He squinted. He had seen her schedule a few times and from what he could remember she was in her office quite a bit. “If I remember correctly your area is kept neat and you are in it for a protracted period of time.”
“Of course it is. It’s not like I strip naked and hang out on the therapy couch for fun like I do my quarters. Why are you so hyper-focused on my apparent lack of cleaning skills?”
“Oh, my that got dramatic suddenly. I’m certain you don’t spend any time naked on duty.” He squinted at her.
Only years and years of hearing outlandish and whack-a-doodle statements allow Vanessa to keep a poker face. “Are you really that certain?” She imitated his squint as if scrutinizing him.
“Well you’d be violating uniform code,” which would be the very least of the issues of being an undressed officer on duty. “And probably a little cold.”
And there it was: His humor. Calvin was not the belly-laughing or the guffawing type. He did not give into the braying like a donkey or high-pitched chittering like a bird when he found something funny. Calvin’s humor was more the chortle or chuckle paired with a witty comment. It fit him not because of his rank but of his personality. Calvin was more reserved and while Vanessa was sure there would be a belly laugh in there if the situation called for it, she was becoming accustomed to what she referred to as the lip twitch when she amused him.
“Betazeds get married naked. A lot of cultures find the buff really natural.” Taking a sip of her beer, hid the smile that was threatening to break the corners of her mouth. His squint at her Vanessa found slightly humorous. Calvin tended to always be so serious and that was the first time she might actually consider him being playful so she was going to run with it.
“Besides you do not know cold until you spend a day in February in Boston with a Nor’easter coming,” she teased him.
“I presume you were dressed on that day in February?’
“Not enough for a Nor’easter but enough that I would not get thrown out of a church service,” she shot back.
“A lot of races come from colder climates and have made adaptions, they have fur are carapaces.. You are human, we’ve been dressed from before we learned to master fire. So it is far from ‘human natural.’“
Depends on the types of humans you associate with, she thought to herself however Vanessa kept that inner thought to herself. There was a tipping point when teasing and tossing about innuendos.
“Dressed ones, as a rule.”
“I try my best to get my clients as relaxed as possible so whatever they want I accommodate. Rock climbing, running, axe throwing, painting,” she ran off a litany of things she therapy sessions. Leaning forward, Vanessa set her beer down and looked at Calvin with what she hoped was a sincere and purely clinical expression. “Want to know the hardest therapy session? Scuba diving. Hard to talk when there is something in your mouth.” Picking up her pizza, she took a really really large bite and used a napkin to wipe off the bit of sauce and grease from her face. Well, that is what she hoped it appeared like. It was completely to hide the smirk she could not wipe off her face.
Marius just blinked at her for a moment. “You are playing games with me.” He knew that he was commonly viewed as the straight man in most crew members’ comedy routines, or the not-funny friend in the sitcom that all the jokes happened around.
“Yes and no,” Vanessa smiled at him. “I was using word games but the scuba difficulties are real. Lt. Brockton is obsessed with scuba diving and has a lot of issues to work through. We spend fifty percent of the session looking at fish, twenty-five percent of the session talking about the fish we say and twenty-five percent talking about the issues. One of my colleagues once questioned the length of time therapy can take but I usually come back with how much wasted time is spent in therapy if you can’t get your client to open up.”
“I was also shamelessly using language to see your reaction.” Vanessa could be direct like Calvin but the way she spoke about her confession was very neutral. She was interested in him. He knew it. She knew it. Whether it went anywhere as a topic far far into the future.
“Why are you so proud of your questionable hygiene?”
“My hygiene is impeccable. It’s my housewife skills that need some brushing up on but try living with fourteen people in one house. It is always a mess even when it’s clean. When I am expecting company, it is white glove inspection ready.” Her tone was light and teasing.
Calvin pursed his lips unimpressed. “I think your definition of hygiene is pretty narrow. You can be unhealthy of body as well as in environment.”
“You could bounce a penny on these glutes and I can still have a questionable diet. I have a very fast metabolism. Good genes I guess.”
“The truth,” she took a long swig of her beer, “I wasn’t expecting company because I never thought you would accept an invitation to come over. Don’t get me wrong I am glad you are here,” she quickly, “but I am rarely in my quarters for anything more than sleeping, showering, and changing my clothes.” Picking up a second slice of pizza, Vanessa continued to answer his question. “Yes, I am in my office for long periods of time but it is mostly to complete paperwork. I tend to do mainly immersion therapy when I counsel my clients. Depending on what the client wants to do means I might have to change my clothes eight times in a day hence my pride in my pig sty. You see it as a mess but I see it as progress.”
Vanessa Slade CNS
“Immersion therapy?” Calvin didn’t know much about therapy, not that he had anything against it. It just seemed like a lot of talking. Which he though was helpful, but he didn’t know how it was a job unless they were dealing with really mentally ill people. “Sounds you just drop them into a pool.” He paused. Many people responded very poorly even to modest jokes about their profession. Although to be fair he actually didn’t know what the heck that was.
