.

Blackwell::Her eyes lifted to him, the heels of her palm resting on the table. Answer too slow, and it looked like evasion. Lie, and that was definitely an evasion. She wanted truth, and so she would have to respond with that. She gave a slight gesture with her hands, flexing her fingers, keeping her eyes up::  No, for that I tend to prefer some exercise, something to get me moving. ::She paused for a moment:: Something a counselor recommended.

Foster: Exercise is a medically proven way to release endorphins and regulate neurochemicals.  ::he said academically:: I’m sure Saveron knew that.

Blackwell: The Vulcan counselor, who was for her, still a bitter-sweet memory. She missed Saveron, his clarity, and his shared interest in terrible romance novels. She gave a bit of a wry smile and nodded:: He recommended ways to reduce stress, and process things - yes. 

Foster: That begs the question ::he lifted his vivid blue eyes towards her:: What prompted the need for the counseling in the first place?

She did not like admitting weakness. Period. She had cracks that she had filled as best as possible, but cracks were never fully whole. Never fully complete. They could still break again. But she recalled her academy combat instructor, who had shaken her after a fight stating in clear terms the reason you lost was you were too inflexible. Bend with the situation, be flexible.

Blackwell: ::she glanced to his blue eyes and flexed her hands for a moment:: A few things - first, a little past childhood trauma that left me feeling a bit...vulnerable. ::she wanted to try and say that word easily, and she caught her jaw tighten. She didn’t force it, instead, letting the muscles relax enough for her to continue:: 

Foster: Childhood trauma?  ::He watched her and made a small motion with his fingers:: I suppose if you’re making a list we can come back to that but…  ::he shook his head:: Dammit, what did I miss?  I mean we were a quarter of the way across the globe and that’s nothing with transporters.

Blackwell::she shrugged a little:: I’ll avoid the list - it's simpler to parse it out. :she was talking while digging out pieces with corners and straight edges:: When I was about..twelve, almost thirteen- I was in school and had a project to bring in a piece of family heritage. I brought a necklace that had been passed down for generations. ::she smiled fondly: It went over well, a little too well. A girl in my class took a shine to it, and her boyfriend noticed. ::she considered how to phrase it:: well, we both know that children can be cruel, even in our day and age and they tried to take it. Luke..got in the middle, and broke his wrist. ::she shook her head::.I still remember just thinking ...not only had I lost a piece of our family treasures, but Luke’s talent...all in one stroke. ::she lifted her shoulders and tried to ease the tension coming into them:: 

He tipped his head to one side, antennae tracking curiously, considering it all.  Somehow he had missed that bit of their childhood.  Then again he was probably completely immersed in his own struggles at that point.  He didn’t know how much things sunk in with human children.  He had been pretty resilient back then - resiliency that he lost as he aged.

Foster: So your brother got into a fist fight defending you - and apparently got patched up because he seems fine now… and no one ever mentions it so… why did that never come up?

Blackwell: Because they thought it was fine…::she said quietly:: they were comforting, and they understood I was upset, but I don’t think even then they quite understood how much it ..sank into me. That...was the summer I decided to start taking martial arts lessons. Anything I could sign up for really. Mom thought it was a strange phase brought on by me watching too many superhero movies from the past. Dad just thought it was funny, and Luke thought I was just being weird. ::she smirked a little bit:: remember when you came to the family reunion - it was that summer ...when I’d learned how to do a throw, that I tossed my cousin into the pond.

Foster: I mean at least water’s soft.  ::He turned to look to her:: I can understand the reaction, but if everything was OK and put back to normal why did it bother you so much?  What was the underlying reason you carried it with you?

Perhaps that was blatantly searching, but he figured he’d try it.  Sometimes childhoods were easier to talk about because they felt so far away and removed from everything.

Blackwell:she gave a small smile and leaned back, taking a moment to pause on gathering the pieces:: I want to say something wise but the honest truth - I suppose...I just felt small. Weak, and defenseless..::she shrugged::

Foster: That’s wasn’t it.  ::He challenged almost immediately.:: You’ve never been weak.  You punched me enough times as a kid to let me know that early on.  ::he fixed those vivid blue eyes upon her.:: Try again...

