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Reciprocation

Posted on Thu Jul 7th, 2022 @ 1:00am by Evelyn Reynolds & Oliver Lucas
Edited on on Thu Jul 7th, 2022 @ 1:01am

Mission: Adrift
Location: Temporary Sickbay
Timeline: WHO EVEN KNOWS
2362 words - 4.7 OF Standard Post Measure

Get her up, I need her lucid.

One foot after the other, a stubborn gait that only made use of the cane when the previous attempts to place weight on the recovering leg evoked complaint enough from the tendonitis to slow down. It had become a private battlefield, to see how far she could push it, revelling almost in the physical discomfort because it kept her grounded in reality when her mind wanted to wander too deeply into reminiscence. Sound was a vicious trigger, followed closely be smell. It made sense because Evelyn had spent a long time face-down in a cell barely able to orient herself, much less manage to focus her vision beyond the exceptionally blurry. Noise had been amplified, however, bouncing around as echoes inside her reeling mind. Footsteps across metal plating; the sound of metal scraping against metal to mimic a cell door; the monotonous, regular bleep of instruments just beyond eyesight. Everything took her back.

She could smell the makeshift Sickbay before she reached it.

Hold her down. Second shot.

Ready to talk?

Revive. Watch her vitals.

Ready to talk?

"Lieutenant?"

Evelyn's head snapped up, wrenched from recollection to quickly process the discernible lack of an originating source for the interruption still resonating inside her head. It took all of several seconds for her to realise that it wasn't likely something overheard either; who, on this ship of civilians, would be using ranks as conversation starters? Instantly annoyed, Evelyn forced herself over the threshold and then stopped, lost without a clear and visual command structure to know who she ought to approach first.

"Are you all right, miss?" For all of Oliver's timid nature and unassuming approach, he was more perceptive than many would give him credit for. Perhaps it was a natural insight, or maybe he just knew when someone wasn't quite right. Either way, he could tell from a few feet away that the quiet passenger wasn't quite moving as she should. He left his lone perch and closed the distance a few steps, just in case she felt like toppling over.

A jerked head in his direction didn't go a long way to reassuring either of them that Evelyn was going to pull off her everything is fine default mode. The pierce of her gaze pinned Oliver for a moment and, oddly enough, only seemed to relent as a slight deviation sideways to break the stare took into consideration the peek of an implant. It wasn't so much that it was ostentatiously on display, more that Evelyn had developed a very precise and intense capacity to scrutinise details in an instant. Derailed by her own curiosity, Evie blinked and then drew in a quick and obvious breath through her nostrils.

"I'm fine," she tried anyway. "Though I was hoping to speak with one of your doctors."

Serendipity was a fine thing. "You found one," he replied. It was sort-of true at least. "Come on, take a seat. You look like you need to get off your feet anyway." He had no idea if she was paler than usual or not, but he spotted something akin to an existing injury of some sort. His eye wasn't keen enough to diagnose it, however.

Coddling Evelyn never produced the results people hoped for. That being said, standing in the doorway having an argument about her medical requirements was going to result in attention she'd prefer to avoid, and so she ambled after the young doctor with a gritted-teeth determination not to rely on her cane at all.

"My health isn't my reason for being here," she objected as she eased into a seat nonetheless. Evelyn's professional awareness gifted her enough understanding to realise nothing about her appearance backed up her protestations, but it could never be said that she'd allowed facts to get in the way of putting herself last. "I doubt very much," Evie kept her tone gentle at least, "that you have the facilities to provide formal rehabilitation for total knee arthroplasty."

"Admittedly we're not all that well equipped, no. But we do try to look after people, and I'm sure it's not so serious we'll need to amputate a limb or anything," he replied, trying to maintain a pleasant optimism. "That was, of course, a joke. I really just figured you needed to sit down and rest for a while." He grabbed a canteen of cool water from nearby and held it out towards her. "You said you wanted to speak to a doctor?"

"Yes." A deliberate lowering of her shoulders at leave gave the impression of relaxation, though Evelyn fought to keep her eyes from darting about the space. "Up until now, I've kept myself busy with menial tasks but since it seems likely that I'll be on board for an extended duration, I thought I'd at least find out your situation here. I have a medical background," she added, "though my specialisation has diverged enough that I won't throw my hat into any surgical field right away." She managed a faint smile, more to acknowledge his effort than because she felt at ease enough for it to extend naturally.

Oliver just nodded, still holding out the as-yet-unaccepted bottle. "That all makes lots of sense. We have a small team of medically-trained people, though I don't know whether any of us is especially specialist to that extent." He maintained his earnest smile. "I'm not even fully trained, at least formally. I just spent a lot of time in medical facilities, helping people like me."

It was an overture, Evelyn realised, at the very least a willingness by one of them to address the various elephants in the room. Her expression finally relaxed into a wry acknowledgement of his efforts and she reached to take the canteen, without immediately rushing to drink from it. "I've worked closely with a repatriated drone before. His words," she added, one hand held up in defense, "not mine. I don't say that to be dismissive, you may just find me not as quick to jump to conclusions as others."

"A lot of people say that," he said, his facial expression almost stony. "Actions often speak louder than words, though. It's the ones that say they're your friend that are the worst." He tilted his head a little to observe how she reacted to that mild challenge.

The brittle edge to his tone brought Evelyn beyond the superficiality of her interaction, past her own preoccupations, to properly regard the young doctor. Regardless of choices she'd been forced to make, the blonde scientist was more Starfleet than she was anything else and had certainly mingled, quite closely in some cases, with people who might have balked at a younger officer adopting such a defensive tone. She'd always been more interested in honesty because hidden information, to a scientist, was just extra lab-work. Her chin lifted at an angle, expression one of faintly-narrowed eyes as she studied him, and then nodded once to acknowledge his point.