Vanessa let out a full belly laugh. “Sir,” she said out of reflex instead of authority. It would take a while to remember to drop it in these less formal settings but Calvin sounded more odd than Sir right now. “I guess I should call it immersion with a twist. Immersion therapy is when you expose people to what scares them gradually to show them there is nothing to be scared of. It is used mainly for panic and anxiety disorders or phobias. I personally never thought scaring the hell out of someone was particularly useful however with 9 brothers it was a daily occurrence in my house.” The mirth in her tone indicated it was probably more normal sibling torture than real psychological issues. “I tend to immerse people in positive scenarios or if they claim they don’t have a single one an activity they find enjoyable. This makes people more relaxed and gives them a sense of control. Most people stick to the same boring things but it’s not about me so,” she shrugged. “People like to stay in their lane and comfort zone instead of being adventurous.”
“Life isn’t rainbows and puppies. I’m not sure how that works. Do you just say think happy thoughts?” Calvin actually spent a lot of time ‘not’ participating in therapy, and he never was buried in sunshine and rainbows by his therapist.
“No, I try to get to know the person first before slapping a therapy style on them. It’s true I am a glass half full kinda girl but its better than the alternative of a glass half empty. Thinking happy thoughts won’t fix most problems but it can change your outlook on a problem. Changing your outlook is the goal of therapy. Bad things happen to good people but there are some things a sorry will never fix. You can dwell on all the injustices done to you in life or find a way to accept it, grow from it and move on. You only get one life. I am not giving a minute of it to those that have gone out of their way to stop me from being the best me.”
“Is it now?” Calvin had heard of that psychological perspective, particularly with people with depression. You interacted as if you weren’t depressed and eventually you did/felt better. “So fake it until you make it, is your psychological modality.”
“The truth is some people never get over their scars. Finding a way to go about the day is the best they can ever do. There are a lot of evil and bad things in this universe. Some people get more than their share and by no fault of their own.” She had read in the Captain’s military jacket that his family had been killed and he later adopted. Very few people ever got over losing their parents even if they were so young they didn’t remember them. If they were too young, it created a fantasy syndrome where one could blame life on not having them. If they were old enough to remember, it could create a bitterness. She vague wondered if he ever employed the fake it until you made it strategy.
Vanessa took a long drink of her beer. She hadn’t meant to sound preachy or soapboxy. Vanessa was privy to Calvin’s file. The events that happened in his life were not road bumps but sinkholes that he had managed to climb out of and find stability in life. She admired him for it. Vanessa wasn’t sure she could have carried on like her CO did but that was why Vanessa Slade would never command a ship.
“Well you don’t look like the therapy type,” she agreed. Therapy wasn’t for everyone and for some it because a crutch working on situations for years and years because the person really didn’t implement the strategies to resolve an issue. She didn’t think Calvin was in either extreme but she did have a hard time wrapping her head around an image of him lying on her couch, feet propped up and starting off with a monologue of well it started when I was three.
“You don’t think I’ll do much. You didn’t think I’d play that paint ball game with you and your urchins.” Which actually wasn’t that far off since he didn’t like playing at war. He thought it was a little insulting somehow to turn something that people died at into a game. “Nor did you think I was going to come back for a quick bit and beer. Who doesn’t like pizza and beer?”
“Only the mentally insane,” she agreed. “Pizza is the perfect food. Bread, veggies, dairy, meats: I mean look at it,” she turned her slice. “It is even in the shape of the food pyramid. You can bend it and make it a sandwich or just pick off what you want like it is an appetizer. It can be the ultimate source of comfort when you have drank too much, if a lover breaks your heart, or an unpretentious dinner between two friends,” she inclined her head to Calvin indicating the last scenario was directed at him.
Polishing off her pieces she let out a humorous laugh obviously finding humor in something.
It was true there were the people who liked pizza and those who loved pizza. It was pretty was case for all of Italian food. Who didn’t like pasta and cheeses. It paralleled French food. Who didn’t like cream and butter.
“Urchins,” she let Calvin in on what she was found funny about his earlier comment. “They are always underfoot but I can’t blame them. Starfleet recruitment posters are all about honor, glory, integrity, and following your passion set to the backdrop of exploring the galaxy. The truth is that it is a hard life. People get hurt, die, changed,” she let her voice trail off. “You know I worked at the Veterans Affairs in Boston before coming here. Healing the person is only the first step. You also have to heal the family. Kids have a really hard time with the blank statement that mommy or daddy is sick or going through something. I realized early on it had to be a multi-faceted approach so I set up activities only sometimes kids don’t get the PTSD. They want to fit in but when your parent has a slip and shows up drunk or has a panic attack.” Vanessa didn’t need to fill in the blanks. Calvin was smart and could read everything she didn’t say. “That is where I show up. If the kids want to do something and they can’t I step in. Ninety percent of life is just showing up.” Sensing she was getting a bit heavy, Vanessa cleared her throat and picked up a third slice of pizza.
