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LCDR Stacker, CDR Valeese | "Bad Memories and a Bad Day"

Posted on Fri Jan 22nd, 2021 @ 2:03am by Commander Valeese Stacker & Commander James Stacker

Mission: A Distant Thunder
Location: XO's Quarters | Deck 681 | Cold Station Theta

Somewhere around Deck 500, the XO's day caught up with him.

He'd known it was coming, of course. Its arrival was inevitable. After millennia of evolution the human body was still limited in its ability to endure being forced to attune itself to every word, every nuance, every sentence and emotion, of long and important conversations. When those were bookended and flowed around repeated meetings, conversations of a lesser nature, message traffic followed by still more messages, and the raw emotions of a crew just coming to grips with shocking and unexpected news ... Well let's face it. It made for a hell of a day.

The fact that all of this was taking place precisely one day before Christmas only made things worse. He felt it in the air all day long: how the joy had been snuffed out, or at least put on pause while the officers and crew came to grips.

After contending with this all day, it shouldn't have been surprising when - somewhere around Deck 500 - James finally let his mind wander off and start to wind down. Swiftly gone were his cares about meetings with admirals, or his schedule for tomorrow, or what next week would bring. By the time the doors slid open and revealed the muted lighting of the intelligence section, today's hour-long hydroponics meeting ranked a level of concern he afforded to Cardassian Voles.

In short, he didn't give a shit. He continued to not give a shit the remaining forty steps, a left turn, fifty-three steps, a right turn, and eleven steps followed by an opening door. At that point he was finally able to lean back against the now-closed door, close his eyes, and sigh in the sanctity of his - their - quarters.

The lights were dimmed, to the level of quiet twilight - just bright enough to spare the eyes from strain, but dark enough to soothe and lull away tension with the promise of later darkness and sleep. It had been a long day, one spent in the odd plateau between waiting for news to further develop nd hoping for the news to simply stop.

"I couldn't decide what you needed more so I defaulted to lemongrass and chamomile." Valeese greeted him, departing the kitchen with a cup of tea in either hand, "I see my choice was well made." Her smile was fleeting, more sad than anything as she regarded him with a practiced measure of concern and offered him his beverage with an out stretched hand. The Vorta had learned to read the Ghost almost as well as she could read herself. She knew his tells, his hides, his bluffs. She knew when he was receding back into his shell and just how quickly he could come bursting forth again if she applied just the right amount of leverage.

She knew that being left to his own devices no longer suited him or tickled his fancy - he preferred her company, even if it was time spent in silence. His days of pensive, morose brooding were over. My oh my, how the Ghost had grown. Still, to call him outright domesticated would be a lie and she knew it. Hand tamed, perhaps, but hardly domesticated... And that was just how she liked it.

He made a thoughtful sound as his head thudded against the door, throat working as he swallowed a sip of the tea. Unsurprisingly it was what he'd needed and craved, but hadn't been able to put a finger on. Now it coursed down a throat run ragged by hours of nonstop talking, discussing, endless meetings, reporting and facilitating things. Each breath brought with it a faint inhalation of the warmth that wafted up from the cup, caressing his face.

He sighed, eyes reopening as his head tilted forward to regard her. "You have no idea how much I was looking forward to getting back. I don't want to repeat today. Ever. When I took the position ..." He took another breath and glanced beyond her, to the window, lips compressing to a thin line that hinted at deeper emotions. That old, instinctual, urge to shut down played out in a split-second across his face before receding. Would it ever be truly gone?

"I knew there would be bad days. But today has been one of the worst, by far. Bad memories and bad news." He looked down at the cup, feet shifting on the floor to more comfortable positions, before he took another sip. A light, albeit bitter, tone sat under his words when he resumed speaking. "Not a good combination."

Valeese's head canted softly to one side as she listened to him speak and gently ushered him towards a couch, "I understand the part where talking about things and spreading the news was painful, but... Bad memories. That's part of the combination I'm afraid I know nothing about and can't begin to fix beyond saying that they're just that... Memories. You've survived whatever it is that you're remembering." She offered, sliding her free hand down the sleeve covered length of one of his arms, "Do you want to talk about it?"

The cup clinked onto the glass of the tabletop before he leaned back into the dim lighting of the room, fully aware and yet not aware of her hand on his sleeve. It would have been all-too-easy to lose himself in those memories again. Even now they clawed at him and wanted to be remembered. He glanced to the side, at her, evidently thinking before coming to some silent conclusion and relenting. His arm slid across her shoulders, free hand playing with a wrinkle in the fabric of his pants.

