Sometimes a Dog is Just a Dog
Location: Counselor's Office
Continuing with his rounds, Stone was following the directions on his PaDD. He'd been on the ship for such a short time that he wasn't yet directly familiar with its layout. That usually took him days to weeks, depending on what was happening with him.
In the meantime, the computer never failed to steer him to the destination to which it asked. Arriving at the proper area, he walked into the room and stood just inside the door, Sidi sitting next to him, but glancing up at him as if he were confused as to why they were here.
Which suited Jeremy fine because so was he.
"I am Lieutenant Jeremy Stone," he declared, his posture, facial expression and voice all neutral. "I have been ordered to see the counselor for a pre board evaluation. I am told this is standard procedure on this ship due to previous activities of the crew."
The human simply nodded and offered Stone a polite smile. She was too kind and too experienced to let on just how unusual she was finding this encounter. Stone seemed to be implying such preboarding psychological evaluations were out of the norm, but as far as the human yeoman recalled, this was standard procedure for anyone boarding a new posting. "Hold one moment, sir. I'll see if Doctor Sullivan will see you now." It didn't take long for Tate to give her permission for Stone to head into her office, and though her yeoman was experienced enough not to let on about her concern, Tate could tell something struck the assistant as unusual.
Jeremy was halfway past the desk when he suddenly stopped abs looked at the PADD on his wrist. Then. As if reading from the screen, "Thank you for your assistance today." He paused for a moment then continued into the interior office.
"I am Lieutenant Jeremy Stone reporting for evaluation. I understand this is a normal process and I am not being singled out for differential treatment. "
"That's right," Tate offered. "Would you like to take his seat and make yourself comfortable?" Sullivan had already read Stone's file, so she wasn't surprised by his unusual manner of social interaction. Of course, having such knowledge didn't mean the interaction was going to be less challenging, but obviously, Jeremy had made it this far, so clearly, he was qualified to do his job, regardless of his idiosyncrasies.
Stone stood silent for a few moments before looking at the PaDD displayed on his wrist then he frowned as he looked between the chairs in the office, finally choosing the right one. He sat in it stiffly, as if still at attention, but then turned his gaze toward the counselor, but again looking off the right of her shoulder. "I..." he sighed. "I'm not good with counselors. They tend to want to relieve me of duty."
Tate could understand that. Despite her earlier thoughts about him clearly being able to advance despite his idiosyncrasies, given what she'd observed of his social interactions thus far, she was having a hard time understanding how he could relate to people on a regular basis, let alone in a professional capacity. "Why do you think that is?" Sullivan asked, genuinely curious about his own insight into his potential difficulties.
Stone began tapping his thigh while he looked at the edge of the desk, his brow furrowed. "I...." he shrugged and shook his head, as if to clear it. "I...I have a condition," he said, his jaw tightening. "It means that I have trouble remembering things and because of that I sometimes..." Again he shook his head but his hand moved to rest on the dog sitting at his side, between the dog's shoulders.
Sidi laid his head on Stone's knee. Letting out a breath, Jeremy continued. "I have a condition that makes certain things difficult. Sometimes, when I can't answer questions, they say I'm being difficult or obstinate and then they bring up things other people have said and I can't answer those questions either and suddenly counselors think I'm not well enough to do my job. But I can." He said the last three words with determined vehemence. "I am capable of doing my job, even if I do forget to say 'thank you' sometimes, or don't understand why someone is sticking a hand at me."
"I haven't made a judgment as to whether you are capable of doing your job or not," Tate replied honestly. "That would be unfair of me, as I'm just getting to know you and getting to understand your history. I am encouraged that you recognize your challenges and have come up with strategies for coping, including your furry companion," she added with a smile. "Would you say forgetting to say thank you at times and not understanding why someone is sticking their hand at you have been your only obstacles when it comes to doing your job?" Sullivan had reviewed his record and she noted he had had several placements since his injuries, each lasting a short period of time.
The truth was, she wasn't sure what sort of security officer he was, as she didn't believe he had had much time actually serving in such a capacity. That troubled her, as she had no basis to understand how he had qualified to be a Chief Security Officer. Without such information, it was hard to make any kind of assessment of his abilities.
Stone stiffened at her words and glared at her. "Sidi is not my 'furry companion'," he spoke with a harshness he would not have recognized. "Sidi is a member of Starfleet tasked with a certain assignment. He is a fully recognized security officer in his own right and if you are unable to see past your own biases and prejudices enough to see that, then you are simply incapable of making an objective and rational decision based on me or anyone else. I will not tolerate any prejudicial conduct against a member of my department and anything of that nature will be promptly reported as such."
