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Be Kind to Yourself

Posted on 29 Apr 2017 @ 2:26am by Lieutenant Camila Di Pasquale & Lieutenant Avery Stuart Ph.D.

Mission: Shore Leave
Location: New Bajor
Timeline: MD 19 || 1900 Hours

Avery was still exhausted after taking care of patients from the Black Hawk in the New Bajor medical facilities, but it was the type of exhaustion that left her peculiarly so tired, she couldn't relax enough to go to sleep. She knew she wasn't the only one feeling this way, but under the circumstances, she knew the cause of her insomnia was probably somewhat unique.

She couldn't even think of saying goodbye to the Black Hawk until she had one last opportunity to make sure members of her soon to be former crew would be okay. Intellectually, she knew she should probably leave the trauma care to those who were more objective and frankly had more energy, but emotionally, Avery still felt she had unfinished emotional business with the crew. Perhaps it was primarily selfish on her part, but she knew what she had to do all the same.

Stuart knew exactly where she wanted to start. In her guest quarters, she queried the computer, "Computer, location of Lieutenant Camila Di Pasquale."

After a moment, the computer responded "Lieutenant Camila Di Pasquale is currently in Building Four," it said, referring to the makeshift buildings that Starfleet had put up for survivors of the planetary bombing done by the Consortium and the survivors of those attacks. Building Four was a combination bar that had sprung up and a place where people could go to congregate and try to find others.

Avery nodded and headed out in search of Building Four. She might've been vaguely aware of it, but frankly, she had been spending so much time caring for patients, she hadn't really been able to explore even all of the makeshift areas. The building was easily spotted enough and although fairly crowded, she spotted Camila.
"Hello, Camila. How are you?"

The ombre-haired Security....well, Camila couldn't call herself a Chief now that the Black Hawk was no more, turned her head at the sound of a voice she recognized and saw the Counselor standing there. In front of her was a bottle of some green liquid and a half a glass full of the stuff in her right hand. "Avery," she said with a nod before she took another healthy drink of whatever she was having.

"Mind if I join you?" Stuart asked softly. "I'm not sure what to do with myself right now. I don't think I could sleep and I guess I wanted to be around a familiar face."

"Go ahead," Camila said as she took another drink and reached for the bottle to refill her glass. "It's not like I own the place or anything else. In fact, I don't have anything better to do other than wait for the inquisition to be over with so I can go back to Earth."

Avery sat, contemplating what she wanted to drink. She wasn't much of an alcohol drinker given her childhood and the memories alcohol triggered, but on occasion, she liked to have a drink or two to be social. She didn't feel much like socializing today, but she found herself not wanting to be alone. She ordered a simple coconut rum and Coke. It wasn't a hard drink, per se, but it satisfied her wants for the moment. Stuart nodded. "I guess it does seem like an inquisition, doesn't it? Everyone wanting to find answers, but also searching for culpability. The Black Hawk certainly wasn't the first ship to be lost or crash, but it sure feels like it to me."

"It was the first ship I served on," Camila said as she drank half of her refilled glass and nearly slammed it back on the improvised bar, sloshing some of the green liquid out of it. "I get assigned to a ship that seemed destined to go to hell and back and instead of coming back, it goes down. Why? Because some damned aliens got into the minds of loyal Starfleet officers in command and turned us against each other! It wasn't entire ships full of Consortium. It was just good officers following bad officers and not questioning orders!"

She got a few looks and more than an asserting grunt or nod to her outburst but a few people muttered in dissent and she looked at the ones who dared to say something. "Talk like that is going to find you in a holding cell," she warned the person. "Everyone is going to get questioned, probed and tested before we get out of the Gamma Quadrant. Just watch." She grabbed her glass and tossed the rest of it back.

Part of Avery knew better than to argue with a clearly drunk Camila, but it was in her nature as a counselor to be a devil's advocate. "I think the questioning, probing, and testing has become standard procedure whenever a ship is lost or a crew undergoes a major trauma."

Camila turned to look at Avery as if she grew a second head. "Standard procedure?" she barked. "They're about to go in us hard and deep, Stuart. You have a PhD, right? Use it and think about the situation. This is about more than a ship going down or crew trauma. This is about Starfleet officers being corrupted at the highest levels! Commanding officers were corrupted and deceived their crew into attacking other Starfleet ships and officers! Trauma? Thousands of good officers died because of their actions! They're going to search each and every one of us until they find out what we did as children until they're satisfied that we're not traitors!"

She practically spat the last word out before she reached for the bottle of green liquid again but instead of pouring it in a glass, she drank straight from the bottle. "People on our ship were traitors! They were everywhere and people died because of them!"

