The Road To Eden's Overgrown
Posted on Wed Feb 8th, 2017 @ 1:01am by Lieutenant Jeremy Stone
Edited on on Tue Feb 14th, 2017 @ 11:54pm
Location: Starbase 442
The Volerian children laughed as they ran around the area. One squealed in delight as Sidi leapt in front of them, his front bowing down with his hindquarters high in the air and tail wagging. Jeremy glanced down as someone pulled on the leg of his uniform trousers. “You gotta more treats?” the large eyed child asked.
Jeremy glanced over as Sidi ‘chased’ the children again. He’d already given the children several treats each, all of which Sidi promptly gobbled down the moment they were offered to him. That concerned Jeremy because he did try to keep the working dog on a strict nutritional program so as to help manage his weight and therefore his health. He knew Sidi would sometimes eat more than he should, then vomit a good chunk of it up later.
But he came to the conclusion that since they were not able to report to their designated assignment and thus far Stone hadn’t received any interim orders, they were on liberty. Which meant Sidi was able to be on liberty as well. And this ‘playing’ with the Volerian children seemed to be a version of him relaxing. Though, he did note the parents watching carefully, anxiously, as if they expected that Sidi was just luring their children into a trap to chomp on them when it was least expected.
Jeremy finally relented and parceled out several more treats, enjoining the child to share them evenly and expected he would have to clean up undigested and vomited treats later.
“He certainly knows how to enjoy himself,” Mulgrew said after one excited bark brought everyone’s attention to the dog and children.
Jeremy shrugged. “He’s always known how to do that. He’s still young, for his lifespan. If he doesn’t get to enjoy himself, he might get bored.”
“The same could be said for everyone,” Mulgrew said as he hitched his carryall back onto his shoulder. They’d arrived at the docking port early. Early enough that Mulgrew was able to watch his transport glide in and dock with the station before the previous occupants unloaded. The crew was now busy prepping the transport for its return trip across the Alpha Quadrant while Jeremy waited with him.
It almost made Mulgrew want to stay until Jeremy’s ship returned. In some ways, it felt to Mulgrew as if Jeremy where a child being abandoned. Emotionally, maybe Jeremy was. It was good that Jeremy had Sidi now, otherwise Mulgrew knew he’d hole up in whatever quarters he was assigned and remain there until it was time for him to report to his shift. With Sidi, now he’d have to leave it at least several times a day. Which meant he might actually run into other people and have actual conversations.
“Getting bored is not a problem for me,” Jeremy answered, simply. Though the tone was flat, there did seem to be some regret.
“What have you got planned for your time off?” Mulgrew asked, sitting on the bench and speaking up to the big Terran who was still standing and – for all perceptions – glowering as Sidi was having fun with the children.
“He played like that with Amanda’s kids,” Jeremy said, quietly, his face drawn as if dredging up the memory was painful.
“There were good times on your visit home then?” Mulgrew asked. He’d already known how that visit went. Fine until his sister arrived with her husband – who objected to Jeremy on the basis he believed Jeremy was psychotic and dangerous – and her children. Against the wishes Jeremy made clear that he didn’t want the kids to be there. On a deep level he was aware he scared the children and it hurt him to see them scared and have no control over doing it. But he was able to cope with that. He understood that he even had some fun with the children though there was the fear of scaring them.
No, the problem came from Jeremy’s father who did exactly what Mulgrew told him not to do – bring up Jeremy’s lawsuit on behalf of Sidi and all the other dogs serving in Starfleet. As ridiculous as it seemed to stable and well adjusted individuals, it meant a lot to Jeremy. It was part of his condition that when he finally made a permanent connection, it ran deep and meant everything to Jeremy. Unfortunately his father’s view was becoming more and more that Jeremy needed to be taken care of as if he were a deficient child. Though Jeremy’s father cared about him and honestly wanted the best for Jeremy, what he thought was best was the opposite of what Jeremy wanted. He wanted to remain in Starfleet but his father wanted him home. His father had some connection with the area’s police force but Jeremy knew he wouldn’t be able to do that job – would never even be able to get the job. Not with his condition.
That he didn’t even really want the job didn’t help him overcome his limitations enough to make it a serious contention. Yet his father kept thinking he was dangling it like a carrot…when instead he was using it as a stick.
“I guess there must have been,” Jeremy said, his gaze unfocused while he thought about it. “I…” he shook his head and shrugged. “Don’t people have some good times when visiting family?”
“Yes,” Mulgrew answered. “They do.” He dropped the line of questioning. Maybe later Jeremy would be able to remember more, but now it didn’t matter. The Volerian children were still squealing as Sidi alternated chasing after them.
“He’s guarding them,” Jeremy said in response to Mulgrew’s observation. “If you watch, he’ll only let them get so far before he runs in front of them to redirect them back to center. He recognizes there are a lot of strangers around and they could be a danger to the children.”
