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Personal Matters [CD]

Posted on Mon Jul 13th, 2020 @ 8:50am by Captain Jack Cunningham Jr & Lieutenant Nora Morrison M.D.

Mission: Interlude 4
Location: Firebird
Timeline: 26 April, 2395 - 0900 Hours


Jack had been spending so much time training up his men, that he had actually managed to wear himself out, not that he would ever let them know. So he took a rare day off, leaving his first sergeant in charge, and planned on trying to find a way to relax. As he strolled through the corridors of the Firebird many of the crew acknowledged him with a smile, a nod or a few brief words. Jack realized, as he rode the turbolift, that he actually knew the names of most of the people he'd talked to.

Granted, the ship's crew complement was tiny compared to other ships he'd been on. The lanky Marine officer had to admit that the Firebird was actually becoming home to him. He smiled at the thought. It had been a long time since he'd felt at home anywhere. When the doors swept open, Jack stepped off with a purpose, eventually stopping in front of the Chief Counselor's door. He triggered the entry chime and waited.

"Come in," Nora called out, the doors to her office automatically sliding open. She looked up from her desk and smiled. "Hello, Captain."

Jack returned the smile. He found the counselor to be someone he felt comfortable around, and that was generally a shortlist. "Hello, counselor. When you said captain, I almost looked over my shoulder for Captain Llwyedd. But then I remembered I'd been promoted," Jack said with a laugh as he slipped into an open seat across from Dr. Morrison.

Nora chuckled. "The words felt a little unnatural to me too." More seriously, she added, "Congratulations on your promotion." She liked Jack as well. She hadn't come across too many Marines who were as open and warm with counselors as he was. She respected the man for being willing to come to her so readily. It was a good example to set for those serving under him.

"Thank you. The only real downside of the promotion is that they attached a young lieutenant to it and shipped him here for me to mentor. He's... really eager but doesn't know what the hell he's doing most of the time. I think the biggest problem is that the men don't respect him. I suppose that it was the same when I was his age. But when I reported to Camp Caesar on Delta Doradus, there wasn't so much free time. We were either on scouting missions or in firefights," Jack said.

"That sounds intense," Nora remarked simply. She sensed it might be best to let him talk for the moment.

"The life of a Marine is intense, usually, " Jack said, settling back into his chair. "But what about you? Your recent events on Far Wanderer were a little out of the realm of normal counselor fair, weren't they?" Jack smiled. He genuinely enjoyed the counselor's company. She was one of the few people he could talk to who had no agenda.

The smile she offered mirrored Jack's but it didn't quite meet her eyes. At the mention of Far Wander, she inwardly winced. She had survived the crash of the shuttle and the battle, of course, but those particular events had challenged her in ways she hadn't been since the Academy. "Are you saying you didn't know I was a slightly less than mediocre superhero? Able to survive shuttle crashes in a single bound and an excellent liar to members of less advanced cultures." Her smile widened naturally. Despite her mood, Jack's friendly smile was contagious.

Jack laughed. "I don't think you're mediocre at all, counselor. But I do appreciate the way that you adapted to new situations. A lot of other people didn't do so well." he said and paused for a moment, enjoying the comfortable silence. "I'm not sure if you heard about our current problem? I mean, you probably heard that Xavi was kidnapped. Commander t'Aegis is... well she's always intense but there's an edge to it. I'd like to talk to her about it but there are a lot of complications. First, she's technically my superior. The Marines on the ship, including me, answer to the Chief of Security. I tried to argue with the captain about that when we came aboard but he disagreed and so did the Marine HQ."

Nora allowed the companionable silence to sit between them as she reflected on Jack's observations about some of the crew not fairing so well after recent events. That certainly confirmed what she'd heard given the number of people who'd stopped by just to chat. It seemed they were all challenged profoundly by Far Wanderer and still sorting out what it all meant.

At the mention of t'Aegis, Nora knew she couldn't speak about the other woman's mental state directly, but she could confine her comments to how Jack might address his concerns. "How do you think your feelings about this chain of command might impact what you say to her now?"

"Not at all," Jack said immediately. "She's still my superior officer. I'm not saying that she is not capable of command. I just think that she's going through some stuff. I know that officers like her, strong willed and all, don't generally like to seek help when they need it most. It would be great if she spoke with someone who is specialized in that kind of thing," Jack said looking at Nora.

Nora held Jack's gaze for a moment and found herself breaking into a wry smile. "It's good of you to look out for your people," she answered. She couldn't really say more without revealing her interactions and future plans, so she added, "Speaking as someone who comes from a profession and a culture where asking for help may be seen as weakness, any tips on how one might approach someone like that?" Nora liked and respected Jack for not reinforcing the old stereotypes about talking of feelings and asking for help for himself or those he led, but she acknowledged it could still be a barrier for him and others. There was no harm in getting his take.