He didn’t know if they would appreciate it or not. Children were hard. They were some that it didn’t matter what they (parents/guardians) did it would never be enough, conversely there were children who were so traumatized no good thing got through their guard. Of course there is the other group that got so little during their life even the slightest bit of positive attention was life altering.
Calvin shrugged. “It wasn’t much.” It was a couple of hours and he needed the exercise and he enjoyed the competition. “Plus putting those scrubs and bullies in their place” His mind went back to the challenge he laid at the foot of the other team. “It might be bad, if I just turned our victory into a defeat next week.”
His comment indicated Calvin was coming back around for a return trip but he was looking at it very black and white in her opinion. “It’s not about winning or losing,” she spoke in a gentle tone that was not meant to come off as reprimanding but hopefully more as a sincere thank you regardless of the outcome.
“That’s what the losers say.” He countered automatically. “Winning isn’t everything, but losing is nothing at all.”
His comment amused her. The Captain tended to keep a level keel so his cocky comment showed how much of Calvin was in the room and not her ranking officer. She liked seeing this side and was not blind to the fact he probably didn’t relax with many on his crew. This opened up so many questions for Vanessa in her mind.
“You though are quite the conundrum,” she pointed the slice at him. “I usually can figure someone out in about ten minutes but I am clueless with your highs and lows.”
Vanessa Slade CNS
“Well that’s easy.” Marius started. “I don’t have highs and lows. There is no value to it, much like the tortoise, just stay slow and steady. It’s the same for emotions. If you get disregulated that’s when you make mistakes and damage relationships. You should know that counselor.”
That being said, Calvin didn’t have no range of emotions. it was just that he didn’t think there was much value to showing it.
“It also leads to a very dull life,” Vanessa countered. “Tell me when you are one hundred and ten years old on your death bed do you want to look back at a life that was full of calculated memories where you knew the outcome before they happened or,” she held up a finger, “do you want to smile at your grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered around your bed and say there was that night on Risa with that slight lip curl you have patented as a smile,” she turned her finger towards his face making a swirling motion.
“Well, I’m not dying at 110, unless something odd happens. I expect to make 140 at least. And there is a lot of predictable things that are fun” He looked at her. “You telling me you can’t plan a night Risa and have fun. Hawaii, is predictable but fun. A whiskey is predictable and fun. You don’t have to play Russian roulette or run across a highway blindfolded to have a good time.”
“Agreed,” she acquiesced, “and yet there is something to say about venturing out of your comfort zone. To throw caution to the wind and do something out of the norm.”
It wasn’t common for him to do things that he didn’t know were pleasurable. “I know what I like. So the number of things that would or could be fun for me that I don’t know will be fun are few. That being said, I try to be a team player and go along with the group if there is a chance that i’d have a good time.”
“Are you saying that because you don’t like change or surprises,” she queried. “It is the chicken and the egg sort of conundrum. How will you know you don’t like something if you never try it?” Her statement could be rhetorical or an actual question. She was leaving it up to Calvin to figure out if he wanted to expand on it or not.
“Well that is true, I don’t like surprises. Think about the surprises in your life. They tend to be bad things not good things… especially in combat. As far as not knowing what will be fun or not. I’m not sure its that hard. There are genres of activities that I like so. There are a number of new things that I will do, because they fall into that class of activity. Just like there are classes of activities that I’ll try to avoid because I didn’t like doing similar things as that previously.”
“Have you never had a good surprise or a life outside of combat and the military?” Her comment was far more heartfelt and prying than she might have intended. Calvin was right. A surprise was not always necessarily good but they weren’t always bad. “Hasn’t a girlfriend or an Ex ever surprised you with,” she didn’t quite know what genre Calvin found fun so she left it blank, “something you wouldn’t have done for yourself out of the blue…just because…?”
“Besides you only truly understand someone when they are out of control. Anger, sadness, jealousy, regret, and guilt are not fun but when you come out of it on the other side with someone else, you learn so much. First, you learn that at your absolute worst that person did not walk away or check out. That is incredible for trust. It also makes obstacles and hurdles you face easier because you have a history of overcoming them. Relationships are easy when things are all rainbows and puppies. Relationships are real when you have to trudge through the mud and muck yanking your other person along at times because you are a team.” The last part would probably resonate with the Marine in Calvin and maybe drive her analogy home.
“In vino veritas? That’s only for liars. You know everything you need to know about me by asking me the right questions at the right times. What you get from me when I’m out of control is bad things. Very bad things.. My parents, both sets never fought. At least never over anything that I didn’t do.” That was a double negative.