Mulgrew sat forward and watched, suddenly made aware of that. It looked so much like random playing but once someone really watched, they’d notice the four children were kept in a very clearly defined area. Even the barking seemed calculated. Without really observing what was going on, it seemed to be just an expression of the dog’s joy but, as Mulgrew sat and watched in silence for a few minutes, he noticed the barking only happened when an adult came too close to the children. “I’ll be damned,” Mulgrew muttered just as the announcement that his transport could begin boarding.
Mulgrew stood but Jeremy just looked down at the floor, arms hanging limply at his side. “I’m just a call away, Jeremy,” Mulgrew said.
Jeremy nodded but didn’t say anything.
“I have to get back to work myself, Starfleet expects that, you know that more than most.”
Jeremy nodded but still remained quiet. He still looked down at the deck. There was another excited bark from Sidi and more squeals of delight from the children. Except at the moment there seemed to be more than just the Volerian children playing whatever game it was. To the dog’s apparent delight.
Mulgrew reached up and squeezed Jeremy’s shoulder. “Okay, big guy, time to use your words,what’s wrong, why can’t you let go?”
Jeremy shook his head, but he did glance up, momentarily, before his eyeline dropped back down to the deck. The furrow returned in his brow. It was several long moments, which Mulgrew let spread out for as long as it would take. This was the time he needed to outlast Jeremy, make him uncomfortable enough with the physical contact that he would start speaking to end it. It didn’t take much longer.
“I’m scared,” Jeremy whispered, turning his head so that he was looking away from Mulgrew. “I’m scared of screwing up again. Then they’ll not like me and I’ll be sent away.”
“Jeremy,” Mulgrew said, “You’ve got this. You’ve proven you can do the job, over and time again, you’ve shown that.”
Jeremy shook his head. “It’s not the job, I know I can do that. It’s all I remember how to do. I…I screw up everything else. I screw up with the people part. Where I want people to know I can do my job and…” He shook his head and shrugged. “It’s stupid, I shouldn’t want it. It’ll never happen anyway.” He took a breath and looked up. “I’ll be fine,” he said, though the scowl remained, showing he didn’t believe what he was saying. “I’ll just do my best and that’s all I can do.”
“Give people a chance, Jeremy. Don’t wall yourself off from interactions and let them know who you are,” he tapped Stone’s chest, “in here. They’ll come to recognize how great you are. But you need to give them that chance.”
Jeremy shrugged as he gave a short nod. “As long as I don’t have to arrest them all for being criminals.”
Mulgrew paused for a moment. Was that an attempt at a joke? He wasn’t sure, but…if it were anybody else…
He put out his hand, waiting while Jeremy stared down at it for several moments then glanced at his wristPaDD. Then slowly, as if worried he were doing it wrong, Jeremy took it in his own and squeezed.
“Call me,” Stone said, then his jaw clenched and his lips pursed. “Call me? Cause I’ll forget to call you.”
“Of course,” Mulgrew said as he hitched the bag back onto his shoulder, then with a final squeeze of Jeremy’s shoulder, he turned to head for the transport.
Jeremy watched him go, counting the number of times he started to call out, to call Mulgrew back and ask him to stay with him or to wait while he prepared to leave on his own. But he had orders from Starfleet to report to a new assignment, and Mulgrew had others he was trying to help, just as he was trying to help Jeremy. Instead he watched Mulgrew’s retreating form until he was swallowed by the door to the transport ship and then gone from sight. Automatically his hands went to his waist and undid Sidi’s lead.
Turning, he gave a short, sharp whistle. Sidi stopped and turned to him, tongue lolling. He sat while still staring at Jeremy but looked at the children still running around. Jeremy scowled and gave another short, sharp whistle. Sidi stood and reluctantly started walking forward, the look of disappointment in his eyes that he was forced to stop playing with the children.
“Hey, Mister, can’t he do any tricks?” one of the Volerian children called.
Jeremy thought for a moment, then gave a command. Sidi perked up and spun around once before he ran toward Jeremy at full tilt. As he approached, Jeremy gave a quarter turn, bent over and waited until he was hit by the weight of the dog jumping onto his back, his forepaws hooking over his shoulders. Jeremy slowly stood up, balancing the weight of the nearly hundred pound animal on his back. Sidi balanced himself until it looked as if he were sitting on Jeremy’s back.
The children laughed at it. Quickly Jeremy turned and knelt while bending. Sidi jumped from his back, hit the ground and came running back. But he also looked at the children whose parents were now calling to them to load onto the transport as well. Within moments Jeremy and Sidi were alone with each other among a crowd that didn’t stop moving. For Jeremy, it was pretty much his life.