Jack thought about the question for a moment. Commander t'Aegis was very private. She was strong willed and a warrior. Jack knew a lot of people like that and they rarely responded well to people intruding on their private lives. Most of them thought anything outside of work was private, even if it was related. "Anyone like that, a person who sees a display of vulnerability as weakness, is hard to approach. I think that they have their guard up all the time. Almost all the time. Maybe with family or those they consider family, it is ok to be vulnerable. So how can you get them to see you like that? You can't begin with typical stuff. You have to talk to them person to person, make a real connection and be vulnerable yourself. I think even then you might have trouble the first time. But once you prove your motives are from a good place, you'll break through," Jack said. "Hopefully. Or they will just humor you and disregard everything you say."

Nora listened carefully to Jack's words. She didn't disagree with his suggestions, but she knew forming that kind of bond, even gradually, with Rihana would not be easy. When he suggested the very real possibility that she would be ignored no matter what her approach was, Nora chuckled. "It wouldn't be the first time what I said was ignored by someone." She sighed. "It's a delicate balance. As much as I care about everyone aboard the ship and genuinely want the best for them, they also know I have the power to remove them from duty. No matter how much I assure anyone this is a last resort and only something I would consider if I truly had no other choice, there are some people who will always see me as a threat."

Jack nodded. "Not the same thing but I get that. People often see Marines as a threat too. All we can do is our best," Jack said. "The rest is out of our control. Listen I hate to break this off but I have a staff meeting coming up. But... ahhh..." Jack paused. "Let's say our official meeting is over and we're no longer patient and counselor now. I was wondering if... ahh... you'd like to have dinner... or lunch! Sometime?" The Marine sighed and shook his head. He was horrible at this kind of thing and it had taken a while to figure out a good, legitimate reason to come see Nora that might give him a chance to see her socially.

It was only professional experience that kept Nora's expression inscrutable. Inside, she was truly gobsmacked, not because she was upset or angry, but because given what they had been talking about, she never expected such an offer. It never occurred to her he would think of her as anything but a therapist. "Do you mean like a date?"

"Well... ah, I mean, yes?" Jack said. "But if there's some kind of conflict, it doesn't have to be anything more than friends. I don't want to overstep my bounds. Which I might have already done," Jack said with a weak smile.

"You aren't," Nora quickly assured. "You're not someone I've ever treated, so there's no conflict there. You could potentially be someone I treat in the future, but that could apply to anyone here. As I see it, I could either miss out on dinner with someone I really enjoy spending time with for a future that might not happen, or I could just try being Nora the woman first, rather than Nora the counselor." Her smile grew. "How about we get that dinner and just see where things go?" The truth was, Nora still wasn't sure how she felt about potentially mixing the personal with the professional. Given how important but relatively small the counseling department was compared to other areas, she knew intellectually, there was a real possibility he might need her professionally someday. That said, sometimes it was better to consider the present situation rather than dwell on what could happen.

Jack smiled. "That sounds good to me. Would you like to eat on the station or should be ask Kalstri to make us something," he said. He felt his heart beating as if he'd just sprinted a mile. Maybe his instincts had been correct after all. "I'm happy with either option."

He wouldn't know it, but Nora's heart was beating a little faster too, because a part of her couldn't believe she was taking this step, with him or with anyone. It was just a meal, but it had been a long time she had considered herself someone's date. She took a beat to consider his question. "How about we get something on the station? I appreciate Kalstri's culinary skills, but I would hate to put him out." Of course, the idea of finding something to eat outside of the ship would be an additional stretch of her comfort zone, but perhaps it would be beneficial to experience something new together.

Jack stood up. "Great. Great. I'll make us a reservation somewhere and coordinate with you, if that's ok?" Jack asked. He knew that he must look like a teenager, shifting from foot to foot and trying not to stammer. He needed to escape before he made a fool out of himself.

Nora stood up with him and smiled. "That sounds perfect. I am not picky, so whatever looks good to you I'll be game for." This was obviously new territory for both of them, but Nora didn't Think less of him if he seemed a bit anxious and even a bit awkward. She only hoped she didn't look the same.

Jack thought about a handshake but then mentally berated himself. "I'll see you there," he said with a smile.


Lieutenant Nora Morrison
Chief Counselor
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Captain Jack Cunningham Jr.
Commander Marine Detachment 538
USS Firebird NCC-88298
(NPC by Llwyedd)


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Comments (2)

By Captain Malcom Llwyedd on Fri Jul 17th, 2020 @ 8:05am

I'd been thinking about adding something new when writing Jack. I've always had him be very positive towards counselors in general and his interactions with Nora have been great. It felt natural that he would explore a relationship of some kind with her.

By Lieutenant JG Owen Woodhouse on Sat Jul 25th, 2020 @ 7:03am

Always nice to read a positive interaction with the counselor! Nora does such a great job, always professional, and it was nice to read another side of Jack. -Liam