Blackwell:::she pushed off her hands, leaning back in to rest her elbows on the table, meeting his eyes, green against blue. It took a minute for her to be sure that her tone would be even::  Fine...the other piece there is that I was...always if not invincible, at least never afraid of getting hurt. Because it was - me- who would get hurt if I did something silly or reckless. Never anyone else. 

He nodded, gently.  In some ways he could empathize with that.  In other ways his pessimism rose to the forefront and retaliated against the idea.

Foster: Very chivalrous of you.  I would have felt the same.  But you can’t always protect everyone.

Spoken like someone who had the very real and painful experience of having that proven to them firsthand.  Starfleet was great at reminding people of the fragility of life, and how helpless one was most of the time.  It was impossible to protect everyone, or even just one person if the circumstances were right. 

Blackwell:::she considered her response for a moment:: No...but how often are emotions rational, Doctor? 

Foster: Never.  Vulcans will be the first to tell you that.  ::he chuckled very slightly.::

Blackwell: Often repeatedly ::she quipped lightly, starting to sort out the pieces:: Anyways...that also got aggravated a bit - by my first mission ::she glanced up to him:: do..you remember hearing about the situation with the Gorkon going missing, and the Yarhala Nine?

He nodded a simple assent to that.  He had a higher rank than her at the time and had enough clearances to get the basics.  Most of it was classified and she had only tiptoed around the issue thus far.

Foster: Only the very basics.  I did note that you have never talked about it in any sort of detail.

Blackwell: You...might find it a little :she wrestled with the words...she wanted to say controversial, but for some reason...popped out with:: surprising..?

Foster: Nothing surprises me about Starfleet anymore.  ::he said drily. Puzzle all but forgotten about.:: So my ears are open, my mouth is closed.

Blackwell::she considered the irony that she was hoping to get him to spill out some of his thoughts, but perhaps this was the way to do it. So she pressed on:: So you recall the Gorkon went missing, right? There were all sorts of conspiracy theories as to why...but that said, Starfleet had not satisfied everyone's needs to find out what. And that is when the USS Yarhala was stolen. ::she picked up a piece and considered it idly:: I was placed on the Clovis, and I thought it would be a somewhat tense but straight forward mission: find the Yarhala, talk them down, bring them back home.

Foster: Ok.  We’ve seen play out over and over again that all straightforward Starfleet missions… never are.

Starfleet had this wonderful habit of coming up with the most mundane of orders and then throwing everything out the window and tossing crews into unimaginable danger.  It was as Starfleet as the uniform.

Blackwell::she responded with a dry laugh:: No. Turned out the Gorkon was stuck in some sort of rift, those that stole the Yarhala were determined to find them, and all procedures just went out the window first thing.

Foster: Oh, yay, unknown rifts.  Met a couple of those in my life before.

None of them were good.

Blackwell: The Clovis got damaged and we ended up on board with the Yarhala...after some...really tense deliberation, we agreed to help them ::she grinned faintly:: Technically, I am pretty sure I should have gotten in trouble for that. 

Foster: Gotten in trouble how?  ::he asked, antennae curled forward in curiosity.::

Wyn could think of a million ways that a Starfleet officer could get in trouble for doing the right thing.  That was another one of the pessimistic constants Wyn found in the Starfleet universe.  But he was curious as to the specific reasons it affected Prudence Blackwell.

Blackwell: Aiding the Yarhala Nine ::she said simply:: I wasn’t forced. I wasn’t pushed to. I did some maneuvering, helped defend, entirely willingly...rather than you know, forcing them to return immediately to base like I was supposed to do. ::she considered:: we found the Gorkon...and it was torn to near ribbons, Wyn. Four hundred people were either killed or injured. ::she tossed the puzzle piece aside:: and when I got back to Mckinley, I was pretty much patted on the head and told it was a good thing I hadn’t helped or I’d be in the trials too. 

Foster: Wait, what?  You went to help an Admiral’s flagship… met a ship that was also aiding an Admiral’s flagship and everyone who helped them was put on trial?  What in the everloving tar pits of Deneb was going on?

Not that was unfair.  Pretty blatantly unfair.  In fact he was pretty sure there were protests and boycotts about how unfair it was.  Which, in retrospect was probably the light at the end of the tunnel for those involved.  Having the support of others was a small relief that reassured that, yes, something did go wrong and no, you weren’t totally crazy.

