Part of Starbase Bravo: Q2 2400

Nowhere But Here

Promenade
March 2400
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Rey stepped off the turbolift with Heriah. Her body tightened. Ford hated the endless swarm of people moving through the corridors. They made her feel claustrophobic and the close proximity meant anyone could attack at any time.

Thankfully, the bar was just off a far less busy section, nestled between a dry cleaners and a public toilet. As they approached, Rey’s face lit up at the neon sign. “Cripples’ Den,” Ford said aloud. “They don’t allow fighting, just so you know,” said the girl with a bit of disappointment in her voice and went in the front door.

Heriah followed Rey into the establishment. It was not too busy and the patronage was actually spread out. She watched as Rey waved down a tender, stuck up a few fingers and then motioned for Heriah to follow. She did and followed Rey to a far table away from the majority of the patronage, where they could talk about whatever and few would be able to overhear if even they tried.

Of all your patients so far, and of all your sessions, this one gets my vote.’

“So you come here often,” Heriah asked as she sat down beside Rey.

“I just found it a couple of weeks ago. I was tired of the fake stuff they serve everywhere else and went looking for the real deal.” Rey tapped on the table with her fingers. She was still tense from the crowd. The table suited her nicely, though. Dark, hidden and safe. Just the way she liked it. The bar itself had seen better days. The cushion on the booth and stools were ripped. A neon sign for beer read only, ‘B**R’, though one of the ‘E’s flickered on and off about every minute. The patronage were mostly station personnel, the dock workers, a few engineers and only a couple of cadets.“What will it be, ladies?” asked the tender. “Tequila shots. Line them up. Real ones, not the fake shit.” The aenar tender gave her a quick nod and shifted to Heriah Rex. “And for you, ma’am”?”

“You know what,” Heriah looked at the Aenar, “the same. I’ve never tried it, so why not?”

The tender trotted off to see to the order. Heriah looked about the place and took in the environment. Starfleet technology and maintenance was too advanced for a place like this to have it flickering lights and ripped and torn seat cushions. She considered it means to look like an olden bar with many years of service. She turned to Rey. Technically, this was no longer a counseling session, but it was still hot on Heriah’s mind. Besides, she did have a legitimate question to ask; on that would have been nagging at her regardless. “You mentioned Charlotte a few times. If I may, who is this Charlotte person to you?”

“She’s my fiancée.”

Rey’s lips curled into a smile at the very mention of the name, Charlotte. Though separated by light years of space, she was the one true constant in the cadet’s life.

“We haven’t set a date or anything.” Rey glanced over her shoulder as if to hurry the waiter. He was taking far too long for her tastes. “Technically, it’s Captain Charlotte Irene Rose Fawkes.” Ford giggled at the length of the name. “She’s from one of those hoi-polloi families in England that had money when everyone on earth had money.” The girl dug into the neck of her uniform and pulled out a ring on the end of a stainless steel chain. She pulled it off to let Heriah examine it. The ring was an oval four-carat diamond, adorned by three triangular sapphires on either side on white gold.

“Like I told you before, the Federation has me tagged with a criminal past and for good reason.” The tender arrived just as Rey began her story with three tequila shots each. “Leave the bottle,” Rey said and downed the first shot. “Long story short, I got in a spot where I owed a bunch of ex-Maquis a favor and had to deliver a cargo of nerve gas to a Cardassian colony. I’ve no love for Cardassians, but I’m not a murderer either, so I just dumped the gas into space.” Rey put her hands up in defense. “I know, dumb move, especially since a Federation ship found it and tracked me down. The Captain of the ship was Charlotte.”

Rey downed another shot. “I was arrested, blah, blah, blah, but instead of handing me over to the Federation, she put me to work on her ship.” The third shot went down with as much ease as the rest. “Anyway, she kind of made me her pet project, which I resented at first, but as time went on we became friends and she was really hot and … I’m sure this is all quite boring to you, right?”

Ford poured three more tequila shots for herself. “Want some more?” she asked Heriah.

