Leopold sat on the couch in his personal quarters, his wife opposite him on the loveseat. He was sipping at a hot Earl Grey, and she cradled a steaming cup of Lady Grey. They sat in silence, the dull hum of the ship filling in the quiet that had settled since they’d entered.
“We both promised each other we’d survive her as best as we could.” She stared into her cup as she spoke. “I thought we were rid of her, Leopold.” Her voice turned sour as she stood, pacing slowly. “She was a hard experience for both of us. You as her XO…and she as my chief of science.” She sighed after the pacing failed to settle her nerves and sat roughly back down. “You need to find a new chief of science, Leopold. I cannot fathom working for her again. I was a moving target then…and will be a moving target again.” She took a sip of her tea.
Halsey knew when things were serious with his wife. Using his full first name was one of the first signs that Theodora was unhappy and unwilling to take any more of whatever was weighing on her. “Theo…I don’t know anyone better at this job than you.” Her head snapped up, her eyes flashing with fury, but she remained silent. “I’ve sent out requests, I’ve asked for names from friends, and I’ve already sent a request to Starbase 11 to see who’s available…but I’m sure Pottinger will be informed, and she’ll pollute the pool ahead of us.”
Theodora simmered. Grace Pottinger had been a terror in their lives for five years aboard the USS Littleton. She was adept at manipulation and worked hard to keep the people she needed close and ensure they knew they were needed and necessary. Her husband had never admitted it, but being the outsiders on that ship for so long had hurt him in corners of his heart that had never truly healed. His appointment to the Mercy had allowed him the chance to right a wrong in his own way – to prevent others from ever feeling like they didn’t belong again. She closed her eyes and fell back to her Vulcan meditation that she’d recently started returning to in hopes of keeping some of her more outlandish emotions from bursting forth. It took her a moment, but she felt her internal temperature retreat below boiling. She turned to her husband and commanding officer, “Look, I have held this position because you need someone competent. I agree that I am competent and appreciate the trust you have in me to do this job without it getting in the way of us.” She stood and held his hands in hers, “But there is no way that I will be able to handle myself with you and Pottinger in the mix. I disliked her then, and I dislike her now. I will not put our marriage in danger by taking a martyr’s stand. I just won’t, Leopold.”
Halsey looked into her eyes and felt his heart shift with sudden finality. She was right. “I won’t ask you to, Theo. I think I forgot what she did to you. I think I just figured we’d never have to deal with her again with me being a captain.” He led her to sit down on the couch together, “What are you thinking?”
She leaned back into the comfortable couch and groused, “Even if I’m not chief, she’s going to come for me eventually. She’s got a rank equal to yours…and she’s not going to hesitate to throw it around.” Theodora thought for a moment longer, “I think I’m going to have to resign.” She glanced at him as his eyebrows went sky high, “I mean…what else is there? You can’t protect me all the time – she’s going to need me to do things for her related to the research team.” She put her cup on the table and let out a long sigh, “I don’t like it…but what else is there?”
Halsey had fallen back into the couch on his side, “We could do a leave of absence? You need to take some time to decide if you want to continue to pursue the position.”
She gave him a long look, “She’d find a way to reactivate me or something. No, I need to do this for us. I can become a civilian scientist who studies and writes papers. Less stress that way. Less dealing with her.”
Leopold regarded her in the silence that followed. He thought for a moment longer and said, “OK. It’s your decision, and you need to be able to make it.” He stood from the couch, “File the resignation and I’ll start working on finding us a new chief science officer.”
She pushed herself off the couch and reached out with one hand to his, pulling him back, “You’re ok with this?”
He pulled her close and embraced her warmly, “Theo – I love you no matter what. You need to do what is best for you and us. I can’t argue against most of that, so I’ve got to accept it as the new reality we’ve got. She is who she is, and we are who we are.” She kissed him gently on the cheek and moved to the console at the desk. He put his feet in motion and headed for the bridge and his ready room. He had some work to be done.