Blackwell: ::she considered for a moment:: Well keep in mind, the Yarhala was considered stolen by Starfleet. Not borrowed. Not requisitioned. Stolen. ::she said firmly:: and a runabout was supposed to bring back an Admiral’s Flagship. ::she waited for him to consider that picture and exhaled:: The Clovis got hit by another enemy. And through a lot of push, pull and crazy maneuvering, we found out the Gorkon was actually stuck in another dimension, and when it came out - it was torn to ribbons. The fact it could still be called a ship - was a miracle.

That sounded… weird to say the least.  Wyn never really understood how subspace rifts worked.  Sometimes they are full of murderous alternatives living a shark life in a war torn universe, and sometimes they were apparently filled with angels who gave his assistants roses.  He personally tried to avoid them altogether.  

Foster: I mean people boycotted the jailing of the Yarhala Nine for weeks until they were released and in the end everyone got promoted so ::he shrugged:: All’s well that ends well?

Blackwell: I know ::she moved to adjust how she sat, absently moving to rub her shoulder, a spot that loved to get tense:: It did end alright for those that came back. But it left a bitter taste in my mouth for a while as it just should not have happened. :she wet her lips for a moment:: And given I’d spent the prior year having to explain to my sister in law, brother, mother, that Starfleet was not an organization that practiced cover ups - it sat poorly with me, at the time. 

Foster: Starfleet practices coverups.  ::He said with absolute dead certainty.:: any large organization does.  It’s the fact of illogical sentient life.  

Pessimism and facts taught him that.  It was pretty simple when one thought about it.  Big organizations had a lot of moving parts and not all of those parts moved in line with the others.  And when something broke down it generally was covered up until fixed.

Blackwell:::A slight breath at that in a bit of frustration, though not directed at him:: Well, then I was naive...or stubborn. Or both. ::she looked to him:: I wanted to be in Starfleet...and prior to enrolling, had to fight my family about it as ..::she closed her eyes, opening them again:: basically Darcy thinks her parents were killed, not in an accident, but something was covered up…::she shook her head before continuing::...and off and on I’ve prodded into it.

Foster: And what did you find?

Blackwell:::she exhaled:: Over time, a lot of reports that just didn’t sit right. Contradictions in strange places, or sometimes information that was missing entirely. And I ended up picking it up and down, like a bad habit. 

Once you picked up a mystery it was hard to put it down, especially if you kept finding a bread crumb trail of clues to lead you forward.

Foster: And so you kept looking?  ::He prodded.::

Blackwell::She bit the inside of her lip pensively - This was going very very awry. She’d wanted to get into his head, not the other way around:  Long story short - I did...maybe. I went to the Salter’s old home to check things out...and found a few pieces. ::she stared at the puzzle for a moment:: but...I ran out of time. Given I was due to Ops..and had no time to really make sure all bases were cleared - I told Darcy I found nothing, packed up my research and got myself here.

Foster: What did you find?  ::he repeated - he was honestly curious.::

Blackwell::In her mind, the story still sounded rather hard to believe, but she explained quietly:: Short version ::she gave a wry smirk::  At first, nothing, however then I noticed a lot of correspondences with a man named Redwood, out of research and development referencing specific books: cook books, old technological manuals, and just the context seemed ...out of place.Fun note - according to any reliable outside database, those books don’t exist. ::she exhaled:: But I found them at the house. Pouring through them...they seem to have a pattern to them, a cypher..that I haven’t cracked yet. ::she then looked to him and held up a puzzle piece:: But I know a puzzle when I see it...

Foster: Circumstantial but you’re sure that it happened sort of thing?

Blackwell: Basically. ::she bit her bottom lip:: But I haven’t gone back to it yet...given we’ve been busy, and I’ve...been a bit unnerved. ::she shrugged a little:: 

He fixed that piercing gaze upon her.  That irritating perception that made him such a good doctor also meant he was frustratingly good at picking up signals that there was more of a story to be told.

Foster: what made you feel unnerved?

Blackwell: Last day I was in California, someone decided to drop a note on a drink they sent me, warning me not to pursue this. Let the dust stay where it was was the exact phrasing.