Heriah nodded. As she had been kicking back shots as Rey had, her shot glasses were now empty. This tequila was a bit more potent than the Risian Vodka she enjoyed. Heriah was not yet sure of what to make of this tequila, but the rush hitting her in the gut and in the sinuses was a bit unexpected.

“No, not at all boring. In fact, I think it is a beautiful thing; what you two have. Because,” she turned her head away from the now full shot glasses toward Rey and the sudden movement sent the world into a minor shake. “…because that PADD you showed me earlier said something about you having turst issues. Listen to me…turst. It said you have tur…issues believing people.” She kicked a shot back. “And you can tell anyone who says that to blow it out their ear because you are engaged to someone light years away, captaining a ship and you thrust them…Thrust? You thrust them…you know what I mean, you…believe them not to run around behind your back.”

Rey had to giggle at Heriah’s garbled speech as the tequila was apparently doing its job. “I thrust her, alright,” the girl joked as a tinge of red spread across her face. “She might be the Captain on the bridge, but –” Rey stopped before she could divulge too much information. “Uh, sorry,” she said and hand another shot.

Heriah took another shot. This one was not so bad. In fact, everything felt a bit numb about it. “I mean, what evidence do you have that Charlotte is not honoring her promise to marry you? That is what engagement is right; a promise to marry? And here you are fully trusting her…there it is…trust…fully trusting her to keep that promise. That,” and Heriah meant to poke Rey in the shoulder but found only air, “is what is so beautiful about this. And why that note about thrust should be deleted.”

“You’re not wrong and we did talk about it, y’know, being separated from each other for so long and so far away.” Ford cast her eyes downward as the memory of their last night together filled her mind. A sad smile blossomed on he face for a moment, then it was gone, like all the others. “But — well, for one, half her crew are guys and they wouldn’t interest her anyway. And two, she promised, and I told her we’d be done for if she broke that promise.”  Rey knocked back a sixth shot and stared at the bottle. She could go another three, but would be in danger of garbling her own words. She took one more and pushed the bottle in the Counselor’s direction. “How do you like it … the tequila?”

Heriah hovered the third shot glass a bit and then kicked it back as well. Nodding, “This is some good stuff.”

“So, we’ve been talking about me all afternoon. What about you? What made you want to deal with other’s people’s shit? And didn’t you say you were going to tell me off or something?” Rey was starting to feel the buzz and thought she may have gone one too far. “Something about the guy in your stomach.”

Heriah paused and held a mouthful of the tequila as her eyes went wide and she had a sudden regret; a regret of drinking this much.

‘Have I been speaking Rex’ thoughts without knowing?’

‘Heh…heh…heh.’

Heriah swallowed. “I…uh…became a counselor because…”

‘Go ahead. Rikata, the mole, convinced you to…’

“…though I studied weapons, tactical and security after my…joining…I found those professions too stressful or violent considering the situation,” and Heriah decided not to detail ‘the situation’ with the hope that Rey would not inquire further. “So I chose counseling. I do have a collection of weapons though. You know that, you’ve seen my quarters. I also like to hit the gym and work out. Did I mention I won the bantam-weight combatives competition at the Academy? I still know how to fight,” she said before Rey could answer. “All this because of…” and she patted her belly. “Rex has had a stressful run in life…”

‘That is one way of putting it. Another way is saying that it was a total frelling crap call.’

“…and my counselor, at the Academy, showed me the joys of helping others. Rikata…that’s his name…Rikata Mol, paid me special attention and took great care of me after my joining.” Heriah broke a smile. “I don’t think he wanted to stop being my doctor…counselor.” That smile faded and she turned to only sipping at the next shot of tequila.

“That sounds like Char with all the fitness rubbish, but she was a dancer prior to service.” The girl giggled for a moment as the word dancer came with a host of connotations. “I mean, like ballet, not in a bar.”

Rey’s fingers tapped on the table. Another shot sounded good, but she felt flushed and didn’t want her tongue to loosen up than it already had. It was surprising how easily Heriah engaged in conversation. Earlier in the Counselor’s quarters, was the most relaxed session Ford ever had, but deep in her mind, Rey still suspected something was up. The girl was a fighter and then a Counselor. Something didn’t fit, but the woman’s personal bullshit was none of Rey business and frankly, she didn’t care. Even so, she’d keep on her toes with this one.

