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A Shrink And A Lawyer Walk Into The Mess Hall

Posted on Thu May 4th, 2023 @ 1:37pm by Lt JG Adalyn O'Rourke Ph.D.
Edited on on Tue May 9th, 2023 @ 9:17pm

2,757 words; about a 14 minute read

Mission: The Hunt Begins
Location: Mess Hall - Deck 5 - USS Artemis
Timeline: MD004 1330

Adalyn smiled as people passed her table in the mess hall. She wasn't hungry, but was currently nursing a cup of hot chocolate as a reward for a long day of reading and red tape. She much preferred meeting people over reading about them in a dry personnel file, and she was especially looking forward to meeting Lieutenant Commander Miller, the ship's JAG. Besides the medical staff, or work anticipated she would be working most closely with Miller and Company, whether that was acting as a support system for victims and witnesses of crimes who interacted with the department, or providing psychological expertise in the development of cases.

She also had responsibilities as chief counselor, but she didn't want this meeting to be that formal, which is why she had chosen the mess hall. Thinking of her meeting with the chief medical officer and how much she had enjoyed herself, she hoped Kelly would feel equally as relaxed.

Kelly HATED counseling appointments. The PEOPLE were fine, but they were nosy, asked too many questions, and meddled a lot in things that really were better left un-fucked with. USUALLY starting with the death of her ex-husband, an accident well known to most of her ship-mates and the reason she was so cold. The absolute heartbreak and pain was really hard to manage and she'd just coped how she knew how-threw herself into work. So to say that she wasn't exactly happy to be seeing O'Rourke was the understatement of the year. Still, Starfleet required it at least once-yearly, and she knew the Captain would be harassing her about it if she didn't go on her own.

Once in the mess hall, she helped herself to some coffee. She'd eaten already; Kelly followed rules to a T, and her routines were very important to her. So she usually ate exactly three times a day, had her usual 6 cups of water, and figured coffee was the safest vice. She occasionally allowed herself a treat of some kind, but mostly, her meals were replicated salads and the like because she was just BUSY. She was careful with her figure-now that she was headed for menopause, she had to be careful about what she ate when and kept up with her exercise and yoga. She spotted the other woman, and headed her way, her face poker-blank. No one stopped her to chat-she didn't CHAT anyway. She pulled the chair out quietly, set her coffee down, and then slid her tall body into the chair.

"Let's get this over with."

All hopes this might be a relaxed informal meeting were dashed with those five words. Adalyn didn't take it personally, of course, having dealt with her fair share of resistance. People had strong feelings about her profession most of the time and it was only natural they would transfer those feelings onto one of its representatives. If Kelly were a junior officer in a department O'Rourke didn't expect to interact with on a regular basis, she might have chalked up her reaction to just being typical and move on, but in this case, the reaction was traveling on other levels. Iraq made a show of sniffing her own uniform. "I'm sorry, do I smell or something? Since you and I haven't actually met before, I'm not aware of any reason meeting with me would be so detestable."

Kelly simply shrugged.

"No, Lt. I just...I'm fine. I don't see why the Fleet requires these yearly when we're not in wartime." An excuse, but it was the best Kelly could do. "Thought I'd beat Kidd to the punch, but if I had my way, these things would be a thing of the past. Like Medical will say, I am fit as a fiddle." It was a lie, even Kelly knew it, but she put her whole stock in being stoic, of never showing emotion-it was how she'd been raised, because when she was born, Starfleet WAS at war-and how she was with most people, except her late husband. He had been one of the few people to see her vulnerable. He didn't think it made her weak, though, which in Kelly's mind, was the worst thing someone could be.

"That's great news," Adalyn replied, referencing Miller's statement medical had cleared her. Adalyn wasn't simply going to take her word for it, of course, but she had no reason to call out Kelly otherwise. "Medical personnel and I do collaborate, and it's always gratifying to know the crew is in good health. If I'm understanding you, you're saying you agree there's a need for medical checkups on a regular basis and I need for regular psychological evaluation, but only in wartime?"

Kelly nodded. "That's correct, Lieutenant. And since we're not at war, maybe you can enlighten me as to why I am here?" She fixed her big brown eyes on the counselor. "Because I am fine and I have other things to do that will benefit the Fleet as a whole. My being head shrunk won't do that."