 ::and this would be the point where turning the conversation was likely going to be difficult, if not impossible. A sarcastic thought ran through her mind: oOWell played Rue. Well played. Oo::

Both eyebrows and antennae raised at the same time.  That was beyond unnerving and went straight into concerning.

Foster:  Seriously?  Rue… you haven’t ever talked to an Intel Officer about this?

Not a counselor.  An Intel Officer.  Someone who would be able to see the bigger picture and help protect her.

Blackwell::And the rabbit hole she had dug just started to get deeper and deeper, and she exhaled slowly: No, not yet.::she gave a cautious and sheepish look, and realized this was going to tip the scales::

Wyn bristled with that innate protective response.  If it was up to him he would ensure no one could hurt her.  But he knew he had limits - there was out of his control and all he could do was plush her towards an expert.

Foster: Find someone you trust that can help and get them onboard.  

He said with the same unyielding tone he had taken to push her to press charges against her ex.  She hadn’t exactly taken his advice then either.  But that was more of a ‘I’ll punch your friends’ threat not an ‘I’ll kill you in your sleep’ threat.

Blackwell:She exhaled slowly and saw again, he was being her rock. But that was what he did - he protected those he cared for...it was innate and instinctual. One of her favorite traits, when it wasn’t directed at her:: If this is a cover up then don’t you think intelligence might be in on it? ::her left hand swung out to her side in a bit of vehement determination, though her voice was even:: I want answers.  

Foster: ::antennae pressed forward he frowned:: I mean do you want answers?  Do you want me to be the one to call your family before a I ship a corpse back for burial?  ::harsh, but possible considering her tale::  you can solve both with the right ally.

Blackwell::That was a verbal gut punch if there ever was one...and on so many levels. Picturing him having to make that call, her family reacting...a grim picture that combined the worst elements of guilt, survival instinct, and strangely protectiveness, all at once. She thought long and hard for a moment and finally conceded:: Alright. I’ll find someone I trust, and see if I can’t solve this. ::she then found her point of pivoting, as her eyes fixed on him for a long moment:: finding people one can trust to solve problems...is generally good advice.

Foster: Generally, yes.  ::he said a bit too nonchalantly.::

Blackwell: Well, there is something to be said about your particular hue, Pot. ::she set her hands on her knees, preparing to make a stalwart stand:: 

Foster: Yeah?  ::He canted one antennae upwards in a vaguely irritated expression.  He didn’t particularly enjoy emotional blackmail.  Which, was certainly a harsh point of view.  But he was harsh on himself in general and it generally translated into a harsh, gruff exterior.

Blackwell: I...told you what happened with me. What happened..with you...on the holodeck? 

That got him to perk a brow and he leaned forward, voice a bit thin and tense.  What did happen on the holodeck?   It was, in a nutshell, a long story.  A story that he didn;t want to tell her, one that he would redirect and deflect for as long as possible.  Even though he knew, deep down that he should be honest he had built up a thick layer of protection against a very vulnerable subject.

Foster: Were you not on the Constitution when the holodeck tried to kill us all?  As I watched a friend and lover prove that the brain damage done by a Vulcan mindmeld that he was continually warned against and ordered not to do destroyed his personality and irrevocably changed who he was forever?  ::He shook his head.:: I didn’t think that was so classified.

Wyn had spent the majority of that holodeck adventure as the king of snark as well.  Holodecks never put him in a good mood.  Neither did dating engineers apparently, that was more co-incidence and bad history than any actual issues with Engineers.

This was also a fantastic explanation for his reaction, all of it true.  All of it traumatic and all of it happened.  And that’s why it was so brilliant - he was telling a lie with the dead honest truth.  Covering up a far deeper more personal trauma with an echo of that trauma.

There was a reason T’Reshik and Choi’s mindmeld hurt so much.  He had let details slip through the cracks to Saveron, the only person who was fully aware of Wyn’s history.  Talking about it once gave him the assurance that no, he wasn’t crazy.  It was the push to start the healing process.

That was a very long process.  He was only a small way along the path to recovery from a trauma he successfully hid from Rue for years.  

Blackwell:::she watched him lean forward and she steadied herself, keeping her stance. She would bend when she needed, but for now, she could keep a steady stance. She remembered Choi..clearly. She considered the puzzle for a moment, and then back up, her words soft.: I remember the holodeck situation, yes..::she said slowly:: I didn’t realize there was a mind-meld involved...Choi and T’Reshik?