“Fighting is more my speed, though I’m more of a scrapper than a proper boxer or whatever.”

Temptation finally won and Rey poured and downed a seventh shot. “And helping people, I get it and I wish I had that bug, but every time I ever reached out, I got bit. Everyone wants something, y’know. It’s just human nature.” She downed another shot and looked in Heriah’s direction. “I’m hungry? Are you hungry?” Without waiting for an answer, Rey flagged down the tender. “What have you got in this place to eat?”

The tender shrugged. “Whatever the replicator will dish out, which is pretty much anything.” He gestured to the device in the corner. “Knock yourself out.”

Rey stood up. “What do you want? I want onion rings and dip. What do you want?”

Heriah was deep in thought for the moment. Rey’s words registered and Heriah understood but a strong set of memories was playing in her mind. It was Rey’s question that snapped her out of it.

“What? Oh…um…tenderloin of the wild Trill Sabrebeast. Bow hunted. Not phasered. Trust me, the computer has them both programmed.”

Rey shrugged at the order. She had never heard of such a thing, but trusted Heriah that the replicator was programmed for it. “I’ll be back and I’ll bring back a couple of beers too.”

And Heriah went back to her thoughts as Rey stepped away for the moment. It was the bit about Rey getting bit every time she reached out that was eating at Heriah.

‘Yeah you know all about that.’

‘Not my memories Rex.’

‘But you still know.’

It was Davmorda Rex whose memories were surfacing. She became the host after Refkin and was especially domineering toward men and women alike. Davmorda would lead them on, only to kick them to the curb without a second thought. It was a strong female the Trill military wanted to help calm Rex but they had the wrong female that time around. Davmorda’s domineering tendencies only increased once she was joined which, in turn, exacerbated Rex’s emotions ultimately leading to a mania and, eventually, a failed joining.

The memories of Davmorda’s many emotional and relational exploits surfaced each time Heriah started opening up to someone, grew close to someone or felt someone could be a friend…or more. Each time Heriah felt she had found a friend, there was the memory of Davmorda evilly grinning down upon a sobbing partner, giving out an inaccurate hailing frequency, stepping away from a recent dump without looking back, getting what she wanted and then leaving.

‘That is not me Rex.’

At least Heriah did not have anyone close who knew or loved her. At least the High Priest’s prophecy was still true; she was completely safe.

“Onion rings with ranch dip,” Rey spoke to the replicator and plate full of thick battered rings emerged in a swirl of energy. “No. I want the light bat — never mind. Give me a tenderloin of the wild Trill Sabrebeast.”

“Please specify bow hunted or phasred.”

“Oh, right. Bow and two beers. The real thing too.”

“Unable to comply. Only synthohol may be replicat –”

“Forget it. I’ll get it at the bar.”

Once she got the beers, a Klingon brand, Rey balanced it all on a tray and made her way to the back table. “One tenderloin of the wild Trill Sabrebeast, bow hunted.” Rey placed the plate and a beer in front of the Counselor with ease. Ford noticed Heriah was still off in her own mind as she took her own seat. “I used to be a waitress outside Federation space. They use money there and I still can’t get used to everything being free here. I mean, there’s got to be a catch, right? There always is.” Ford picked off the majority of the batter from her onion ring, then popped the top off her beer and took a swing.

“So what’s eating you?” That snapped her company out of her trance. “Talking’s supposed to help, according to your profession. So, talk.” Ford took another deep swing from the bottle. She still didn’t exactly care about the Trill’s problems, but she did feel a little more at ease around her. Also, if Rey could help, (though doubtful) she owed that to the universe.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Heriah sidestepped the issue. “Just some long thoughts. I admire you, you know; what you and Charlotte have. I…have not been so lucky. And that is through a lack of trying,” Heriah said as she cut into her tenderloin. “I just have not found myself in a place long enough, around people long enough, nor the right person really.” She mouthed that cut of tenderloin, rolled it around and chewed a few times. “I am not saying men have not tried…women too…just…” And the memories of Davmorda’s domineering qualities as well as Luftine’s abusiveness flashed in her mind. “…I just haven’t found…”

‘Someone who can take a punch.’

