((Dr. Shelley’s Quarters, USS Independence-A))
:: Sitting alone in her quarters, Shelley was doing her best to relax and, in general, failing. Sitting on the coffee table in front of her, almost seeming to stare at the doctor, daring her to hit “send” was a PADD containing her transfer request. She’d worded and reworded it seven times, but now that it was nearly perfect, she was hesitating. What was it T’tala had said the other night in Twilight’s Edge? “You have friends here who want you here- who need you.” It had almost been enough to change her mind on the spot, but then she remembered who one of those friends was and how she wasn’t sure she could face him if she was right, if he had an idea that she was... That she was what? ::
Shelley: Don’t say it.
:: Why not? Would using the actual word make any difference to how she was feeling? Of course not. But that’s why she needed to leave. Avoidance was the only reasonable course of action. Still, she couldn’t quite bring herself to submit the request. Once she transferred, she’d likely never see David Whale again... and was that something she was willing to accept? With a frustrated sigh, she picked up the PADD and exited her quarters. ::
((Main Sickbay, USS Independence-A))
:: Sickbay was, miraculously, very quiet. Looking around, she saw Doctor Zhou through the open doors of his office and walked up to the doorway. Despite the lack of patients, Shelley knew as well as none that medical paperwork had a tendency to pile up. ::
Shelley: Tenzin, do you have a moment?
Zhou: ::looking up from his own PADD:: Oh, Fiona, please come in! What brings you here? I thought you had these next few days off?
:: She smiled an took a seat across from him. ::
Shelley: I understand Lieutenant T’Reshik is transferring back to sickbay duties.
Zhou: Yes. I was a little surprised myself at the sudden posting. I would have expected one of the other staff physicians to have been selected for the job.
Shelley: She’s a little odd, but she’s a capable physician. We worked together briefly in the Starbase hospital and again in the makeshift treatment centre we set up on one of the civilian ships after the fall of DS17.
Zhou: ::smiles:: Well, if she's won your approval, then I can put aside any reservations I may have had.
:: Shelley sighed, the PADD feeling ridiculously heavy in her hand. Zhou, seeing her reaction, frowned. He hoped she hadn't taken his wording the wrong way regarding her former colleague. He was about to say something before she spoke first.::
Shelley: With her coming back, it gives you quite a few doctors...
:: Zhou gave a light laugh. Sometimes it did feel like there were more doctors on the ship than any other medical position. His smile returned a bit. ::
Zhou: Well, hopefully that just means the crew has more options if they didn't particularly like the choices they had before.
:: The other physician still looked conflicted. Zhou knew something was seriously bothering her. ::
Shelley: I’m... I may be requesting a transfer.
:: Zhou's eyes widened. This was... unexpected. Was it because of T’Reshik's new post. But Shelley had just complimented the Vulcan. Wait, was it because of one of the other Independence doctors... perhaps even Zhou himself? ::
Zhou: A transfer? Is something wrong? Is... it regarding what happened before during the battle?
Shelley: No, this has nothing to do with you. You’re wonderful doctor, and I’m proud to have worked with you, even for this short a period. :: pause :: Officially, I’d be requesting a transfer to serve on a ship less designed to be a warship.
:: Zhou nodded slowly. Apparently he wasn't the only physician who had been drained from seeing the effects of battle so intensely in the past few months. ::
Shelley: Off the record... :: pause :: I need to leave. For my own sanity and to avoid... something. I don’t even know what, really.
:: She paused, trying to decide how far to go with the truth. In the end, she figured she may as well be honest. ::
Shelley: As I’m sure you know, David -- Commander Whale -- and I are good friends. I began to realise a little while ago -- when he was badly wounded on DS17 actually -- that my feelings for him may not be as simple as friendship.
:: This was now the second time another member of the crew had opened up to Zhou about how feelings towards someone else was deeply affecting them. And it was the second time it seemed those feelings had led to the decision for a transfer to escape that other person. ::
Zhou: Does he know?
Shelley: I think he knows. I think that’s why he came to you for his recent check-up, rather than me. :: beat :: He has a very important position on the ship and I don’t know if it’s a good idea for me to stay. Of course, there’s also the fact that I’m married. And believe me, this hasn’t been an easy decision, but I think it’s for the best if I...
:: She trailed off as the doctor got an odd look on his face. ::
Shelley: What is it?
Zhou: You haven't heard? Commander Whale is no longer on the Independence. He transferred to another ship.
:: Shelley just stared for a moment. ::
Shelley: He... he what?
Zhou: Yes, to the Constitution, I believe.
Shelley: The Constitution... :: beat :: When?
Zhou: A few days ago.
::Gone. Gone without saying goodbye. Shelley was furious and panicked and... and she didn’t know what the other feeling was, but it was making her almost nauseous. But the anger at Whale having left the ship without a word was quickly replaced by a profound sense of loss. An emptiness inside. ::
Zhou: I wouldn't take it too personally. I only found out when Dr. Orrey, the Constitution's chief, requested the medical files. When Commander Whale was here for that check up you mentioned earlier, he never once spoke a word about transferring to me or anyone else I've talked to. In fact, I was the one actually getting some reassurance from him regarding my own doubts about Starfleet, and-
Shelley: I’m sorry, I... I should go...