"About ... I think it was eleven years ago. I was on Viery as part of the Federation peacekeeping force. It was bad. Really bad. We went in as part of the first wave once they signed the peace accords and it was all shot to hell. Roadways and bridges out, schools gone, half the population living in refugee camps." The plucking at the wrinkle intensified for a moment, then a thumb smoothed it out. Only it didn't quite succeed. Every time it pushed down a new ridge of fabric popped up. On the thumb went to the new ridge.

"About six months after we went in, there was a transport coming in. They found out later - after the crash - that the navigational beacons weren't working right that day. They were supplying false data that told the crew their altitude was higher than it actually was." He took a breath as he stopped, fingers in the hand on her opposite shoulder rubbing together. The lines on his face were tighter. "Sorry. It's just uncomfortable to talk about, even now."

Swallowing the small lump that had formed in her throat, Valeese nodded in relative understanding, "I can see where this would dredge up bad memories," She hummed, reaching to cover his hand with her own and stilling his pensive thumb, "This wasn't a case like that. The Commodore's shuttle was maintained by the best in Starfleet. Sometimes fate just has other plans and sometimes things just go to hell without reason and it's no one's fault that they happened, but we're doomed to suffer the fall out all the same." Her words were punctuated with a delicate little shrug, "Life is fickle that way, James. I'd worry more if you felt less."

James' hand flipped under hers, fingers intertwining as he slowly nodded. "Oh, I certainly know about life being fickle. And her shuttle went down on Earth, so Starfleet's best will be looking into it. They won't stop until every little detail is known." He glanced beyond her, to the window again, before his eyes went back to her face, then to the cooling cup of tea on the table. "You're actually getting the James who's had years to work through the aftermath, because ..." He gave her a look that spoke grimly about it.

"I was a wreck for months afterwards. They sent in my platoon as part of the first-in responders, looking for survivors. I don't think you can ever prepare someone for that level of horror." The eyes glanced down to their hands, fingers giving hers a gentle squeeze. "Our shuttle was halfway there when they told us the mission had changed from search and rescue to recovery. That's probably what made me so uncomfortable earlier. Hearing those words from you." It seemed like an admission that would have once given him trouble to make. Thank god for the past three years.

"Probably," She digressed, squeezing his fingers between her own, "I don't mean to sound cold or callous or overly clinical, it's just how I've learned to process and deal with things over time and it seems to work best when there isn't any emotional attachment involved." The words made sense to her even if they sounded so very distant and bland, her bedside manner and analytical nature coming to the forefront in order to keep the emotional aspects tamped down and at bay long enough to mend whatever ill it was that plagued the man beside her. In turn, he'd play the role of rock for her if ever and whenever her own demons came to play. That was part of the grand beauty of their little scheme. Each one was so ready to metamorphose into the role the other needed most when push came to shove and things went less than stellar.

"You were young. It was awful. This situation is awful, but the truth of it will come out and maybe we'll learn some sort of lesson from it." Valeese paused, chewing her lower lip, "For me it's the suddenness and the odds of it happening that make me shake my head. She was young, healthy, in friendly territory and using highly tuned technology procured and protected just for her. It shouldn't have happened, but it did and it makes me worry about it happening to any one of us if it could happen to a flag officer."

The fingers that had - until now - been gently rubbing against each other on her shoulder stopped, then resumed. When they did though it was slower and more considerate. After a moment he moved closer, a cloth-covered thigh teasing against hers. His mouth opened as if to speak, then closed again, and his eyebrows furrowed and moved. "Then maybe it would be best if we didn't go anywhere by shuttle. For a little while, at least," he finally said, eyes glancing to hers before he leaned over to press a kiss into her hair. There was no good-natured humoring in the words. They were again steady and level, all trace of unease gone in less than a minute.

The Vorta's delicate ears pricked forth towards words that went without being said, the ones that left the gears of her own mind turning perhaps even more than those he'd vocalized. It wasn't her place to pry, nor was it her place to dig. It was her place - as always - to watch and listen and learn while allowing him to do what it was that he did best. After all, when it came to this particular notion, she was far out of her league at best. "Then it's settled, no shuttles." Not that she desired to travel anywhere for any reason anytime soon, "Staying put has never sounded better."

He made a thoughtful sound and nuzzled her hair again. "That makes two of us who agree," he finally murmured.


Commander James Stacker
Executive Officer

Commander Valeese
Chief Medical Officer


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