By Carol Sandford


Chapter 03


"Care to explain yourself, Ensign?"

Will prowled around Ensign Kathleen Carson, acting out Deanna's threat by barely being a hairbreadth away from the sullen looking, albeit beautiful woman. Her head was hung low and Will didn't doubt for a minute that there would be tears in her eyes, there nearly always was in the new female recruits when they'd been brought before their Commander for a misdemeanour.

Her tiny voice scarcely registered to Will's ears even though he was only some 10 inches or so away from her, "Sorry Sir, I...I avoided coming to see you because I was afraid."

Will's voice boomed off not only her but the four walls that surrounded them, "Speak up, Ensign and address your Commanding Officer properly, not like a snivelling schoolgirl. You're on board The Enterprise now, and I expect you behave in a manner accordingly!"

Immediately, Kathleen came to attention, standing straight and tall, her eyes fixed on the long column of her Commander's throat as he'd come to a halt directly in front of her. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not bring herself to raise her eyes and look into his, and she knew that was what he wanted.

Will was intrigued by the woman before him. He'd taken a good long look at her file before he'd summoned her to his office for the shake up lecture that she'd managed to avoid two days ago. He wasn't quite sure how he'd missed the reprimand order, but he had and he felt slightly chagrined to know that she knew he had too. Will also realised that that was why he was going so hard at her. He didn't like looking like a fool, especially in front of a subordinate.

"I'm waiting, Ensign Carson."

"Sir...I'm sorry, sir, I've been having some personal problems and I didn't feel I was able to take the beating that I was sure to get at that point. I would have come to see you, sir, I just couldn't do it then."

She was honest, Will had to give her that, "I see...and you think that should exonerate you from your punishment, just because you thought could just 'put it off until another day' just because,'you' couldn't handle it. What kind of behaviour is that, Ensign. What gives 'you' the right to abuse the system?"

It was then Will got her gaze, full force and he almost stepped back at the intensity of it, but managed to hold his ground, unsure of his reaction to her. Instead he ground out one word, but even he noticed the fierceness had gone, seeing the question in the word rather than the demand, "Well?"

Kathleen took a deep breath, but couldn't stop the rosy hue from travelling up her neck, settling itself upon her high cheekbones, "Two days ago, sir, all you would have received from me would have been a bawling, babbling mess. I didn't want to subject you, or myself to that kind of humiliation. I'm truly sorry sir, I will try to get myself straightened out and make my Captain proud." For good measure she added, "I am still seeing the Counselor, she is attempting to help me through...this."

Her honest explanation was enough for Will, and with a begrudging acceptance, he issued his warning, "Very well, Carson. Providing you continue to seek help I will allow this moment of laxity to pass...this time. But if you do it to me again, or give me reason to haul your ass before me, I'll have you kicked off this ship before you can say 'adios'. Do I make myself clear, Ensign?"

Will was surprised to see her eyes well with tears, or that she appeared to be too choked to answer him. Reaching out, Will lightly touched her shoulder, his voice changing as he realised just how fragile she really was. "Go on, off you go, we'll hear no more of this, okay?"

Will was puzzled as Kathleen glanced down at his hand, still laying gently upon her shoulder, he was even more puzzled when she turned her face back to him, her eyes glistening with barely restrained tears and a smile that would have melted an iceberg. She simply nodded and left the room.

It was a long moment before Will moved. Ensign Kathleen Carson was an enigma and he wondered what really lie beneath the layers of complexity. He vowed to keep updated with her progress, smiling lightly as he realised he also got to spend some quality time with a certain Counselor Troi.

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