A Different Kind of Counseling
Location: Deck Five Main Lounge
Jasen stood looking outside the window as the stars streaked by, but his mind was elsewhere. The main lounge on Deck 5 was quiet, with few officers and crew members about. Most knew better than to engage the gunnery sergeant when he had THAT look on his face.
A look entrenched in memory, hazel eyes launched back in time. He absently rubbed a faded photo in his hand, one of a young Vulcan woman in a Starfleet officer's uniform and a little girl of four years. Both had brown hair and grey eyes, both ... beyond words to describe.
He was due to be on duty again in a half-hour, and as such was dressed in his SFMC uniform. But his mind was a thousand light years from such notion. In fact, he should have been attending a weekly counseling session, but today was not the day. He'd instead sent a Vulcan private to tell the counselor he wasn't showing up, but provided no reason why.
Jasen heard movement and he looked up to see the reflection of a normally bubbly counselor in the window. He bit back several oaths and the temptation to snap at the L-C and promises of strangling the private who likely betrayed his location.
Instead, he held out the photo. "She would have been 13 today," he murmured. "Her mother said she loved to look at the stars from a starship window."
Of course, it hadn't taken anyone to tell her where he was. He was in uniform, after all, so it needed nothing more than the computer. Only command could prevent the ship's core from knowing the location of their comm badge. Adele didn't think it was time for him to start missing sessions, so she had tracked him. He wasn't the first she'd done so with and he wouldn't be the last. She stepped closer and took the photo, looking at it for a long moment before handing it back with care. "Lovely girl," she said gently.
Jasen smiled bittersweetly, his hazel eyes never leaving the window. “Aye, but she was, and she grew up under the care of a devoted mother,” he said quietly as he took back the window.
“She shared one thing in common with me,” he said, an added sharp undertone in his voice. “We both had absentee fathers — only with her, it was not by choice that I was not in her life more. The only saving grace was that she never had to deal with a human grandfather who was … very focused on keeping bloodlines pure and maintaining humans as the only true species in the Federation.”
The smile vanished. “It seems Vulcan logic extremists shared a similar belief.”
Adele listened with a sympathetic ear. "Would you care to tell me about it?" she asked gently.
Jasen looked sideways at the counselor, his face like marble.
“What part would you like to hear, Commander,” he asked quietly. “The part where I had to endure a speciest father when he was at home, and the impact he had on my overall career decisions, dreams and ambitions? Or the part where I had to choose between a chance at happiness and the absolute necessity to keep two people I loved safe beyond all measure …”
His eyes returned to the window. “Or would hear about how a father lost a daughter because Vulcan purists decided to judge an innocent child based on bloodline alone?”
He fell silent for a moment, his fingers rubbing the photo in his grip. “I like you a lot, Adele, and I respect you more than most senior officers on this ship — and there are very few, trust me,” he murmured. “But you’d probably think less of me if I divulged what did in order to ensure those I loved were safe. And gods above know what would happen if a certain Vulcan first officer of a Sovereign-class ship found out.”
"Sergeant, I highly doubt there is anything you could tell me that I have not already heard in some way before," she said with a rueful smile. People tended to think their stories were unique, when sadly, these things tended to repeat themselves across the universe. "No one will find out about anything you tell me." She looked around, noting that they were alone. Although not in her office, so she couldn't as easily guarantee that the computer wasn't somehow listening. "You can share with me whatever you wish to."
"I was seventeen when I enlisted in Starfleet Marine Corps," he said. "My father was stationed somewhere on Federation-Cardassian border, before the DMZ was established and we were still at war with the Cardassian Union. He wanted my training assignment directly under his command — I was sent to Rio on Earth instead."
He smiled, taking some pleasure in knowing his father did not always get his own way. "I spent my time between Brazil and San Francisco my first six months when I met T'Lani, a 19-year-old Vulcan Starfleet cadet with a dry sense of humor — or lack of one. I wasn't so ... hotheaded as I am today ... and well, we hit it off. Sparks and all and what's a 17-year-old kid from Mars to do when he's full of hormones and a Vulcan woman reciprocates?"
He smiled faintly at the memories. "Well, three months later, biology takes its course and nine months after that, she's about to deliver a child. Never stopped her studies in the least at the academy ... but I was prepared to leave Marine training with my drill sergeant's blessing despite the possibility of Marine OCT options, so that T'Lani could pursue her career."
Jasen's eyes flashed back to the window. "But the great Sergeant Major Jesse Calin, a living legend even then, had other plans. He had very ... brutal friends on Earth, ones with connections who could disappear a promising young cadet and a half-Vulcan daughter. The day Lana was born I was given a very easy choice: extricate myself from such a relationship that had produced 'an unholy pollution of otherwise pure Greco-Martian human bloodline' and continue as a Marine or see something horrible happen."
His hazel eyes went to the photo. "Have you ever seen a pained emotion on a Vulcan's face before, Commander? No Klingon weapon could ever inflict deeper wounds than something like that. But T'Lani was Vulcan and she understood ... family obligations stemming from the parents."
"Lana was sent first to Vulcan to be raised by her grandparents and then to a school at P'Jem. Her mother was fast-tracked into a provisional command track ensign aboard the USS Navajo, an Ambassador-class ship. As for me ... that's about when my long and colorful list of infractions began and any hope of me being an officer ended."
"I can only imagine how painful that must have been," Adele said gently. She waited a few moments and then asked, "What happened later? You said she would've been thirteen."
Jasen held up the photo again and murmured. "This was the last photo I ever received of her, when she was four. She was five when her mother was transferred to the USS Mali, a Nebula-class starship, as its chief tactical officer. T'Lani sent Lana to a Vulcan school on Vulcanas Lunar Colony, and from all news, she did well in her year there."
He paused briefly, a proud smile on his lips. "Lana had a rare blessing from the gods, somehow finding balance between Vulcan and human heritages that focused her better than most Vulcan children."
The gunnery sergeant's hazel eyes never once left the window. "Her sixth birthday ... Vulcan logic extremists targeted the school because it was host to the children of several species that year: Andoran, Tellarite, humans, Xindi ... all seeking some Vulcan discipline in a cross-cultural exchange."
"Lana was in the hardest-hit part of the building when the explosions went off ... all that remained was bits and pieces and shadows similar to those you might find in Hiroshima on Earth ... "
"I'm sorry to hear that happened," Adele said, and it was sincere. "I can see how today would be very difficult for you."
"Thank you for your sympathies, counselor," Jasen murmured as he pocketed the small portrait. "So you must understand why I chose instead to be here instead of on some couch."
He turned, hazel eyes hard, calm. He smiled faintly at the L-C before nodding.
"If you'll excuse me, Commander, I have drills to run, small arms seen to calibrate and short of my new CO promoting someone, an entire cadre of enlisted ground pounders to oversee," Jasen said. He neither waited or asked for permission as he walked away. Today was not a good day.