By Carol Sandford


Chapter 01


"Come in, Ensign."

Deanna beckoned the young woman into her office; her smile welcoming as she sensed her trepidation, reluctance and fear. As the tall, pretty brunette stepped hesitantly into the room, Deanna indicated she sat with a friendly smile, launching herself into what she hoped, was a neutral conversation to set the girl at ease,

"Hi, come on in and sit yourself down. You're new on board aren't you Kathleen...It is alright to call you Kathleen isn't it? You can call me Deanna, especially when we are within my office. Out there the Captain likes to keep it formal, but in here, this is my turf."

Deanna watched as Kathleen settled herself nervously down in the seat opposite her, noticing the way she tightly clasped her fingers together upon her lap; her eyes astutely looking anywhere but at the Betazoid. It was almost as if she knew that Deanna was an empath and was busily reading her most intimate thoughts; the thoughts that had brought her here, to this counselling session, on Doctors orders.

Deanna also knew that was what going through her patients mind, they all did. Every person that stepped through her door feared the Counselor's talent. Some wanted to reveal what was plaguing, others didn't, and it was those that Deanna really used her skill on; drawing them out, making them talk; curing whatever ailed them.

Deanna thought back to her chat with Beverly the day before when the red-head had told her that she was sending a new patient her way that in her opinion, 'needed some help'. Ensign Kathleen Carson had been on board, The Enterprise for four weeks and was having trouble 'adjusting'. She was beginning to miss shifts from fatigue and despondency.

Beverly had initially thought the girl was homesick until she had checked up her personal file and found that she hadn't got anybody to feel homesick for. Kathleen Carson had fallen foul with just about every form of authority known until she'd joined Starfleet, and only then had shown her true colours and her worth as a promising cadet. Barely one year out of the Academy, here she was, serving on The Enterprise. A rare privilege.

But within four weeks, the once immensely proud ensign had gone from first class employer to gutter level manic depressive, and it had been delegated Deanna's job to search her soul and fix it.

The room fell silent for many long moments as Deanna gently probed the girl's mind, but was disheartened to find nothing much more than bitterness, ennui and stormclouds. Kathleen was deliberately filling her mind with lousy weather images to stop her reaching in any further.

Startled, Deanna ceased the probe and purposely lightened the mood within the room, "Relax Kathleen, I'm on your side, I'm here to help you, if I can...if you'll let me. Are you aware that the Captain thinks very highly of your performances since you've been on board? He has been considering furthering your career by sending you on the advanced course on Deep Space...."

Deanna was quickly cut off by the stark terror that poured from Kathleen's mind and eyes as she suddenly sat forward, gripping the desk's front with now white knuckles, her face draining of colour, "NO! no, I don't want to leave The Enterprise! He can't make me, can he? I don't want to go!"

Deanna reached across and gently patted the tense fingers, her eyes relaying she hoped, her understanding, "No, no of course not, it is your decision, Kathleen. You've done more than enough to secure your position on board this ship, you don't have to go anywhere. But I would like to know why, can you tell me, Kathleen?"

Happier now that she knew she didn't have to leave the ship, Kathleen pushed herself back into the seat, the mental block already back in place. But Deanna had already felt the small glimmer of comfort that settled over her now she knew she didn't have to leave.

Deanna waited patiently for Kathleen to voice her answer, already knowing somehow what she was going to say, '"This is my home now. I've made friends here; this is my career, this is what I want to do."

Deanna knew she was lying about the friends. On further investigation it hadn't taken Deanna long to find out that Kathleen Carson hadn't made any friends. Nor had made any effort to make friends. She had been polite and courteous to her peers and work colleagues, but other than that, she kept herself to herself.

Deanna continued to study the woman before her, wondering why. She was pretty, very pretty really. Her hair was a rich chestnut brown, hanging just below her shoulder blades, but was usually pulled up into a high ponytail when she was on duty. Her skin was flawless except for a largish mole on her jawline, but it was nothing that deflected away from her overall beauty. Her eyes, Deanna decided, were hazel. She could see the various specks of colour within the pale brown orbs. A figure that Deanna was envious of because Kathleen was at least 4 inches taller than her, and all the extra length was on her legs.

But besides all the physical attributes, she was intelligent, witty and open. So what had happened?

Deanna changed tactics slightly, deciding to focus on negative reasons to see what emerged, "Have you made any enemies since you've been on board; maybe annoyed someone and it has upset you?"

She shook her head letting the long hair fall over her features, "No, no one."

"How about work; are you coping with your workload? I know it can be very daunting, being on a ship of this size and not knowing many people."

Again she got a negative answer, "No, honestly, I'm fine."

But within seconds, Deanna watched Kathleen come to a stand and prowl around the office, clearly eager to get out of there but knew she couldn't until she'd given the Counselor some kind of answer; some kind of insight to her inner battle.

"Look...Counselor. There really is nothing wrong with me. I'm having a little difficulty with a personal problem and I'm not ready to move past it yet, I haven't been able to get it out of my system. But I will, I just need some time."

Kathleen came to a halt before Deanna's desk, her chest rising and falling rapidly with her agitated breath. Deanna could see her frustration at being forced to reveal her innermost secrets, and knew instinctively that todays session was over.

Deanna nodded understandingly at her, watching Kathleen's shoulders sag with relief, "Okay, Kathleen, we'll call it a day for today, but I'd like to see you again tomorrow. Is that okay?"

Defeated Kathleen nodded, "Alright, Counselor, I'll be here." Turning, Deanna's eyes followed her out as though she'd got the entire universe upon her shoulders, but inwardly sighed with relief with Kathleen's acceptance that she'd not got away with anything and that she'd known she was coming back.

The question was, were they going to get any further than they did today?

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