Just a little PTSD
Shore Leave: Business As Usual
Location: Counselor's Office
Veronica approached the door tentatively, her fingers picking at the edges of the magenta sweater she'd been given in medical. The comfortable grey sweatpants were comfortable too, if not quite her stile. And her blonde hair, with its stylized red highlights, was tied back in a neat bun. She'd gotten used to lax uniform standards aboard the Chaucer, due to the tiny crew and lack of outside contact. But it felt oddly unsettling to be walking the halls of such and advanced vessel in civilian garb. Gone was the vaguely orange surroundings of their old observation ship, replaced by sterile bright white walls. She finally worked up the nerve to raise her hand, pushing the chime on the door.
Today had been a rare day for Niamh. Instead of an influx of personnel making their way through her rotating doors, she'd had a free morning. A rare treat that she'd make good use off catching up on the pre-assessment reports for the patients due that evening. Most of them were run off the mill but one case, in particular, had stood out. The trauma the Lieutenant had experienced was saddening. She had just been making her final preparation's when Veronica had arrived. It didn't take her long to answer.
"Hello, Veronica, do come in," Niamh greeted as soon as the doors parted, standing just enough out of the way for Veronica to comfortably pass.
"Thank you, ma'am," Veronica managed as she entered the office. It was substantially more comfortable and soothing. Defiant was beautiful, but she could be very stark. The young woman shifted a little back and forth on her feet. "I appreciate you taking the time to see me. I know you have other concerns with the crew, so I hope I don't take up too much of your time."
"Firstly, take a seat" Niamh smiled, gesturing towards the two parallel sofa's. "Secondly, whilst you're on this ship, you're crew" she carried on making her way there too, "and thirdly, feel free to call me Niamh, O'Donoghue or Ma'am if that's what you're more comfortable with" Given the circumstance she was working hard to ensure Veronica was comfortable in her company. They had a lot to discuss.
"Ok, thank you...Niamh," Veronica said as she settled into the seat. It was incredibly comfortable. The counselor had chosen well. "Are you very aware of how I ended up aboard Defiant?"
"I've read your initial medical review," Niamh confirmed, "I'd prefer to hear it from your mouth if you feel up to it though, the reports have a coldness to them and I want to make sure we're on the same page" she explained, relaxing back into the sofa she had been perched on.
Veronica was afraid she’d say that. “Ok, I’ll do my best.”
After a moment or two of deep breaths, the woman began. “We were aboard the Chaucer. It was a little ship. Old and outdated. The tech on it was older than most of the fleet and there weren’t any plans to renew it. The ship had been sent out on a low stakes observation mission, cataloging a few prewarp cultures. We were all counting down the days to decommission. But it was a good ship, and Arya kept it in excellent s condition.”
She felt an internal twinge at the mention of her best friends name. Arya...had she even known what went wrong? The damage had to be so subtle and the ship so old, there was no way she could have know. And before Veronica even had a chance to warn her... She felt tears welling in her eyes. She’d barely even begun the story and she was already at this point. She sniffled and pushed on. “Arya was our engineer. And a brilliant one. And over the last few months, she’d become my best friend. There was some sort of residual damage, a subtle little thing caused by our prolonged exposure to some bizarre radiation. And it must have caused an issue in the engine which got too big before it was detectable. First time we even realized there was damage was when...”
Her voice cracked a little. “Was when the warp core erupted in flame, and killed the entire engineering team instantly.”
Niamh didn’t respond immediately. Trauma effected people in different ways. Some people could move on by processing then surprising their emotions, others would be consumed by the pain and begin to have their lives ruled by avoidance. Veronica seemed to fall somewhere in between. Determined not to let it consume her but unable to fully comprehend the intense emotions that came with surviving.
“I am sorry for your loss” Niamh finally said, “and that you experienced what you did so early in your career” at Veronica’s age Niamh’s boundless optimism when it came to her career had been in full swing. After four years at the academy the first couple of assignments felt liberating.
“I’m understand how difficult that must have been to share, thank you” she praised, her smile did little to hide the sadness Veronica’s recollection had inspired.