"I fail to see how what I said was inaccurate or offensive," Tate replied patiently, making a mental note of how quickly Stone made assumptions about her motives and then reacted with anger and threats. "Are you denying Sidi is covered in fur and is in fact someone who accompanies you and is in your employ, the definition of 'companion'?"
Stone remained silent, scowling as he considered what she said. It had some logic to it. But not enough. "Aside from the speciesist comment regarding him being 'furry' you reduced him to being little more than my 'companion'. Starfleet personnel should not be made to be nothing more than objects. They should not be mere things for others to talk around and use as they need." As he spoke, the tapping of fist on his knee increased in speed and agitation. "Sidi isn't a thing. He's a security officer and deserves to be treated as such, rather than just be considered only my companion."
Tate continued to speak patiently, taking the opportunity to continue to engage him. How he reacted to her was proving insightful for her evaluation. "I merely pointed out he was furry, a statement of fact. In addition, I specifically referred to him as 'someone,' not 'some thing,' as you continue to assert. I also never referred to him as 'only' your companion, I merely pointed out one of his roles is that of a companion for you, someone who accompanies you in your work and is in fact in your employ, as is any subordinate security officer in your department. Now, as you've already pointed out, these psychological evaluations are a normal process and you are not being singled out for differential treatment. If I am to treat you like I would anyone else under evaluation, one of the areas I would be interested in evaluating is how well you listen to what is being said and whether you can respond in a way that is objective and not so impaired by intense emotion and bias that you would escalate an argument rather than diffuse it. I know discussions about Sidi can be sensitive for you, which is precisely why I brought him up. How do you think you fared so far?"
“It’s not fair to him!” Stone said, hitting his upper knee hard several times. To the point where Sidi stood and gave a short bark. Stone looked at him for a moment before turning back to the counselor. One he no longer trusted since she just declared she was manipulating him. “He had to be selected from candidates like everyone else, he had to obtain training just like anyone else in Starfleet. He had to pass his tests and then get sent out to have his skills utilized and people just treat him like he’s nothing! Like he’s nothing more than a pet! They just discount him because he’s not like them, he’s different. He communicates differently, he thinks differently! Even you,” Stone said as he exploded out of the chair, dropping Sidi’s lead as he began pacing. “Even you just admit to using him as nothing more then a test against me! Nobody treats him like he’s a being on his own! Not you, not my former COs, not Starfleet not even my own father understands why he deserves to be treated as an equal!”
Stone stopped and turned to face Sullivan. “Go ahead, write your report but I’m not going to stop fighting for his right to be treated fairly and decently so long as he remains a member of Starfleet!”
As Tate listened to his explosion of words, she focused on the potential emotions underneath the anger. He was definitely frustrated, but in addition to that, she also realized the other common primary emotions beneath anger could apply. She represented someone who could determine the immediate course of his career on the Langport, so naturally, there was fear. In addition, however, as she listened closely to his words, she also recognized another key emotion, one men generally had a hard time expressing, and one he likely would have difficulty expressing given what she knew of his history. "I wouldn't ask you to," Sullivan replied quietly. "Ultimately, this evaluation isn't about Sidi, it's about you and your ability to handle challenges of your work, including your ability to listen and make assumptions about what others are thinking, feeling, or what motivates their actions. You talk so passionately about Sidi, that despite overcoming many of the same obstacles everyone else has, he has been treated as being less than everyone else because he's different. I can't help but wonder, I know you're talking about Sidi, but might you also be talking about yourself and the hurt you've endured?"
Stone stopped and turned suddenly to stare at her, then he took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds before letting it out, his gazepoint dropping to the floor. "I can't be talking about myself," he said, more like whispered. "I don't remember being hurt."
His response was unexpected, since Tate had actually been referring to Jeremy being emotionally hurt by others since his physical injuries, but she wasn't about to waste this opportunity to gather insight into events she got the impression Stone rarely talked about. "Still, you know you were hurt and you know how it's affected you physically and emotionally then and now, right? Perhaps you've been treated similarly to Sidi? Perhaps in standing up for him, you're also standing up for yourself and your right to be treated fairly even though you are different?"
