508: Just Fine

by Rada Dengar and Vol Tryst
Hours after The Easiest Kind of Prey

-=Deck 5, USS Serendipity=-

Rada exhaled slowly and attempted to prepare himself for what was coming. A chill passed down his spine as he had a sense that it had begun, the probing of his mind was starting again; he could feel it.

At least he felt like he could feel it.

He was getting paranoid thinking that they were everywhere; that at every turn he was being confronted by one more Betazoid mind trying strip him of those shreds of privacy that remained. He was fine as long as he kept busy but it was the off hours that got to him. He just kept telling himself that he merely needed to rest his mind for a time and that he’d be back to what he was. He loved Wren and she knew him too well and cared for him too much to probe his mind now after what she knew he’d been through. Tam wasn’t a problem either; with a child’s mastery of his abilities he posed no risk to Rada.

There was only one person that Rada knew of on the entire ship who he felt as a genuine terrifying threat to his mental security; a master of psychology with the training to be able to read people even in the absence of his abilities to sense them. He was the last man on this ship that Rada needed to see after such a traumatic experience and as luck would have it the one man that he had to see; he was the ship’s counselor.

*Just calm down,* he said to himself for the fifteenth time as he was pacing the hallway in front of his door. *He just needs to see that you’re fine, just show him that you’re fine and you can go. You’re fine.* He tried to assure himself that he could relax, something he was beginning to realise he wasn’t very good at.

He had gotten here half an hour early after the anticipation became too painful and had spent that entire time trying to force himself to activate the door chime and failing. He wasn’t sure he was ready for what was waiting on the other side of the door and kept convincing himself that he just needed a little longer.

Suddenly, he heard footsteps approaching and realised that someone was coming, they’d ask him why he hadn’t gone inside yet; he wasn’t sure he’d be able to explain it. With a sudden jerk of his hand he pushed the button and instantly regretted it as his hand snapped back down to his side. He exhaled once more to calm his nerves and murmured to himself “You’ll be fine.”

===Counselor's Office===

*I swear to the Fates, Siter, I will get you back for this.*

Vol heard a high-pitched giggle in his mind as the Counselor was crawling on all fours around his office trying to capture a gift his brother had left for him, in repayment for having to be frozen for a good long while.

Vol never did well with animals, especially quick ones, that refused to be caught so that they might be dropped into someone else's crowded schedule. Vol had to get to work, and this furry white beast would have none of it.

After the small, pink-nosed thing, had gone under the couch for the fifth time, leaving Vol failing to grasp for it on the other side, Vol wanted to give up. Maybe the pet would make his office a permanent home, which suit Vol just fine, save for when nature called and the creature needed to relieve himself.

"Hmph, I'll get you back." Vol muttered, lifting himself so that he could look over the couch to the thing that now sat quietly at the door, twitching its nose, though its long ears were still perked up at attention. Even so, it did not move when the door chime was rung.

"Enter... at your own risk." Vol said aloud.

The rabbit did not move to escape the office when the doors opened to receive Rada, though it did bound about a foot away when Rada laid a foot near its furry tail.

“Oh, I see you’re with a patient,” Rada said indicating the tiny creature “I’ll come back later.” Rada genuinely considered turning around and bolting out of there that second so that he could at least call it ‘commitment to the bit’.

“I’m afraid he’s a very difficult case, hasn’t said a word in the entire time he’s been here,” Vol jested back before gesturing towards the couch. “Please, have a seat."

They both tried to keep the mood light but the truth was that neither of them had ever been very comfortable around the other. The unreadable man and the man who would read him; these were hard roles for both of them.

Rada nodded and reluctantly moved further into Vol’s office. As he came to the rabbit it just sat looking up at him and twitching its nose. Vol felt like pouncing on it then and there so that it couldn’t get away again but Rada was able to scoop down and pick it up without any trouble. He continued on towards the couch supporting the rabbit with his left arm and stroking it with his right hand. It was obvious that this animal was accustomed to humanoid contact as it seemed to quite enjoy the attention. Vol couldn’t believe it.

Rada was glad in part that he was able to skip what he considered to be the first obstacle of seeing any kind of psychologist; there was almost always a two seated couch of which neither of the seats lined up with the psychologist’s position. Rada was certain that was part of the tests; if you sit on the left you have abandonment issues and on the right you have unresolved anger towards your mother or something along those lines. Rada generally thought it best to sit directly in the middle which he thought that even if it didn’t mean he was sane at least meant he had a healthy variety in his insanity.

Vol believed in sitting on the same couch as his patients, the idea being that it allowed he and the patient to work together as equals rather than setting them rigidly in the role that he’s the Counselor they’re the patient. Rada’s interpretation however was that this was because Vol’s empathic abilities were enhanced by proximity and sitting on the same couch forced people to be close to him.

