Just Left of Center Pt 2
Shoreleave One: SB109
Location: Captain's Quarters
Ro led the way back towards Stowe's quarters, passing it by one and then waved Stone in. The personal quarters were sparsely decorated with pictures or throws, pillows, a small shrine, but otherwise lacking a 'lived in' feel. "Have a seat at the table," she offered, "I'll bring some tea over. Feel free to start your deposition at your leisure."
Frowning, Stone went to the indicated table, showing no curiousity about the space. He stood behind a chair and waited for several long moments while the captain seemed to be busy. But she had stated to start so, he stood stiffly and raised his right hand. "I solemnly swear the testimony I am about to give is true and accurate to the best of my ability," he said, then waited for her to acknowledge that he was now sworn in and ready to proceed.
"This isn't a captain's mast, Stone," sighed the captain as she brought over tea. "Sit. Tell me what happened."
On hearing O'Touvelli's words, Stone looked as if he'd been struck...like a heavy slap across the face. Recovering from that, he pulled out the chair and sat, his hands on the table in front of him. He stared at the length of red ribbon around his pinky - undone and tied loose enough that it wouldn't cause health concerns now - for quite some time. While speaking, he twisted the ribbon and never looked away from it.
"I don't like it when my superiors lie to me, Captain," he said, whispering and his words halting. "It means I can't trust them and I have to be able to trust my superiors. But not when they lie." He continued twisting the ribbon. "Starfleet shouldn't lie." His words took on a hiss at the moment. "When Starfleet lies they're no better than Cardassians." The last word was spit out in a dangerous hiss.
"When the people chosen to be a part of my crew work recklessly on half truths and misconceptions, it is also a dangerous situation. Rather than embarrass you in front of your peers, I wanted to speak to you off to the side to get an understanding of what happened. Say that it was a lie: fine. A harmless lie to try and stop a situation that was turning ugly fast." Dropping a teacup in front of him, she set her own across the table and sat with a sigh.
"No, ma'am," he said, "You lied. Just now." He glanced to the cup of dark amber liquid and took it in his hands, if only to keep them from shaking. It worked only slightly. He continued to stare into it as if practicing tasseography. "The truth is not a casualty to hurt feelings or wounded pride. I will get over any embarassment. You could have said you will speak to me about this in private and that is all you needed, you are the captain.
"If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, I cannot allow embarrassment to prevent me from learning and being able to do my job. You are the Captain, your orders are second only to regulations and Federation law. But, if you lie to me for spurious reasons, I can't trust you."
He let out a deep breath while he shook his head. "I have a condition and it makes it more difficult for me to understand some things. I do understand that you told me Stowe was a criminal who I would need to arrest several times, and part of the widespread criminal element of the crew of this ship of which I've been informed. I understand he lied to me about who and where he was. I understand he admitted, several times to me and you, that he did so in order to 'haze' me."
He set the cup on the table and removed his hands to keep more of the liquid from sloshing over the rim. He went back to twisting the ribbon, seemingly oblivious to the tea dripping off the back of his hands, but much more agitated. "Those are all violations of the UCMJ and it allows me to put him in custody while I am able to discover the more serious nature of his crimes. But I can't do that because I don't have a command structure I can trust."
Irritability was a tickle in the back of Ro's mind that so far she kept pushing away. "Have I cut you? Maimed you? Ordered you into danger? Told you that you were safe where you were not? In any way have I caused harm to your person or Sidis? Or have I tried to stop harm from coming your way?"
Stone shook his head but glanced at her for the first time since she admitted her lie. His gaze slid off as he indicated himself. "Look at me, Captain! Doctors can heal physical harm. They can put me back together so that I am a man in form again but..." he tapped his temple repeatedly, "but not here! This is where you hurt me! Here! Do I second guess you now? If you tell me that I'm wrong about Stowe, do I hesitate to determine the veracity of what either of you tell me and people get hurt or people get killed?"
He got out of the chair, Sidi standing with him but watching. Pacing he kept his gaze away from her. "Or do I accept that he makes fun of others at their expense for his own enjoyment? What other crimes has he committed that he's roaming free of consequence for?" He stopped when Sidi stood in front of him, then put his forepaws on his waist. Looking at the dog, rubbing him behind the ears, Stone's tone came down. "I don't know you ma'am. I gave you trust because my..." the word 'therapist' was on his lips, but that cheapened what the relationship with Mulgrew meant to him. "My friend advised me not to arrest people on this ship without cause, despite I hear you're all criminals. I gave you trust because of that. Because you are a captain and I'm a brok-" he stopped and swallowed hard. "Because I'm a security officer and several rungs down that ladder. You tell me that I have not come to harm because of this - but yet you wanted to pull me aside to save me from embarrassment while seemingly saying that Stowe's admissions that he was attempting to haze me would not cause me embarrassment or ridicule. Why spare me this embarrassment only to allow that one?"
"I'm trying to learn how to reach you- and you have my apologies for my failures thus far. I wasn't prepared or even warned that I would need to approach you to put you at ease. The first sign that I had came from you telling me that there was an issue- and that's a huge first step. The boy in that picture-" Ro pointed to one of the many glossy prints of a freckle faced boy situated around her room. "-had an illness that took me years to figure out how to decode life in such a way that he was happy. Maybe that's part of why you're here. Someone believes in you enough to say try again and believes that we can find that missing bit of data to help you along. If humor is the biggest issue that we're facing so far- and trust me, between my words and Stowe's it was humor. We pick on each other a lot- then we can make that work. I'm willing to work with you, Stone, if you're willing to work with me."
Stone shook his head. "I think I was put here for this very reason. I've had...people...wanting me out of Starfleet for awhile. This keeps happening."
He let Sidi drop to the floor, the dog beginning to sniff around the quarters, showing the curiosity that Stone seemed to lack. "It doesn't matter, however. If you are not going to reduce Stowe in rank or position, then I have failed to gain his "pass muster" as he stated. I have not yet unpacked, I calculate it should not take me longer than thirty minutes to be off your ship."
He said a single word, bringing Sidi back to his side. "Ma'am," he said as he turned to head for the door.
"You might be surprised, kiddo.." Ro said more for herself than for him. "Head to your room and situate a bit. I'm going to talk to Stowe and the doctors."
Stone stopped and turned, fixing her with a rare direct look before it slid away when he spoke. "But you said I had to "pass muster" with..." he trailed off, realizing she wasn't countermanding her order, just collecting the data. "Yes, ma'am," he said, affixing the lead to Sidi. "Though, I prefer to just leave now rather than wait."
He stopped as the door slid open and looked at his wrist PaDD. "Computer, have quarters been assigned to me?"
As the computer rattled off the room number, Ro collected his tea and took it back to the replicator. Her own glass stayed in her hand past Stone leaving, down the hall and back to the conference room where Stowe and Daniels were waiting. She nodded to both of them before dropping into a chair with a sigh. "So.."