Stone looked at her as if she were off her rocker. But the hand started tapping his thigh again. "No," he said. "I've already got my job back. I'm suing because Sidi isn't treated fairly. Why would you think it was about me?" He looked away while continuing to hit his thigh. "It doesn't matter if people aren't fair to me, because I'll forget about it. That's the only good part about my condition. You can't be hurt by people when you forget about it. You can't be hurt when you forget." He resumed his seat but his leg kept bouncing.
"You can be hurt until you forget," Tate pointed out gently, "and the fact you forget as much as you do is a reminder of all the time that you were hurt by someone, isn't it? I imagine that's very difficult, to be judged and not treated fairly for being hurt in a situation that wasn't at all your fault or in your control."
Jeremy shook his head, violently. "I...I made them do it!" he blurted out before going still for a moment, covering his eyes with one hand, the fingertips against his temple. "I...they said...at the trials, they said I'd do bad things...things that made them have to..." He stopped as he shook his head again. "I don't want to talk about that. What...they were so cruel...the things they did...I don't want to talk about it."
"I know you don't," Tate offered gently, "and we don't have to today if you're not ready, but I do think we'll need to at some point. You do remember some things they did and I don't think it's fair to you for you to keep all that pain inside, hurting you. I also think the things they said to you weren't true and weren't fair, but they needed you to believe they were so they could cause you more pain for their enjoyment."
Stone looked up as Sidi put a paw on his thigh, the heavy panting shooting dog breath at him. Leaning forward, to rub the dog, Jeremy only seemed to look at Sidi. "They left us there," he said, whispering, "Starfleet. They knew. We found out during the trial. They knew we were there and they left us to be..." he stopped for several long moments.
"I know what it's like to be tossed aside because I was only an object," he said, his tone firm but also an undercurrent of anger. "To have those things done to us, I know what that's like and I will be damned before I let Starfleet, or anyone else, treat Sidi and his canine fellows the same - as only objects, as tools of expediency. He deserves better from Starfleet. Starfleet has to be forced to be better."
"You deserved better," Tate echoed. "Whether you win or lose your lawsuit against Starfleet, however, you'll still need to heal from what happened to you emotionally, and for that reason, I think it would be a good idea if you and I saw each other regularly. I won't lie to you. I do have concerns about your ability to work, not because of any physical limitations, but because of the psychological challenges you're dealing with. I'd feel more comfortable if we could address those on a regular basis."
"Would that be ethical?" he asked, very serious. "I have a friend who is also my therapist. But he's not here. Would it be ethical of me to agree to this and not cause problems with him?" Then he let out a sigh and seemed to deflate. "Does this mean I have not 'Pass muster' with you?"
"Therapists are the ones who need to worry about whether a relationship is ethical," Tate explained. "I can talk with him to coordinate, if that would make you feel more comfortable. I'm thinking since he isn't here and isn't able to work with you face-to-face, I will be working with you primarily, but as I said, I can speak with him to make sure we're on the same page. As for whether you pass muster, so to speak, I'm comfortable allowing you to work for now, provided you participate in regular therapy. As I said, I do have some concerns, but I believe everyone deserves an opportunity to prove themselves, and you're no different," Sullivan answered honestly.
Stone took a deep breath frowning as he thought for several long moments. "As long as it doesn't break rules," he finally answered. Then seeming to deflate a bit more, and in a lower, anguished voice, he added, "Or make him mad at me. I don't want to lose my friend."
"I would hope a true friend would support you getting help wherever you could, especially if he couldn't be there to provide it in person," Tate remarked, "but I'll make sure he knows you're concerned about making him angry and losing his friendship because of this." Sullivan refrained from pointing out it would be unethical for someone to serve as a therapist and a friend all at the same time, and such a dual relationship would actually be breaking the rules. Friendship, by definition, was a two-way street, with both parties expected to provide benefits to one another, while a therapist provided support and guidance that went one way. The therapist-client relationship reflected an imbalance of power, whereas friends were meant to be equals. Not wanting to create another unnecessary argument, however, Tate held off offering such an opinion. She would need to talk to this other therapist and gather information before she passed judgment.
Stone frowned for several long moments, taking in her words before he finally gave a hesitant nod. "Send the appointment to my schedule through the computer, it's set up to send me reminder alerts." Taking Sidi's lead and standing he headed for the door. Stopping only long enough to look at his PaDD before stopping briefly. "Thank you for your time and attention in this matter," he said, flat and rote, before walking out the door.