"I'm happy to share my perspective with you, but first, I'm curious. What is it about war time that makes psychological evaluations sensible?" Adalyn inquired, curious as to their common ground.

Kelly narrowed her brown eyes at the counselor, and with a toss of auburn hair, she replied, her tone just south of snotty. "Well, wartime is particularly damaging. You see your fellow crewmen die." It was a simple answer, one that might reveal that she found war distasteful, but also had experienced it herself. It was just more trauma on top of trauma and Kelly wasn't one to talk about THAT. "So, in an effort to keep your team from offing themselves, it makes sense to me."

Adalyn nodded, genuinely interested in Kelly's answer. O'Rourke ignored her tone. Adalyn wasn't being singled out and any attitude was clearly born of discomfort and not hostility directed toward the counselor herself. "Is seeing people die during times of war the only circumstances which might lead people to off themselves?"

With that, Kelly returned to her usual visage. "I can't think of any other situation where an emotionally fit officer would need to, no. And if they're emotionally unfit, I trust the Fleet to wash them out before it came to that."

"What is it exactly that someone in that situation would need to see a counselor for? What feelings or problems might arise in your view?" O'Rourke continued to be genuinely curious about Kelly's point of view. Given what Adalyn knew of Miller's history, she knew Kelly didn't have it easy and could certainly speak to life experiences that were traumatic beyond seeing a fellow officer killed in combat. Still, the counselor didn't want to make this a personal discussion just yet. It was more about understanding Kelly's worldview.

Kelly sighed quietly. She was used to people giving up when she kept up her bitchy little game, but this one was persistent. She shrugged, though, as a way of answering before she spoke. "I assume that one with a less...stringent...constitution might be squeamish about death. And of course, there's the parasocial aspect of seeing a crew mate killed. Which I DO understand, but on the other hand...we have a mission, so deal with it on your own time. A crewman who is too into their own head is dangerous."

"I think that is what we're talking about… what a fellow Starfleet member would need to deal with if they saw a colleague killed in combat. What is it specifically about the gore, or as you put it, the squeamish aspects of those events, or the parasocial aspect of things that would require help from a counselor? I'm asking about specific symptoms here. What sorts of challenges might someone have?" It wasn't lost on a O'Rourke that Kelly wanted to change the subject. At first, they were talking about the circumstances under which someone might need counseling in her view, and now it seemed she was disagreeing with her self, condemning anyone struggling emotionally for being weak.

"Who knows, Doc? I don't have any myself. I am right with my head." It was a lie. "I guess they might start drinking, for example, to excess. I don't drink; kicked that habit years ago." She offered, in case the woman got any ideas. Kelly herself preferred to bury herself in work or on one of the exercise machines. She was very careful, though-she DID have a knee injury, after all. "They might be promiscuous, or even try illicit substances."

Adalyn nodded. "OK, so you're saying people who witness the deaths of their colleagues might drink, do drugs, or lose themselves in sex. That's certainly possible. What else? What other symptoms might they experience? What sort of thoughts and feelings?"

She shrugged. "I don't know, Lt. You tell me. You're the expert here." She was fast growing bored, and when she got bored, she got mean. A quick glance at her watch said she'd only been her five minutes. Crap. "Listen, let's agree to skip the bullshit, counselor. I am here because my husband is dead and the Fleet thinks I need to discuss it, right?"

Adalyn's polite and genuinely curious approach never wavered. "You're here because every Starfleet officer is required to undergo a psychological evaluation from time to time. Do you think you need to talk about your husband's death? Given your previously shared viewpoint, I would guess you disagree. Because it's not a loss in combat, am I correct in thinking you see his death as just the cost of being in Starfleet? To be troubled by his loss is to be weak now?"

Kelly shook her head. "No, but I HAD a mental health assessment before I boarded, within the year; it's not my problem that Kidd can't keep his paperwork properly." Blame others wasn't really the best idea, but she had to leave before this got AWKWARD. She nodded, though.

"Yes, showing an emotion about that IS weakness of character. I am the department head for JAG, a Lieutenant Commander, AND a woman. I cannot be seen as anything less than capable and in full control of my faculties. It does NOT do well for morale when your leader is a sobbing mess." She had gotten that out of her system in the first two weeks-they'd given her bereavement leave, and all she had done was sit in their overpriced flat back on Earth in the mountains of Wyoming, and cry and bitch about it to her niece. Once she returned ship side, she vowed that no one would see that from her-her parents never cried, even in the deepest throws of the Dominion war, and they had had PLENTY to cry about. "I should've been born a Vulcan, I think." It wasn't that she didn't *have* emotions, she just didn't share them-she let them come, in her head, she experienced them, and moved on. Right now, her only emotion was irritation.