It was clear that Rada was still in pain from his injuries as he eased himself down onto the couch. He had no doubt that Vol would be trying to sense him now. He was a lot more uncomfortable about this at present than he’d been in their previous encounters; it’s strange how you can be sitting in a submarine on the bottom of the ocean and never comprehend just how many atmospheres of pressure there are above you until you hear the walls begin to creak.

"I had no idea you had such a gift with animals." Vol was getting comfortable from his seat, he leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees; giving the impression that he was very much interested in what Rada had to say, like an eager child waiting for a magnificent story.

Rada found this interest very unusual and leant back away from the Counselor. He had never really thought of himself having a gift for animals, he enjoyed scratching ears and rubbing stomachs and thought that since animals enjoyed having these things done to them that it was only natural that they’d get along

“I don’t,” he said, a bit confused and wondering where this was going. “I mean I get along well with animals but I wouldn’t say that I have any real skill,” he noticed that Vol was still watching him.

“You seem to have a natural connection with our friend there,” Vol said, indicating the rabbit which was now quite happy to let Vol scratch its ear. “He wouldn’t let me near him before.”

“Oh, well you just, I mean, you only have to be confident, show them some attention, you know? And let them know that you’re comfortable with them and they can be with you…” he had to ask himself if this was what Vol was doing to him? He was being made comfortable and shown that he was interested in; he looked like he was hanging on his every word. It’s the perfect way to show that you’re comfortable with someone and by giving them the attention you can get them talking. That must be what he was doing, Rada was babbling, he didn’t babble. And Vol was leaning in close to him, too close, Rada had no doubt that Vol was trying to get at him. He had to get out of there. Vol was still watching him.

Rada sighed. “Look, we both know that I’m not here to talk about my love of animals.”

Vol lifted up his gaze, leaning forward still.

“I quite enjoy conversing about anything that comes up, but if you have a desire to change the topic, be my guest.” Vol had read the report on what happened to Rada on Betazed but felt it was always useful to get the patient to tell you about the experience from their point of view rather that you telling them from the reports.

“I was recently held captive for a period of time and sustained severe injuries during my escape. During this time I obviously feared for my life and for the lives of people I care about and regulations require that I undergo psychological examination to make sure that the experience hasn’t caused me to become in someway unfit for duty.”

Vol noted Rada’s very sterile definition of why he was here. It lacked detail or emotional bias, avoided using terms like ‘loved ones’ or ‘family’ and came down to the interests of the ship as if he were talking about a damaged cog and they were simply checking if it needed replacing. He couldn’t have uncommunicated it better.

“Okay,” said Vol “Why don’t you tell me what happened?” Putting his palms flat on his legs, finally sitting up and pressing his back against his seat, keeping constant eye contact with Rada.

“I received a message from Betazed. I arrived at the agreed meeting place and after a period of time was met by a man I later learnt was the brother of an associate of mine Miss Wren Elton. He held me at phaser point until such time as,”

“Until such time as we reached his property where I was then confined…” Vol cut in over the top of him and when he was sure he’d made his point, added; “I don’t want a verbatim recitation of the official report. Tell me, you’re an Engineer not a soldier but here you were fighting for your life. It must have been frightening.”

“Well, of course I was scared then but I’m fine now. Sure I was forced into uncomfortable positions, injected with drugs, bruised and generally humiliated. But the major difference between that and my last physical was that his hands were warmer.” He tried to joke but Vol wasn’t buying any of it.

“You know a lot of people use humour as a defense mechanism.” Vol said bluntly.

*A lot of ships use shields as a defense mechanism, how would you like it if I took those off-line next time we’re in a battle?* thought Rada, he was getting very anxious to get away from the probing and was starting to pat the rabbit harder.

“Look, it’s not that I’m not taking this seriously, I am. It’s just that I’m fine now and I’ve got a lot of work to get done,” he was trying to remain calm.

“You underwent a very traumatic experience. No one can just snap back from that.” replied Vol.

“I know, I know,” replied Rada. He was getting desperate and the strength he was applying to the little creature was increasing. “It’s obviously going to take me a lot of time to recover completely but I believe I’m fit for duty and I believe that I’ll recover best if I just throw myself into my work,” he forced a smile onto his face.

“You can’t simply ignore what happened and hope that it goes away,” said Vol flatly.

“No, no, I know that,” Rada said through gritted teeth as the rabbit began to get concerned. “Obviously, I can’t ignore it. I mean he was Wren’s brother and she’s always going to be a reminder of him but…I’m surrounded by friends and now I have Tam and Wren with me so it’s not like I’m trying to get through this alone. I’ll be fine.”

It felt like Vol was just tapping on his mind, always tapping, never stopping until he could find the one place where the resonance was just right that it could shatter diamond even though it only needed to shatter glass.