“…the right person yet I suppose.”

Rey dunked the onion ring into the ranch dip three times until it was fully coated. She raised her head, then lowered the greasy, gooey treat into her mouth and crunched. “Charlotte hates it when I do that,” Ford giggled. “She’s kind of a neat freak.”

The girl slid another ring down her throat as she listened to Heriah talk about love or lack thereof. “I wasn’t even looking for love when it hit me. I didn’t want it and fought against it. I mean, Char was nice and all, but my track record wasn’t great and I wasn’t going to let anyone hurt me again.” The girl dipped another onion ring into the ranch, but held it there; a smile bloomed on her face. “I fought against it with all my being, but that girl is stubborn.”

For a moment, Rey looked off to the side. “Fawkes was the same way, and I guess this sounds terrible, with what you just said about your troubles. Life’s not fair, I know more than most. Still …” Ford gave Heriah a rare look in the eye. “Sorry. I hope it works out for you.”

“I am certain it will one day,” Heriah said as she, quite violently, cut away at another bit of her tenderloin. “I like to tell people not to rush things. Things will happen in their own time. I just need to keep taking my own advice I suppose.” She forked that bit into her mouth and gnawed at it. “For what it is worth,” swallowed, “I am going to put into your record,” she took a swig of her beverage, held it briefly and swallowed, “that I see your need for counseling approaching its end.” She started cutting again, “A few more sessions and some discussion about…whatever it is you want…and we can see about getting your Starfleet Service Agreement be reviewed for a possible redaction of this addendum. Of course,” She bit down on another cut of tenderloin, “my boss, LT Weld, will have to make a final determination,” and her words came across as though she did not like the sound of that at all. But, she shrugged. Rules were rules.

“What? You want to — what?” Rey held a ranch covered onion ring in her hand as the dip dripped on the table. She found it hard to believe that after one meeting, the end of her therapy might be in sight. She smiled and touched her combadge for a moment. “That would be nice, though to be honest, I always thought Starfleet made me go as a punishment.” The girl wiped the dip off the table with her shirtsleeve. “Shit … Not supposed to do that. Bad habit from running with smugglers.”

Heriah understood all too well the struggles with bad habits. “I do not think Starfleet, itself, made you agree to counseling as punishment. I think people within Starfleet came up with this. And with the amount of personnel Starfleet has, it might even be possible that those who did enact this agreement might have entirely forgotten the whole thing. Which I why I believe it may be time for a review. I do not know how long you have been seeing counselors and, quite frankly, I do not want to know.” Still, Heriah needed a few more sessions with Rey in order to come to a clearer conclusion.

Ford shifted her eyes to the bottles above the bar. The light and reflections made an array of patterns and colors. Soon, she was lost in a memory. “Charlotte wants to get married in Venice. We went there for dinner once. I’d never seen so much color in my life … the reflections on the water, the flowers … I need to tell her about the sessions.” Rey turned back around and went back to the onion rings.

Heriah felt Rey’s words just as she had heard them. They flowed like water and Heriah could feel the sense of genuine honesty. Her training told her this was not another patient attempting to act the part in order to get out of counseling.

“As you should,” Heriah replied. “Going back to what you said about this being a possible punishment…perpetual punishment seldom returns good results. It only keeps the past alive for a possible return. Punishments, even the perceived ones, need to end eventually.”

Heriah did not want to speak on the suggestion that counseling patients should perhaps avoid relationships during the span of counseling sessions. Nothing would break apart everything they had worked toward faster than a broken heart. But Rey came to Bravo already in a relationship. There was no other course but to encourage and support.

“And, again, you have a beautiful thing with Charlotte. Tell her of our sessions and please let me know her response. Now,” Heriah washed down another chunk of tenderloin with a swig of beverage, “I am tired of being a counselor for today. Time to be plain ol’ Heriah.”

‘Rex.’