Veronica nodded. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end just yet. "The fire spread pretty quickly. Liam and I were in the upper decks. We'd tried to get down to them but it was soon pretty clear the ship wasn't going to survive it. We were trying to get to an escape pod when an EPS Relay exploded. Quite nearly killed me. I had a severe concussion and a piece of deck plating stabbed into my abdomen." Veronica clutched subconsciously at her side. "I was nearly unconscious as Liam put me in the pod...alone. And launched me into space while he stayed behind."
"Liam must have cared about you greatly", Niamh reflected after a moment, "I imagine it was reciprocated. I'm sorry for your loss. Starfleet lost someone great that day," she offered in condolence. Niamh could already tell that should Veronica stay the pair would meet a few more times in the least.
"Liam and I never quite figured out how to make the timing work," Veronica replied with a weak smile. "There was always one obstacle or another. I thought we'd finally gotten the timing right and then..." She shook her head. She knew enough psychology to diagnose what she was about to say, but that didn't change how she felt. "That doesn't really make it easier to fight the feeling that he's the one who should have been in that pod. When everything was going down, I was almost useless. He's the one who held it all together. He shouldn't have to pay for the fact that I was the one who got hurt."
"He didn't pay for anything", Niamh began softly, "His death wasn't a punishment, it was part of a freak accident. The only controls present where the choices you both made and for Liam leaving you behind wasn't an option" she carried on, speaking carefully, "Without time travel there's nothing you can do to change that. All you can do is take it a day at a time and slowly, with some sessions with a counsellor you're comfortable with, you'll learn to live with it," she promised, hoping her words came across more forward than she'd intended.
Veronica felt a weak smile come to her face. "I guess, you're right. If I'm beating myself up, I'm basically questioning if he made the right decision. And that's not really a decision I'm allowed to question." Could she really convince herself that the last act of his life was a mistake? That seemed strangely rude.
"You can question it", Niamh corrected herself, "you struggling with the trauma is not reflective of your appreciation for his act, I'm certain Liam would agree" she added, crossing her legs, "life isn't black and white, our emotions add a whole spectrum of colours. You can't blame yourself for the way that you feel, I apologize if I came across otherwise," she finished sincerely.
Veronica shook her head. "No, your explanation made sense. I think I'm just working my through it all. I have the feeling this is going to take a while to deal with. My every waking moment is a reminder of it all. My quarters...guest quarters...are bare and I don't have a single possession to my name to fill them with. Well, except for Liam's communicator." Her hand went to her belt and rested against the battered device which had transmitted the signal which saved her life. The cover was barely clinging to the device, once of its hinges having broken during their escape.
"Treasure it," Niamh said eyeing the object, "It will take time, but as long as you're on Defiant, you'll always have somebody to talk to if you need to offload with. I can't predict the future, but I reckon if we work together, you can work through the most crippling aspects of your trauma. The rest you'll learn to live with," she assured honestly. She had no idea how long Veronica would be with them, but she'd but until she wasn't she would give her the same treatment she'd afford to the crew.
The young woman found herself feeling surprisingly comforted by this. She took a moment to catch her breath, feeling the slight trembling she'd barely noticed dissipate a little. She had a long way to go to feeling whole again. But she felt a lot better than she was expecting to after this first session. "You're pretty good at this, you know," she replied, finding no other sentence to fit quite as well.
Niamh tried to suppress a blush, "Thank you, you do most of the work though" she said appreciatively. She could tell that Veronica would require intense therapy. The young woman had what she would consider being the worst case she'd treated in her career.
"I won't always be asking questions though," she assured, "You're free to use anytime we have together to just talk".
"I appreciate that," Veronica said. She slowly sat forward in her seat. "And actually, I think I have some clarity on what I want to do."
"Good," Niamh replied before looking at the chronometer on her padd, "I think we've covered enough ground for today, I'm not entirely sure what plan I'm going to implement for your therapy. I'll send you a plan for review in a couple of hours" she explained rising from her seat, "Thank you for sharing with me today Veronica, I hope it was as rewarding for you as it was for me"
"It was," Veronica said sitting forward and giving a bit stronger of a smile. She finally felt a sense of purpose again. A hint of one at least. Her circumstances had led her to Defiant, and the crew had saved her life in no uncertain terms. She felt a responsibility to them now. Niamh had said she'd have someone to talk to as long as she was aboard Defiant. And Veronica felt like she might just want to extend that stay. "And I think I know the next conversation I need to have too."