“It’s good that you have people here to help but how do I know that you’ll talk to them about this when you won’t talk to me?” Vol asked. He knew that an inability to ask for help had always and would always be one of the hardest things for a patient to overcome and Rada certainly fitted the profile of such a person.

“Well, we’re not close," he said as the patting finally got too much for the rabbit which jumped off his lap and ran across the floor, Vol could see Rada tense up as this happened. “I know that being part Betazoid you would have been raised to be very open with everyone but I prefer to discuss private matters privately amongst people that I actually know.”

Vol just kept watching Rada and allowing him to go on.

“I mean, no offense, but you and I have never been friends. You may know my personality type from a text book but I’d like to think I’m more than that.” His speech was getting faster and he was barely able to get in enough breath. He was panicking as he considered that he may not be allowed to walk out of here with his pips if he couldn’t convince Vol that he was okay. He had to fight to get the words out.

“We both know that you can’t sense me, so you don’t know me any better than anyone else and considering that I do know myself better than anyone else it seems that you should ask me if I’m okay or not and I say I’m fine.” His breathing was getting heavier as he felt the mental fingers going ‘tap tap’, ‘tap tap’.

Vol could see that Rada was fatigued and a large part of him just wanted to step in and calm Rada down but he stopped himself. Vol knew that the only way he’d be able to treat Rada would be if he was willing to let him in and it seemed that he would have to wear himself out to do that. Vol hated doing this but it seemed that Rada was on an unalterable course for a breakdown and if so, it was best that he have it here.

Rada wanted to run, to flee away to safety but he couldn’t *the ship, the ship* he thought ‘tap, tap’ he felt. If he ran out of there now he didn’t know what could happen to his future but he was certain that this ship wouldn’t be part of it.

He stood up from the couch and started pacing in circles around the room, his steps were almost bounds and his words kept getting faster and he stopped breaking up sentences as he just pleaded with Vol to be convinced he was fine, he was not thinking clearly. Vol remained seated, and he took in Rada's latest display of body language.

Generally, whenever a patient stands but does not leave, it indicates that the patient wants to feel like they are in control. When an individual stands, leaving another seated, the former appears larger and more formidable. Whether Rada was aware of it or not, this was exactly what Vol was getting from the meeting. Rada came in here with a clear goal in mind, as was apparent with how he kept on babbling on, which was quite different from Mr. Dengar's regular demeanor. Rada likely felt that Vol was veering them of course, and so he felt the need to assert himself by standing.

“You must consider the fact that..." Rada continued "...for me to be fine means for me to be myself and since I myself don’t discuss this type of thing with Counselors, then you must conclude that if you equate me being fine with me discussing this type of thing with you, then you make it impossible for me to be fine even if I am.”

His hand gestures were getting more and more flamboyant and he wasn’t looking at the Counselor. He was glad that leaving the couch had put a bit of distance between them.

*The only thing I'm equating that with is complete bullshit.* Vol thought to himself.

“If you do that, then you must be looking for me to fail and if you look for something hard enough then you might find it even if it’s not there.” He glanced over at the Counselor for some sign that he was agreeing with him. He was not. Rada’s heart was pounding and the glass was weak. A rogue emotion was suddenly free.

It was an incredible pain. Vol couldn’t even categorize it as mental or physical it was simply hurt, it really hurt. Suddenly the emotion was gone and a realization struck Vol.

“It takes you a lot of effort to keep up this mental control, doesn’t it?” he said in shock. Rada stopped on the spot and tried to catch his breath to form a response. Vol realised now that with everything Rada had gone through recently, the mental intrusion he must have encountered on Betazed that an empathic Counselor could only be harming him.

Rada was only trying to assert himself so that Vol would listen, Rada felt sincerely threatened by Vol. He couldn't understand why would Rada subject himself to such agony? Starfleet must be of incredible importance to him. It would be cruel to expose him to another second of this.

Vol was going to stand, but thought better of it, he cleared his throat and said in his most cheerful voice,

“You know what? I’m convinced that you’re no danger to yourself and others. I’ll want to get confirmation of this and so I expect you to be examined by a colleague of mine on Earth when we next return there.”

“Thank you very much,” said Rada as he nodded in Vol's direction before turning a rapid 180 and almost running out of the door.

Vol sighed after his patient departed. He felt a small nibble at his ankle, and so he bent down and swooped up the rabbit. The critter made no attempt to move away from Vol this time, and instead sat still, looking like a pool of white fluffiness in Vol's lap. The man stroked the rabbit's ears.

"At least you don't fear me any longer. Maybe one day Mr. Dengar will learn to trust me as well. As for now, this will have to be completely out of my hands."

Ensign Vol Tryst
Ship's Counselor
USS Serendipity


Lt. SG Rada Dengar
Chief Engineer
USS Serendipity

NRPG: Bravo, Gentlemen. ~ZL