Foster: Oh yeah, they mind-melded.  It was an absolute [...]-show in sickbay, Rue.  And in the end after the brain damage was repaired I couldn’t do a single thing to fix it.  Two living people, with living brain tissue, but the soul that made them unique was changed.

Blackwell::She considered all the various responses. She thought of choi and for a moment felt angry. Damn damn pilot. Handsome, Charismatic, irritating, and as reckless as she was. The only real difference was ..she at least attempted to contain the blast zone.:: You have a right to be angry with him...and her honestly. 

He was angry.  A little.  But moreover he was sad.  He had lost a friend and lover that day.  Brains were delicate things, and messing with minds and memories was very dangerous.  In the end only one of the two personalities stayed the same before and after - the other was clearly affected and imprinted by the meld.  That would never fully heal.

Foster: I mean how many times do I have to tell people not to do something that will kill them, or get themselves hurt and do they listen to me?  Usually not.  And that’s the thing, right?  I’m the doctor, I get to pick up the pieces.

Dry, wry, pessimistic.  There was the Wyn she knew from the Conny.

Blackwell::She felt a sharp pang of guilt, but she steadied herself for a moment:: Well, that depends on I think the person ::A lift of her shoulders:: Some people refuse to learn. And I realize given everything I just dropped on your lap, I’m not a great example of someone who has demonstrated an ability to listen to that advice in the past...and actively listen and learn. :: she looked to him now, and her brow creased:: And I apologize for that. ::the tone was solemn - not uncharacteristic - but one that signaled clearly...he was hitting home::

He shook his head gently, expression softening slightly.

Foster: You know you don’t have to apologize.  ::He shook his head slightly.::  Why do you do that?

That question wasn’t cruel nor accusatory.  It was just curious, maybe even a little self-deprecating.

Blackwell: Because like it or lump it- you are important to me. ::that part was firm, equally unrelenting, her eyes on his:: Very important. I’d say aside from my family, one of the most important people in my life.

Foster: Really?

It was an odd tone, as if the admission caught him by surprise and he wasn’t overly sure how to react to that.  BUt he wasn’t denying it nor pushing her away either.

Blackwell: Yes. ::she kept her eyes on him, watching him quietly:: but how does that make you feel...is what I need to know? 

He shrugged, watching her carefully.

Foster: I mean we talked about this before, but I’ve known you for a long time and you’ve always been like the kid sister I never had.

Blackwell:  We have talked about this ::she agreed quietly:: But I don’t think we’ve ever sorted out...what we want ::she exhaled at the mention of her being a kid sister comment and swallowed, a sort of weak smile on her lips:: well, I’ll say any sister of yours would be strong, intelligent person I’d like to know.  

Foster: ::He chuckled:: You are who you make yourself to be.  You know I have no biological relationship to my Dad.

Blackwell:::she tilted her head to him at that:: And we are both smart enough to know that a lot of times, family doesn’t always depend on biology or genetics. It’s about connections, and that give and take of being part of one another’s lives ::she raised her eyebrows:: It just comes down to what those connections are exactly.

He settled back in his chair, fixing an even gaze towards her

Foster:  That leaves the question of - what do you want?

Blackwell:: Well, let me preface this - my wants are the only part of the equation here, Wyn. ::She shifted, standing to sit on the end of his couch, putting herself level with him, hands on her lap:: First - primarily..be.someone you think….no, not think... know you can depend on. ::She looked at him closely:: I don’t know what happens in your mind at times, but sometimes I get the sense you think...one moment of weakness, and that’s it. You protect me. Well, I’m protective of you as well. Every damn time I fly this ship, you are someone - I am protecting-

Foster: :::He tinged navy.:  I appreciate that…

He trailed off, a little wary of where this conversation was going, despite deeply appreciating the sentiment.

Blackwell: Second - yes, I like you more than a brother, or more...differently. ::she put her hands up:: I can’t help it. You are handsome, and the fact you are someone who will give me point blank your opinion, or as some would put it - tell it to me straight, is a hell of a lot better than someone who just tries to treat me as if I couldn’t handle it. ::she put up a hand:: however, there is a but to that...

Foster: Alright, what’s the but?

