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Ithaca, Part 1

Posted on 23 Nov 2017 @ 10:41am by Lieutenant Sterek

Mission: History
Location: Bayeaux, Earth
Timeline: December 2372

(OOC content warning for allusions to suicide)

Outside Bayeaux psychiatric facility, the world was white. Sterek had heard of such phenomena, although he'd never had the opportunity to observe it in detail.

Right now, he could barely bring himself to remain interested in staying alive, let alone the idiosyncrasies of Earth's weather system.

Efforts had been made to make the building look more like a hotel than a hospital, and usually it worked, but the daylight reflecting off the snow gave Sterek's room a bright and clinical feel. It reminded him of interrogation rooms and medical examinations and he was tired of pretending the memories didn't have an effect on him. He closed the automatic blinds as his visitor entered.

"Sterek, if you do not allow yourself some daylight exposure, it will take you longer to return to a regular sleep pattern."

Sterek turned. His late wife's t'hy'la - it was still hard to think of Sivar as anything else - was wearing blacks and greys, layered for warmth, and stray snowflakes were scattered across the hem of her jacket like tiny stars. She pulled it off, along with her scarf, and handed it to the nurse.

"Any shoelaces?" the human asked. "Pins? Sharp edges of any kind?" Sivar shook her head. Sterek's response was a little snappish.

"These measures are unnecessary. I am a physician and a Vulcan. If I wanted to commit suicide I would not need Sivar's shoelaces."

"Just a precaution!" the man replied, with forced brightness.

Sivar gave Sterek a skeptical look as the nurse left. Sterek suppressed annoyance. "I was not aware you had returned to Earth," he said.

"Some of my work is being exhibited in Paris. It seems they are far more receptive to it here."

Sterek kept his back to the wall. He didn't offer her a seat.

"You do have a rather... emotional style," he replied.

"So I have been told."

There was a pregnant pause before Sivar continued.

"I am informed that you have some freedom of movement within the grounds of this facility, but the staff here tell me you have not been outside for two weeks."

"Inaccurate. It is in fact closer to sixteen Earth days," Sterek corrected.

Sivar raised one slender eyebrow. She approached the window and flicked open the blinds again. Daylight flooded the room. "If you are going to remain indoors for the duration of your stay, you may as well return to Vulcan."

"Your statement is based on an incorrect assumption. I am not here to enjoy the scenery."

"Then why are you here?" she asked. "Why not seek treatment at home?"

"Because Vulcan doctors conceal their disgust and pity when they look at me. At least here they are honest in their expressions."

The woman was quiet for a moment, perhaps choosing her words carefully.

"I submit an alternative hypothesis; that you interpret human expressions poorly. Or perhaps you are suffering from - what is the term for it - projection?"

Sterek's retort was, again, a little sharp. "I submit that you should concentrate your efforts on sculpture and leave psychology to the qualified."

Sivar was silent for a moment. Sterek wondered if she was going to leave. Instead, she stared out of the window for a few more moments, at the flat expanse of white that covered the grounds.

"Snow has a number of interesting properties. In certain conditions, I am told, it can make for an unprecedentedly stable building material."

Sterek just looked at her.

"Perhaps I will venture outside and make a study," the woman continued. "Would you accompany me?"

"I would prefer to remain indoors."

"Then you can observe from a distance."

He watched her leave, trying to keep his detached anticipation from straying into the regions of annoyed disbelief. Even now, a full eight months after his incarceration and torture in an alien war zone, his emotional control was lacking.

He supposed at least part of it was sheer exhaustion. Though meditation could mitigate things a little, no amount of mental discipline could reverse the neurological consequences of severe trauma. The fact that the Vulcan brain was able to build defensive walls of amnesia around disturbing memories could hinder as well as help, especially if the memories were spread out over a sustained period of time.

Months of disturbed sleep, of unwanted recollections and involuntary panic, of that terrible hollow feeling every time he looked into his own eyes in a mirror... And now here was Sivar, barging into his hospital room uninvited before sauntering outside to play with the snow like a headstrong child. He almost regretted asking the doctors to contact her when he was first rescued, being unwilling to let his estranged family back into his life at the time, or burden his former in-laws with his shame.

And yet. She had come to him, unquestioningly, as if being named next-of-kin by her dead lover's widower was the most normal thing in the galaxy. The memory sent gratitude and calm to settle over the building resentment in his chest, and he watched through the window as she enlisted a couple of the staff to help her push the snow into a pile. Strange that she could give off the air of a professional artist, even with hands made thick and clumsy by her knitted gloves; stranger still that, despite her emotional discipline, when the nurses smiled at her, they seemed to see in her eyes their own joy reflected back at them.

For the first time, Sterek began to understand what his wife had fallen in love with, all those years ago.


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