:: She stood, but rather than leave, she looked back at Zhou. The confusion in her eyes was evident. ::
Zhou: Fiona, are you all right?
Shelley: Tenzin... thank you. For everything.
Zhou: You're welcome, but please, if there's anything I can do-
:: She shook her head and quickly left the sickbay for her quarters. The last thing she wanted was for Zhou to see the tears building in her eyes. ::
((Sickbay - Later))
Faryul: It's her choice, doc.
:: Zhou still wasn't convinced, and he couldn't believe Faryul and Shah were suggesting otherwise. ::
Zhou: She is telling me that she wants to partake in this operation because she owes it to her sister. Yet she won't even talk to the captain. Does that really sound like the kind of consent that came from a healthy decision-making progress to either of you?
:: The older human nurse put his hands together, his fingers interweaving. ::
Shah: It is perhaps not what we would expect or do, but then, Ms. Riley is not one who does the expected.
Faryul: And I think she does care for her sister, beyond just out of a sense of owing something to her. Did you hear about the fight she was involved in?
Zhou: Yes, a bar fight. ::rolls eyes:: That really shows me she's a careful thinker.
Faryul: Did you hear what it was about? sh'Shar apparently insulted the captain, and her sister defended her. With violence, yes, but the fact that she stood up for her sister has to mean something.
Zhou: ::shakes his head:: I don't even want to *begin* to analyze what that something might be...
:: The doctor gave a downward glance and sighed and looked at the two nurses again. ::
Zhou: You two really think this is the right thing to do?
:: Shah simply nodded. Zhou was quiet for a moment before finally nodding himself. ::
Zhou: Fine, fine. Who knows? Maybe this might actually help their relationship for all I know...
:: Zhou turned around and was surprised to see Shelley standing behind him, looking a bit more focused than when she had left. ::
Zhou: Fiona! :: turns to the nurses :: Nishal, Mitul, if you'll please excuse us. Go ahead and make preparations for the operation. I'll notify Ms. Riley and the captain.
:: Zhou gestured towards his office, and the two doctors entered the small room, a now familiar meeting place for both of them. ::
Shelley: I’m sorry for the way I acted earlier. I was very flustered.
Zhou: That's all right and very understandable. How are you feeling now?
Shelley: With David gone, it makes my decision a little easier.
Zhou: Your decision? Are you staying on board then?
:: Shelley shook her head. ::
Shelley: No, it makes it HARDER to stay without him here. I have to transfer... :: pause :: To the Constitution.
:: She hoped it didn’t sound ridiculous. ::
Zhou: The Constitution? I'm... I'm confused. I thought you said you wanted to transfer to get away from Commander Whale.
Shelley: As furious as I am with him for leaving without saying goodbye, I’ve realised that I would much rather be angry with him face to face than to never see him again. I don’t know what will happen, but it’s become very clear to me that I’m not ready to accept the end of our... friendship.
::Zhou nodded with empathy. That reasoning didn't seem too different from what he and Yasmin had used to put a hold on their divorce, at least for a bit. He had no idea if meeting her face to face again in a few weeks would change anything about a marital mess that was years in the making, but whatever happened, seeing each other again, even just holographic representations of each other had reminded them both of the power of a face to face interaction. If there was indeed to be an end, then they would give it the proper closure it deserved. A proper closure that they deserved.::
Shelley: I just wanted to say goodbye. It's been wonderful working with you and I wish we could have been colleagues longer. But I’m going to visit my father on Earth, then I’m transferring to the USS Constitution.
Zhou: From starbase to starship to Earth and back to starship again... sounds like my childhood. At least I was born into this lifestyle. Why any of you non-Starfleet brats choose to subject yourself to this...
:: He smiled, and Shelley managed a small chuckle. ::
Shelley: I know, it’s complicated.
:: The two doctors stood there in the small office, and Zhou looked out through the open doors to the rest of sickbay. The other staff members were busy attending to their various duties. With the full lighting in the room, the CMO's office seemed less of a hiding place and more a place to renew one's energy. ::
Zhou: I remember when you first stepped into this sickbay. ::grins:: Or rather, beamed into it. I was so mad, thinking, "Who the hell is this woman?" ::laughs:: And I definitely wouldn't have imagined that you would end up helping me when I really needed someone to listen. We may have our share of doctors on this ship, but we're losing a good one.
:: Zhou turned back to Shelley, and the two doctors embraced in a hug. ::
Shelley: I wish you all the best. And if you ever need anyone to talk to, I’m only a subspace call away.
Zhou: ::nods:: I'll remember that, Fiona. I hope everything works out for you. Perhaps as an homage to something you told me in this office, I'll leave you with this: Maybe you're scared or aren't even sure if what you're doing is the right way to do it. Are you being silly or naive? I don't know. You can play it safe and worry about what might have been, but do it tomorrow. ::beat:: Today, follow your heart.