He was feeling that this was something of waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Then again the very thought of intimacy was something he was pretty well and truly burned on.

Blackwell: ::she straightened for a moment, and for a moment losing that cheerful nature she held on, her gaze even:: If you think there is a chance for more between us, I want to take it. But you have to want it as well. If there is one thing I do know - I do deserve to have someone who wants me as much as I want them ::she grinned faintly and exhaled:: Because I am worth it.

Foster: I agree, you are worth it.  ::He said strongly.::

And that was that.  He seemed convicted of that.  A longer than was comfortable pause fell between them.

Blackwell: However…::she prompted:

He shook his head very slowly, antennae curling downwards before he fixed her straight in the eyes, gaze absolutely unyielding.

Foster: I can’t provide that for you, Rue.  I know I can’t.  It would be cruel and selfish to lie to you and say that I could just to benefit from your compassion.

He didn’t know how else to put that, but honestly.  He knew he couldn’t be intimate at this point.  He didn’t know if he could ever be intimate again.  Physically, mentally, emotionally - on all levels.  That trust was taken from him, ripped - literally and figuratively.  

He simply would not hurt one of his longest and best friends by making promises he could not keep.

Blackwell::The words stung. Oh they stung hard, but it was the last part that made her quirk a brow:: Compassion - that makes it sound like somehow I’d be settling for less and you’d be getting more of a benefit.  ::She gazed evenly for a moment:: Let’s just be very damn clear here...you are not less, and you would be worth it as well.

He shrugged, his expression hardening.

Foster: As a friend, steady ear, shoulder to lean on, and Starfleet officer who saves peoples lives?  Sure, I’m absolutely worth it.  But what you’re asking for is intimacy Rue.  That’s what you’re asking for even reciprocation on, right?

Blackwell: Her own gaze hardened for a moment:: Let's back up for just a moment, and take me out of the equation ::she moved forward toward him, summoning all of her stubbornness:: Are you saying that you are not worth anyone wanting that sort of relationship with you?  You say benefit from my compassion….as if I’m pitying you. ::she stared for a long moment, challenging him, squaring her shoulders: and you act like somehow someone wanting to - work- at that with you...is a waste of time? :And her was where her tone lost that even keel, her own pain forgotten for the moment:: 

Wonderful.  Exactly not what he meant, and yet pinpointing everything he specifically feared she would do.  No one pulls pity and waste of time from thin air unless they are somehow projecting some of their thoughts and experiences onto a conversation.

Foster: No.  ::He frowned and stood.:: Don’t put words into my mouth when you’re in my quarters.

Blackwell:::she exhaled a bit and put up a hand, cooling her temper for a moment, and letting him get the space he needed. As two pacing individuals in the space was not ideal, she busied herself putting away the puzzle that was forgotten. Not hastily, just taking a moment:: I misread that then. Fair.

Foster: Not fair.  You think every calculated movement is to harm you?  ::He shook his head::  I don’t say these things to hurt you, but because I have spent the time to realize my own strengths and limitations.  Stop making this about some sort of spit-shined rose colored reality where everyone is worthy of love and affection so we just all open up our hearts and things are hunkey dory.  If that was true we could hug the Cult into submission, and stop the Borg with the power of feelings.

Anger welled up, fighting against his better judgement.  She had hit a nerve, and what started as an honest discussion of limitations where no one was the bad guy had taken a sharp turn into his feeling defensive and his tone turning equally sharp.

Blackwell:::she looked up at him:: I know you are not trying to hurt me, nor would you ever intentionally harm me. ::she looked up, surprised even at the suggestion of it: I’m more worried you are shutting a door. ::She looked back at him, leaning back:: And actually, I tend to think that feelings are intensely messy. Life is messy. People are messy. And sometimes life is -very- ugly.  The cult and the Borg...that’s the ugliest parts of life that we who..want others safe, have to face. I don’t laugh because I don’t know that ugliness is there. I laugh because I -know- its there. But just as we can’t look at everything with rosy glasses..sometimes we also have to remember moments of levity and light. 

Foster: Sure.  I thought this was supposed to be some sort of relaxing night.  ::he waved a hand in the air.:: Levity and fun were never on the menu were they?

Blackwell:::she considered for a moment:: I was more hoping to talk, but this wasn’t the topic i had in mind, no. ::she chuckled dryly: :Is that admonishment. 