Taking a large swig of her beer, she polished off the bottle and stood up to get more. Walking into the kitchen, Vanessa replicated another for her and Calvin carrying them between two fingers back into the living room.
Vanessa Slade CNS
“Trying to get the veritas point of your vino are you?” It was going to take more than a couple of beers to get him to be wild. In fact, Calvin actually got quieter when he drank. He didn’t like being out of control. So when he was more intoxicated he actually did less so he wouldn’t be caught being stupid. It was a weird contradiction.
“No,” she laughed holding out another beer. “I have drank with you before if you remember correctly which resulted in us clamming in the holodeck in freezing ocean water. You put away a helluva lot of whiskey and were still in complete control. It has to be a lot of pressure and stress always staying in control.” Starfleet was littered with Captains that were straight and serious. Captain Picard was such an example. Even when he was relaxing the space around him felt heavy and formal as some of his crew reported about their time on the Enterprise. Starfleet was also littered with the renegade Captains who leaned more towards the motto that it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. These Captains could make some crew develop anxiety disorders with jump-in-both-feet-first styles.
“Yes, Clamming. That was not a productive use of that bottle of whiskey we didn’t finish in the lounge.” He was still mad he forgot to take the bottle with them. He knew some ensigns swiped it right after they had left. He never looked at the tapes or had security look into it, his attitude despite his frustration, that stealing booze from the old man was worthy of respect not a chewing out and certainly since he was dumb enough to forget it, he was dumb enough to lose it.
Calvin had stated if she asked the right question, he might surprise her, so Vanessa did. “Truth or Dare,” she announced plopping back on her couch instead of just sitting down.
“”Truth or Dare,” He wondered when he became a 18 year old. “I didn’t play truth or dare when it was and age-appropriate game.”
“Truth or Dare is a location-specific and people-specific game,” she held up a finger. “You can’t play it with just anyone and there are some rules. I mean it’s not like we can pull the fire alarms and get everyone out of bed on a ship like you could at the academy.”
He stared at her. “Isn’t it protocol to start with truth before it gets wild with dares?”
“I was just giving you the option but I have already formulated the question I was going to ask. You are not ready for a dare…yet.”
“Good listening,” she shot back. “You stated you don’t like surprises and dares are just surprises wrapped up in paper with a bow.” She winked at him knowing she was just taunting him.
She had zero expectation Calvin would ask for a dare. It also wasn’t like they were in middle school where an option was running up and down the halls activating door chimes and running away; therefore, she plowed ahead with her question. “What is the most impulsive and exciting thing you ever did in your life?” Oddly enough, Vanessa was very interested in the response. It was not because she didn’t think he hadn’t done something crazy. Once Calvin had been a cadet, a Marine, a hormonal teen, so the possibilities were endless.
Vanessa Slade CNS
Calvin looked at her blankly for a moment. The most exciting things he ever did was under orders, so he didn’t think that was what she was looking for. “I have HALO jumped on a planet without oxygen? But I don’t think that’s the sort of thing you were looking for.”
“No but impressive,” she nodded. “I failed EVA 101 three times before the professor pity passed me. I swore to him I was never going to need it because I was never going to be on a starship. I also swore to him that if it was between life and death for me getting into one of those suits I was going to die either way. The second I put it on and stepped into space I passed out.”
“So you are either a bad psychic or a good liar.” He decided that he was going to put her on EVA training. It would be bad form to hammer her with a training since she admitted it during truth or dare, but he had a ship to run.
He paused again. “I stole a shuttle when I was sixteen. My driving was very questionable and I was very panicked. Tons of adrenaline, lots of regret. Is that kind of what you were looking for? In general I don’t do impulsive things.”
“I was not expecting anything,” Vanessa partially lied. She wasn’t sure what to expect. The man in front of her was once a teenage boy and they usually only came as shy geeks or impulsive and moody. Calvin had way too much confidence to slip into the shy geek so it tracked with what she knew about him. “Why did you that night? Was it over a chick,” she taunted him slightly. “Most bad decisions men make involve women in some form or another.”
Vanessa Slade CNS
He shook his head. “Nah, that wasn’t the stupid things I did around women. I make bad jokes, acted as if we were closer than we actually were. Maybe some crappy flirting, trying to do something reckless was more a not thinking sort of deal.”
“Not surprisingly there was some drinking, but mostly it was kind of the shuttle was there and so was I. The rest was tons of bad teenage driving.”
“What did your guardian’s do?” The story fascinated Vanessa more than it probably should. It was just hard to imagine the Calvin she had met so far as anything but a Starfleet officer. That would change in time. She had only been on the ship about six months. Vanessa was still dipping her toe into the non duty side of most of the crew.
Vanessa Slade CNS
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