"I know!" Avery shouted, far louder than she intended. "Who do you think was patching up all those wounded bodies you're talking about? Who do you think was closing the eyes of those we couldn't save after throwing every piece of medical knowledge available at them, just praying they wouldn't give up and their bodies wouldn't give out? Every single battle we fought, where the hell do you think I was? You have the audacity to imply I'm stupid and incompetent, that I don't know what we just went through and what we're up against? I'm a therapist, I'm trained to analyze sentient behavior, and even I couldn't determine who the enemies were in our midst. Even if you think you have the right to lash out at me, do you really think there's anything you could possibly say that would make me feel worse than I already do? Do you?"

"Well, whatdoyaknow?" Camila asked as she poured a measure of the green liquid in the glass she had been using and handed it to the Counselor. "You aren't an android after all. Kudos, Avery. Drink up!"

Avery had half a mind to throw the drink back in the other woman's face, but instead she said, "Screw you!" before downing the drink. It packed a punch, but anger helped her keep her composure.

"You aren't my type," Camila said before she refilled the glass before taking a drink from the bottle and set it down again. "I tell you something. I was on Deep Space Eleven while the ship was in the shit, but it was hell over there, too." She paused to take another drink. "I took ten people with me and over half of them are now dead. Dead! I couldn't even bring their bodies back with me. I had to leave them behind where they fell....do you know how that makes me feel?"

Even as irritated as she was, Avery still quietly thanked Camila for the refill. It was done out of habit more than conscious attention. If Stuart had been paying attention to what she was doing, she would've put a stop to it right then and there. She knew better than to get drunk as a way to cope with her feelings, and even more than that, she knew better than to get drunk in front of a colleague. However, these weren't normal times, and caught between the haze of extreme fatigue and grief, she could only bring herself to focus on the words. "Tell me. I'd rather you tell me what you think and feel rather than make presumptions about what's in my head and my heart." The last was spoken more sarcastically than the sober Avery would ever reveal, but once more, the counselor was focused on what was in her glass. "Jesus, what the hell is this stuff?" She asked, after downing more than half the glass despite the burn from the first drink.

"Aldebaran whiskey," Camila told her in response to her question. She paused and tried to sort out what she was feeling besides anger. "I'm twenty-six years old, have two years of service in and I'm a relatively new Chief of Security. The former Chief, del Rosario was a Consortium sympathizer and I got bumped into his role after I arrested him. I led a team of people who were volunteered to come with me and trusted me to give them guidance along with Commander Bast. One thing after another went wrong and even though it's not my fault, I'll have to live knowing that I was responsible for them as long as I live and the fact that I had to leave them behind in order to complete the mission."

Even though Avery was well on her way to feeling no pain after two healthy drinks of alien whiskey, her therapist instincts would never truly leave her. She found herself nodding at Camila's words. "You will. Do you resent being promoted so quickly?"

"No," Camila said as she took another drink of the whiskey and refilled Avery's glass again. "I resent having to fight people that I should have worked side by side with. I was stationed at Deep Space Eleven for two years before I went to the Black Hawk, but when I was on the station, all I saw were people that wanted to kill me. People who blindly followed orders. People that were shooting to kill when we had orders to stun only. I watched member after member of my team fall while I led them into a deadly situation." She paused and took another drink. "I should have died there, too," she said almost too softly to hear.

Avery listened as Camia recounted all that she resented. The counselor couldn't blame her and in her intoxicated haze offered little more than nods to all of it. That was, until her last utterance. "I'm not sure what your death would've accomplished," she said matter of factly. "You didn't do anything wrong by not getting killed, you know."

"No, but I did manage to accomplish the guilt that's going to sit on me forever," Camila said as she took another drink from the bottle. "Some of those people that I was fighting against were former personnel that I served with," she added. "Do you know what's that like having someone that you used to trust suddenly deciding that your'e the enemy?"

Avery took a drink and with no trace of humor replied, "Most people I trust decide to see me as an enemy."

"As least they don't try to kill you," Camila said with a sneer and another drink. "If people see you as an enemy, then their priorities are so far out of whack that it's clear that they don't need a counselor. They need a phaser set on lethal."

Just the image of what Camila had suggested was enough to make Avery laugh almost hard enough to make the alcohol she'd just swallowed come out her nose. "I suppose there are different kinds of enemies. Some represent a threat to one's physical safety and others represent a threat to their emotional safety." Stuart shrugged. "People don't want to talk about their emotional wounds. They don't want to confront their own challenges. I get that. Wounds that are aired out just fester, though. I'm only trying to keep people from dying in a different way."

Camila refilled Avery's glass again and shrugged. "People die inside all the time, but all the brass cares about is if they can still do their jobs," she said. "I've seen people who came on duty, did their shift and left again without any trace of life in their eyes. If they can still do what they're told to do, then it's all good. Right?" She paused to take a drink. "I don't think deep exploration is for me, especially after the past few months. I may find a good station that's looking for someone in Security to handle petty thieves or other small things. I don't even care if I get a Chief position."