He shook his head, finding a seat on the other side of the room to flop down into.

Foster: No, that’s not admonishing.  ::Pause:: Or maybe it is.  But you came here with an agenda, didn’t you?  So what do you want me to say?  ::He asked, sounding frustrated, maybe even a bit lost.::  What are you looking for?

He paused a moment, leaving one sentiment unspoken, but there: what do you want from me?

Blackwell::she exhaled::: Right now, I think just trust that I’m not trying to harm you..more however clumsy I’m being...I am actually trying to help you..or at least remind you if you ever want it, the help is there to take. ::she pushed her hair back from her face:: What happened in the last holosim, that silly adventure - something rattled you Wyn. More than I’ve ever seen. 

Foster: Told you I don’t like holosims.  ::He returned evenly, calculated.::

Blackwell:::She looked at him, catching the evasion:: I know what I saw.

Foster: No, no ::he waved a finger in the air.:: You pulled pity from your own mind not my words and the last targ-ridden thing I want in the world is your pity.  

Blackwell:::she watched the finger for a moment. There was a temptation to fold her arms, get angry, but instead she kept herself open, arms at her sides. She spoke quietly:: It’s not pity, it’s concern. And perhaps I’m up the wrong tree, misreading some emotions but I know one thing I did not mistake ::She looked to him camly and steadily:: I know what a panic attack looks like.

He set his mouth in a thin, hard line.  He could deny that was what happened in the holodeck.  Sure.  But that would be a blatant lie.

Foster: You live through enough in Starfleet some things sink in, Rue.  You should know that if you felt it rise within you on the bridge, thoughts of the Yarhala and the gutted Gorkon.  Maybe you even saw in your mind a view of the Narendra, gutted and adrift?

Blackwell: It was more that I saw everyone else, gutted and adrift :she said quietly and nodded in acknowledgement to that image:: 

He shook his head, looking towards her.

Foster: As I told Romyana, I have been in Starfleet for seven years and I have never been through a ship battle as harrowing as the thing we just lived through.  If that’s what you went through getting to the Gorkon…  ::He gave a low whistle:: I don’t envy you.

Blackwell:She gave a bit of wry smirk: It is one of those stories though isn’t it. One of the ones that years from now, some aspiring young recruit is going to read and think something along the lines of ‘What if I was there?’ or imagine somehow they could heroically change or avoid the situation. Be that piece that somehow changes the entire picture. 

Foster: They think they know what they want when they’re young, and then you live through it and realize that it’s not what you think it is.

Blackwell:::She considered for a moment and exhaled deeply to that::  There is that. And then there is another hard choice isn’t there?

Foster: Is there?

Blackwell: Figuring out how to move on ::She said quietly and simply:: Some people try and fight the pain, stamp it down and ignore it. ::And a wry note:: Which doesn’t work. At all. ::and then she continued:: And others..I guess let it mold them and shape them, and some are actively wise enough to learn from it and actually put that experience to good use.

The Andorian eyed the pilot for a moment with a look of clouded suspicion.  Maybe he was projecting.  Was he hiding stuff from her?  Of course he was.  He had done so for the past four years with a smile and a sassy joke, and done it with style.  The closest she had ever gotten to guessing was the night she drug Ish Th’Zarin into sickbay and he had insisted that one or both of them press charges on Gabe - Rue’s insane ex who assaulted Ish.  But she was too caught up in her own anger, fears and concerns to notice any cracks in Wyn’s facade. 

Foster: That’s called growing up, generally.  ::He watched her evenly.:: What did you learn from the Yarhala situation?

Blackwell: Well, the situation with the Gorkon and the Yarhala made me more willing to consider outside the line protocols. ::she grinned a bit:: To be taken very carefully, of course :a light wink::

Foster: I mean that seems par for the course with this crew.  ::He shrugged:: Jalana was more by the books.  Predictable, a sweetheart.  Oddas was more rough and tumble but concerned about regulations.  This crew?  I have it on good authority that protocols are more like suggestions. 

Wyn didn’t know if that made him feel better about serving with a group of people who had the capability to see the big picture and focus on the important issues over the bureaucracy or terrified because he didn’t know the rules they were playing by.