O'Rourke wasn't a mind reader, of course, but without knowing it, she was about to echo what was already in Kelly's head. "I didn't hear you say you didn't experience emotions like sadness, anger, and fear, I just heard you say you wish you could suppress them like Vulcans do. No one expects you to be a mess, just not a powder keg ready to blow from suppressed emotions. Beyond that, traumatized victims are going to be in your orbit, and if they're going to trust you with the most intimate details about some of the worst things that could ever happen to them, they can't see you as someone who looks down her nose at them because they dare express how hurt, angry, and traumatized they are. I haven't met a survivor of crime yet who wasn't capable of telling when someone was blowing smoke up their asses." Softly, but just as directly, she offered, " I get the pressure you feel as a woman not to be seen as weak, but I also know as a lawyer, you understand life, like the law, is a matter of degrees. No one expects or is asking you to be a sobbing mess, just someone between that and the person you're working so hard to maintain now."

Kelly shrugged. "I hear you, but....I don't know HOW to find a middle ground. I don't know how to deal with the emotions, so it's easier to just not." She sighed. "I know it's not healthy but it's the best I have. I wasn't raised to be allowed to express emotions. My parents were busy people, both were department chiefs in their respective departments and they had a lot on their plates.I was an only child, so it's not like I had other kids to talk to. Most of the time, I was either the oldest or youngest child on board a ship. The few times one of them was assigned to a Starbase was the only time I had interaction with kids my own age, and they all seemed...I don't know. I don't want to say less mature, but maybe they didn't have to raise themselves and figure out life on their own starting at age 5." She sighed. "So how do I do it, then?"

"You just took the first step," Adalyn replied. "You admitted you're not sure how to go about this, and that is something I can help with. Just to be clear, that doesn't make you any less of a bad ass in my eyes either. There's a difference between not knowing how to do something, but seeing the potential value in learning it, and just flat refusing to make the effort. This is not about me telling you I think you are somehow less then, this is just me saying there might be a way to make all of this a little less taxing on you emotionally. I really am on your side, here. If nothing else, learning to express your emotions is going to help you connect with the people you're fighting for."

She sighed. "Fine. I suppose they deserve that." She was silent for several moments. "You're not like the other counselors. You didn't start off with that "how are you dealing with grief" crap. I am dealing with it just fine, I'll have you know. So. I appreciate THAT, at least." She sighed deeply. "I do miss my husband, but that has nothing to do with anything at all, and I don't understand why people keep bringing it up." She shrugged. They had had a long and mostly happy marriage-a few kinks along the way like anyone else-but they were-and always had been-people independently of each other.

"None of us get through this life without experiencing grief," Adalyn replied. "Perhaps they ask because they know how hard it is to walk that particular journey alone, especially when more time has passed since the loss. In the immediate aftermath, if one is lucky, lots of people come together to offer support, but eventually, their lives move on. We therapists know those who grieve don't particularly move at everyone else's pace."

Kelly shrugged again. "That's fine, but the others don't." She said, frankly. "Most people DID offer support immediately after. But what about NOW? When I can't sleep and all I want to is hold him again? When I am upset and he's the only one who would understand why? Most people didn't really "get" us-he was very gregarious and outgoing, and I am quieter and more tightly-wound but we worked perfectly together." She fought to not cry. She missed him so much. "Everyone expects you to be able to work and perform as before but...I can't. Not without sacrificing things that end up impacting personal relationships. Like strong feelings.I don't have space to FEEL things anymore." It was true. She glanced at her chronometer. It had been twenty minutes. Twenty tense minutes. Wasn't that enough?

"Let's wrap it up here, because I sense you're on edge, Commander. But I will see you again next week." Kelly nodded weakly, leaving the mess hall quickly before anyone saw the tears. *Pull it together, Miller.*

A Joint Post By

Lieutenant Junior Grade Adalyn O'Rourke
Profiler, USS Artemis
Starfleet Criminal Investigations Unit

Lieutenant Commander Kelly Miller
JAG Officer, USS Artemis
Starfleet Criminal Investigations Unit


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