"Morcan is one of the few Betazoids to have been successfully liberated, and one of the few Starfleet personnel to have his commission reinstated. His experience is a fascinating recount." Shifting in her seat, Evelyn positioned herself to face Oliver directly and quite comfortably met his gaze front-on. "And the perspective he offers is invaluable. I know you're not going to spontaneously reactivate and assimilate me," she added gently, her features softening. "And your actions as a drone do not reflect your choices outside the Collective." Evie's eyes flitted to the side to regard his implants. "They seem to have restored significant independent function." Her eyes once again met his. "Is it too intrusive to ask what implants you retained?"

"It's not," he responded. He indicated the strip of technology behind his ear, almost hidden by hair. "There are a few deactivated implants around the base of my skull. It doesn't give me superior hearing or senses or anything. A few redundant elements scattered through my lymphatic system. I was lucky medical science kept me away from the worst of it." He almost absent-mindedly rubbed the long scar on the back of his hand. "Like you said, I'm a long way from reactivating and assimilating people." He smiled in that slightly dark-humoured way. "But if you hear me talking about how resistance is futile maybe just run the other way."

"I could probably muster a hobble," Evelyn remarked wryly, flexing her knee for emphasis. "I had heard," she continued, head tilted once more to observe his implants, "that extraction surgery had progressed considerably over the past couple of years." Keen, analytical eyes took in his appearance with fresh perspective and, after a moment of intense scrutiny, Evie's features relaxed into a faint smile. "You seem to have adjusted well in any case."

"A matter of scale. And perspective." He frowned a little. So, so many didn't adjust. There had been weeks, maybe months, where he hadn't been able to process reality. As a teenager that had been brutal to experience, and not something he generally spoke about nor dwelled on. "Medical science can only do so much. Often it's the will to get better that makes the most difference." He motioned to her knee. "I suspect medical science could do something about that, if the will was there..."

It earned him a tired huff. "Medical science is responsible for the replacement joint, and subsequent rehabilitative therapy." Evelyn glanced around the room to add, "Treatment is currently on hold, other than what I can manage on my own, for somewhat obvious reasons. And several less obvious ones, I suppose." Her brow flickered, instantly annoyed at herself for the slip, and she brought her gaze back to bear on the young doctor. "Temporary setbacks."

"Isn't that code for 'putting it off'?" he wondered. Over the years he'd heard a number of doctors express their frustration at patients doing just that. Raising a hand in apology he just shook his head. "I'm sorry. You're probably much more qualified to make that sort of judgement. Medically-speaking. I'm just here to see if there's anything you might need."

Evelyn raised her eyebrows and then cast a far more meaningful gaze around the makeshift lodgings. "I think you're assuming that the setback was intentional." With a pointed nod towards a pew being utilised as a cot, the blonde scientist raised her shoulders to convey pragmatic defeat. "Post-op physical therapy and pain management can only achieve so much when the facilities are limited." Something about the young doctor's concern was refreshing, at least. Her last encounters with Starfleet medical personnel had been attempts to pin her down for psychological instability. "I will be fine. I came here to see if I can be of any help, however."

"Oh." He glanced around. "Well, looking after a small crew of people, we can only achieve so much when the facilities are limited," he said, echoing her exact words. "What I mean is, what you see is what we have. Mostly we're looking after bumps and bruises at the moment, we don't have many serious medical problems still ongoing, which is good. But the longer this does last the more we're likely to see things. It's probably more about looking after peoples' mental health at this point, which isn't an easy thing."

It had been, more or less, exactly what Jake had said. Everyone seemed determined to turn her into a Counselor, which may have been conceivable once upon a time. Now... She smiled wearily. "You seem to be doing a pretty good job," she turned it back on him, not insincere in her sentiment despite the fact that it also served as a deflection.

"We've been lucky," he admitted, not exactly disagreeing with her but more or less suggesting that it wasn't by skill. "Like I said, bumps and bruises. We might have needed someone with a bit more training if things had gotten bad."

"I don't know that a year of mandatory psychology all the way back at the start of my degree really constitutes adequate training." Evelyn didn't point out that, on top of inexperience, her own mental health really wasn't stable enough to assist others without potentially making their situation worse. "Sometimes it's just about having someone pay attention enough to notice when things aren't right," Evie reassured with a smile, "And then taking the time to step in and offer to listen." She reached out with the tip of her cane to poke Oliver on the foot. "I'd say Rosie already has someone more than capable of that."

He felt his cheeks redden a tinge as he looked anywhere else. The floor looked pretty good. "I don't know about that. I'm just a trauma survivor. Nothing more special than that. I get the whole idea of 'lived experience' but sometimes people prefer to know they're talking to someone who actually has some training in psychiatry. Not just someone who used to have a million voices in his head."

"I tell you what. If you encounter a clinical need, come find me." Rising slowly, with an attempt not to rely too heavily on her cane, Evie reached out a hand to squeeze the doctor's elbow. "Other than that, I wouldn't sell yourself short." He had a way about him, and though she couldn't easily explain it without having to also explain why her sudden lull in anxiety proved it, Evelyn could at least draw on years of military assertiveness to get her point across. "I'll let you get back to work."

Technically this was work, he thought to himself, but he held back from saying so. Instead he just politely nodded as she made that awkward move to stand and take her leave. Indeed, despite being quieter than most, he did like to listen. Maybe she was right about his ability to give some level of comfort. Or perhaps it was just the making of a decent bedside manner. Either way, he hoped he was on the right track.

 

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