Blackwell:She smirked faintly to that and quietly regarded him for a moment, as she felt a bit of calmer emotions take hold, letting her widen her view. In the back of her mind had been the panic attack and she’d gotten him to acknowledge it. So she was up the wrong emotional tree, but was right - somewhere, the Andorian she considered her rock, there were cracks..it was a question that for now she put in the margins while they talked. To the situation of protocols being suggestions, she grinned faintly: Well, Starfleet is known to have their Mavericks :But something in her face suggested she knew there was another side to that coin.

Foster: Well sure, I just never thought I would be assigned under a Captain who thinks that fighting six Klingon ships is all in a day’s work ::He said with a healthy dose of sarcasm:: That’s not being a maverick, that’s called insanity.

He even gave it a good smirk, enough humor to say that he wasn’t going to recommend a nuthouse for any of the senior staff - yet.  That was, of course, always on the table.

Blackwell: Sure, we hear about the ones that were successful, the stories, the heroes ::she lifted her fingers into quotation marks, and shrugged:: I know my own piloting falls out of standard protocol sometimes..I look to adapt. The problem is, balancing the knowledge that protocols exist for a reason...with the fact, you can’t plan for everything. ::she lifted her eyes back to him:: And you can’t control everything either. 

Foster: I know ::He sighed:: Least of all other people.

Wasn’t that the truth?  The thing you needed the most in the galaxy was the least controllable.

Blackwell::She nodded to that with a slow, wry smile::  And that is where relations and interpersonal connections...are always so tenuous and prone to being snapped - by either individuals holding too tight, not tight enough, or other variables. ::She exhaled slowly:: 

Foster: ::He gave a long, slow sigh:: I know you want to try a relationship.  I’m not blind.  ::He looked at her.:: I can’t guarantee it will work - and will that mean our friendship will be hurt if it fails to work?

Blackwell:::She considered that for a long moment, rolling his words in her mind for a moment: There’s always things that could hurt a friendship, or any relationship, no matter how careful people are, and no relationship ever comes with a guarantee…..which is why they are so important to take care of. ::She looked to him:  I know my flaws, Wyn. I know whoever is with me will require some amount of patience. But that in turn...means I am also learning to be patient. :And then back to him: 

He offered her a reserved, wry smile.  Patience was a virtue that neither of them possessed naturally in spades.  Learning to be patient was a lifelong journey.  

Foster: Learning to be… and are…they are two very different things.

Blackwell: ::She huffed:: An old parable from Earth is the tortoise and the hare...Last relationship, however, we were both hares. ::A wry smirk to any potential innuendos that could come of that image, before getting more serious:: This time, I’d rather be the tortoise.. Slow, and steady.

Foster: I’ll hold you to that.  ::he remarked not unkindly.::

Blackwell:She pushed a bit of hair from her face:: I’d expect nothing less, Doctor ::she gave a faintly amused smile:: 

He gave her a simple nod back.  He would hold her to that.  If there was any chance that a relationship between the two of them would work it would need a stable foundation - something that neither had in romance up to this point.

Foster: So, are you going to push me for starting requirements?

Blackwell: No...for now, why don’t we just plan on a nice trip to see Jalana, and we’ll go from there.

Foster: Alright, that’s a deal.  ::he gave a single nod and leaned back closing his eyes.:: Maybe a vacation is what we need.

Blackwell: I think so ::she exhaled softly and gave a faint smile:: I’m looking forward to it...so, we’ll have a good time, see friends, and just ….let things fall into place. ::she said as she put the puzzle back into, the pictures on the pieces mixed and still in disarray even within the box, then stood up: : I’ll go pack I think ::she was cautious and for now, didn’t cross over to offer an embrace goodbye. Too soon, she thought:: I’ll see you at the shuttle bay. 

Foster: Yeah, I’ll be there.  ::He gave her a smile.  Maybe a bit of a half hearted smile, but a smile nonetheless.::

She returned the smile, but it was careful. Genuine, but careful and then walked towards the door, taking one last look and was gone. 

~fin - for now... ~


A JP Between:

Lt. Prudence Blackwell

Starbase 118 OPS



Lt Commander Shar’Wyn Foster
Interim Chief Medical Officer
StarBase 118 Ops
Simmed by: Fleet Captain Sal Taybrim


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