Even through her intoxicated haze, Stuart couldn't help but feel wounded by Camila's words. Perhaps the brass only cared about whether someone could do his or her job, but she cared about more than that, and as a clinician, she wouldn't think so little of her colleagues that she would ignore the hurt behind someone's eyes. "I wish I could've helped those people you were talking about. I think that's why some people are reluctant to approach me. They know I won't just do the bare minimum to keep them healthy even when it's a problem they're seeking me out for."

"Mi permetta di farle una domanda. Qualcuno che hai mai aiutato si ha accusato di fare il tuo lavoro?" Camila asked as she lapsed into Italian, but the universal translator supplied the translation as 'Let me ask you a question. Has anyone you've ever helped blamed you for doing your job?'

Avery turned to her and giving the question some thought, finally said, "Often. There are times when helping someone requires me to remove them from duty, but that doesn't mean he or she agrees with my decision in the moment."

"Beh, non riesco a rimuovere persone dal dazio perché non sono d'accordo con loro o sono in disaccordo con me. Posso solo fare quello che posso fare," Camila said, stating 'Well, I can't remove people from duty because I disagree with them or they disagree with me. I can only do what I can do.'

Stuart nodded. "That's all any of us can do. I have the power to remove people from duty to protect themselves and others, but that doesn't mean I have the power to ensure they accept help and get to a place where they feel better. As a counselor, blame is sometimes directed my way whether it's deserved or not. Frequently, it's because people have identified me as a safe target to vent their emotions. Perhaps it would help to consider the people blaming you for doing your job aren't really upset about that, they are just picking a convenient target."

"I'm blaming me!" Camila shouted as she grabbed the bottle that held the remains of the green whiskey and threw it across the room to shatter against the wall. "There's nothing I can do to bring the dead back to life! There's nothing I can do to make it easier for their loved ones. There's nothing I can do except go forth and lead more people down the road to their doom. Nothing."

The crash of the bottle was startling and gave the otherwise surreal experience an even greater surreal quality. By now, Avery knew she was sloshed, and reacting to the events around her more than a little sluggishly. Turning slowly to watch the liquid remnants of the bottle trip down the farther wall, she then turned her head just as slowly to face Camila. "Do you really think you're that powerful and evil? That you're not only capable of convincing people against their will to do things they don't want to do and don't find meaningful, but also so black hearted that you intentionally lead people to their deaths just as a matter of course?" Stuart shook her head, a gesture that made her head swim. "I say again. Blaming yourself just makes you a convenient target for misplaced emotions. The Consortium is responsible for our losses, not you, and no amount of resisting that idea or challenging it will help you avoid the grief surrounding that very fact."

"Who else am I going to blame?" Camila yelled in Italian at the woman. "I'm the one who was in charge of getting the people in and out of there alive and that didn't happen. That was on me!"

"The Consortium is responsible for all of that," she offered gently. "You did the absolute best you could for being handed an impossible situation. I'm not minimizing who was lost, I'm just saying no member of Starfleet achieves perfection every time. Striving for perfection is to be commended, but if that's the benchmark you base your worth on, you will never feel worthy, whether in or out of the service."

"It doesn't matter," Camila said. "I'm the one responsible no matter who was up against me and my personnel. I am...or was...the Chief of Security and we went in blind. That's still no excuse for having dead personnel on my hands."

Avery met Camila's eyes and asked, "So you're saying you believed you would never lose someone under your command in your entire Starfleet career? That you always expected to be the perfect officer, the perfect person, every single day you served?" Stuart knew that many people had such unreasonable expectations of themselves, but she also knew Academy training forced people to confront such unreasonable expectations regularly. Stuart had a hard time believing Camila could hold onto such expectations, especially given her position as a security officer.

"NO!" Camila shouted. "I never thought I was perfect because I'm only human," she said more quietly. "I just didn't expect it to happen like it did and so soon in my career."

Avery nodded. "That makes sense," she added quietly. "Losing people, unfortunately, is inevitable in life, but that doesn't mean I would ever want me or anyone else to get to a place where it doesn't hurt anymore. As far as I'm concerned, when we stop feeling, we stop being alive." She started to stand from her seat and took more than a moment to steady herself. When she finally felt able to walk, she turned back to Camila and said, "it was an honor serving with you, Camila. Try to be kind to yourself in the coming time. Beating yourself up only creates more pain."

"Yeah," Camila said. "You, too, Avery. Good luck." With that, the former Chief of Security got up, patted Avery on the shoulder and headed out with her shoulders slumped and her head down.

 

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