Coming up for Air
Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Captain's Office
Timeline: En Route to Rendezvous
For the past several weeks Niamh had been but a ghost in the system. As much as she enjoyed the more administrative and leadership aspects of her role, it would never come close to the enjoyment she wrought from her therapy sessions. Given the intensity of her arrival to the Defiant Niamh knew she had a lot of work to do and had opted to work from the ground up.
She knew the time to resurface would come sooner, rather than later, and upon hearing about their current mission objectives, the Chief Counsellor couldn’t resist the urge to check in with Charlotte to offer her expertise. The possibility of participating in a first contact scenario was far too enticing for her to turn down.
Charlotte had gotten back to her to confirm the meeting so here Niamh was, hanging around outside the door to the CO’s office, waiting for her confirmation to enter.
A few moments later, one of the Quartermaster’s men exited the office, and the Captain’s voice followed. “Ok. Next?”
"That would be me, Captain" Niamh greeted as she cleared the threshold, "Figured we were past due a conversation at this point" she elaborated as she came to a halt before Charlotte's desk. It felt like an age since she'd last seen the Captain despite them occupying the same ship. She could feel the guilt gnawing away at her as she waited for permission to sit.
Charlotte gave a warm smile. "She lives! It's been a while. Here, sit down. Can I grab you something to drink? I'm sure you'll need it after going a few weeks non-stop."
"Sorry about that," Niamh apologised with a guilty smile, "I know I neglected several of my duties to the crew. After what happened on Arcadia I wanted to make sure everyone was coping okay, constitution classes come with an heavy workload" she joked as she took a seat, "a glass of water wouldn't go amiss, thanks"
Charlotte retrieved the drink and returned to the table, with a coffee for herself. “Addressing the needs of the crew hardly qualifies as neglecting your duties. I think most Counselors would have just waited for people to come to them. You seeking people out was proactive.” She took her seat again. “How are they doing, by the way? Only so much filters up to me. I think people don’t like to show their captain any weaknesses.”
"They're fine, a lot of them are still struggling with the fact they fell into conflict with an enemy using their friends and colleagues as vehicles. Some killed familiar faces on Arcadia and the fact that parasites were involved did little to dissuade the fact they were responsible for the death of fellow fleetmates" Niamh informed, pausing to take a sip of her water.
"I've established several interdepartmental therapy groups and trained a couple of crewmembers in psychological first aid and group therapy techniques. Anyone who doesn't feel that these groups are effective enough will be escalated up to the counselling department and I'll work on implementing something more individually tailored" she finished, leaning back into the chair.
"How are you, Captain?" She asked warmly.
A deep sigh followed that question. Charlotte slumped a little in her chair, offering her counsellor a view that she wouldn't offer her other officers. One of vulnerability. "I'll be honest. Not great. I'm still more than shaken up by the fact that a member of my crew almost killed me in this very office. And that I then had to kill him. I'm not loving what I had to do on Arcadia. And Shore Leave...was a whole different matter."
Niamh sighed softly, looking at Charlotte sympathetically, "I can only imagine the pressure you face as this ships Captain, I apologise for not being more available. What you're feeling is completely normal, and exactly the reason I think you're well suited to lead us" Niamh admitted, as she adjusted her posture to mirror Charlotte's; it was never too hard for her to fall into her role as a therapist.
"What you did, you did for the security of the Defiant, for us. None of us walked away from Arcadia unscathed, but I have to admit, you're holding together much more than others," Niamh continued, "How would you feel about the two of us meeting up, once a week, to discuss what's troubling you? Today could be our first meeting" Niamh was wise enough to avoid the term session, she knew Charlotte wasn't fond of therapy, and their sessions would reflect that.
Charlotte paused for a second. She'd resisted the idea of therapy in the past. But given everything that had happened recently the idea of a weekly checkin sounded helpful. "Yeah, I think that might not be a bad idea."
"Fantastic," Niamh said enthusiastically, "you're at liberty to pick our venue, just let me know ahead of time. We can keep them as casual as possible. Lord knows you have enough formality to deal with so we'll try and make them as relaxed as possible," she carried on.
"Now, fancy telling me about shore leave? Mine was pretty mundane," she asked, the hint of a smirk forming.
The captain let out a weak laugh. "One of the few things keeping me sane is the fact that it isn't widely spread news." She leaned back a little, twirling a stray strand of hair in her fingers. "Where do I start? My ex lover/First Officer who betrayed me and nearly destroyed my career contacted me to tell me that my father was personally handling her prosecution in an attempt to destroy the career she'd failed to. And I, in some foolish bit of heroism, rushed off to defend her at her sentencing and may or may not have filed a court martial against my father in the process. How's that for a relaxing shore leave?"
"It isn't, both of them are toxic elements in your life, it speaks positively to your character that despite all that has happened you still offered your aid" Niamh said, "you can't blame yourself for being a pawn in their games, they're clearly more comfortable than they ought to be meddling with your life. They have both exploited your loyalty, a feat I'm certain they'll never achieve again" the counselor comforted.
"I can assure you, I'll do everything I can to help you deal with this. My testimony as Chief Counsellor would be in opposition to any attempt to have you removed" she promised.
“I appreciate that. Genuinely,” Charlotte said. She was glad to at least have that kind of support. “What I think you’ll need to keep in check is my feelings toward Alina. My father...I’ve known what kind of man he was for a long time. He’d never stooped to this level. But his behavior isn’t entirely a surprise. Alina is the one which I’m worried about my behavior with.”
Niamh nodded, "You have my word. So long as I'm a counsellor under your command, Alina won't have the opportunity to play on your emotions. She certainly isn't prepared to take on a disgruntled Irishwoman", the Counsellor joked, yet left little room for doubt of her sincerity.
Charlotte laughed with her. "No probably not. But to be fair, I doubt she'll try to manipulate me. It's more my own behaviors I'm worried about." She paused for a moment. "Never really dealt with my feelings the first time around. And the trial dredged up some feelings. Been feeling a little...nostalgic, I guess. Better days and all that."
"That's normal. It's always easy for us to look back at the way things were, there's a comfort that can be drawn from what we know. Especially so when the unknown is more oft than not likely to be saddening" Niamh interpreted, "I admit love isn't something I barely think about, but when I do I always reminisce on the time I spent with my ex-partner. He was kind, intelligent and funny. I mostly remember laughter and happiness in those moments," the counsellor admitted in a rare moment of vulnerability.
"But he wasn't supportive of my career, he hated me going away for months at a time. It grew toxic and when I finally felt myself considering leaving the fleet or transferring to the Academy to be happy with him, it hit me." She took a sip of her water, "If I stayed with him I wouldn't be happy, not in the long run. I'd become bitter overtime for making me consider either jeopardizing my career or throwing it away entirely".
"So I left him, headed back for assignment, and made sure to remind myself of everything I've achieved and gained without him," Niamh shared, "I'm miles better off, you are too."
The captain nodded. Her face was much more vulnerable than she'd usually allow. A genuine sadness lingered, though she might ignore it most of the time. "Yeah. I just need to be good about reminding myself of that. I suppose that's something we can all get better at."
"We've got plenty of time to get you there," Niamh assured, "until then, you've got me to give you a nudge when you need it. No matter how guilty or low you feel, always reach out to me for some judgement-free support!" she vowed earnestly.