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Four Bells And All Is Well, Part 2

Posted on Friday March 19, 2021 @ 7:24pm by Canaan Serine & Madeleine De Saint Castine
Edited on on Saturday March 20, 2021 @ 8:37am

Mission: Lower Decks
Location: Mess Lounge, Deck 1
Timeline: Unknown

Previously, on Star Trek: Cardinal

"Personally?" Maddie asked, unsure if he was asking her for her thoughts or waiting to offer his own.

Shifting his posture to face Maddie more directly, Canaan nodded at her question, "Yes. You spoke medically about our inclination to avoid the truth by convincing ourselves otherwise. But, what do you think about all of that on a personal level?" He wondered, taking another sip of cola before wiping a few crumbs off of the table's surface.

Maddie paused, picking up her hot chocolate and taking a sip, contemplating on his words. "Personally... we tell ourselves we're okay because we want to be okay, but all the while we build up walls. Not necessarily to keep people out, but to keep us in" she said, setting the mug down and pressing both hands against her chest. "Personally, I think we know we're hurting ourselves, we know we're causing ourselves harm, but I think we have a subconscious voice saying that we deserve the hurt that we feel, that we're punishing ourselves for whatever transgressions may have happened in the past. On the outside, we smile, we laugh, we wear a new mask every day and keep adding to our walls to keep the rest of the universe at arm's length because we don't want to believe any differently."

And, now, the conclusion

"So our innocence in some way compounds the guilt infecting our consciousness?" Canaan wondered, following Maddie's line of thinking. He was guilty of doing precisely what Maddie suggested - Lying as a way of shielding himself from the reality of the hurt that waited on the other side of the invisible wall built within his psyche. There was one difference, however. Canaan didn't believe he was deserving of the anguish of his experiences - But that wasn't going to stop him from trying to avoid them at all costs. Or so he'd tried. These mental barriers he'd constructed were part of a larger process used to cope with the traumatic experiences he'd endured during the expedition on Arach-VI. No one, not him and not his friends, had deserved the horrors of what they'd uncovered. Kanaka had helped him to start exploring these experiences in the safety of their friendship and counseling sessions. Yet, that work was put on hold so that Canaan could lead this expedition. There was much work to be done, and it was Maddie who would assume responsibility for helping Canaan understand what had happened and why, as well as how to accept it and move on. He didn't envy Maddie this task, as he was far from ready to remove even a single brick from the mental barriers he'd cemented over the years.

Maddie nodded slowly. "We're bizarre creatures, us humans," she said softly, watching Canaan as she spoke. "Complex, but mostly strange." She took a sip of her hot chocolate. "We avoid the things we fear most, yet the things we fear are the same things we want, the things we crave. The more we want, the more we shy away. The more we shy away, the more we want, so we keep building barriers, pulling away, making the wall higher and higher, building a house of cards around us, knowing that sooner or later it will come crashing down, yet we do it, anyway."

"It sounds so dismal, doesn't it?" Canaan pointed out with a chuckle, "But the truth is that countless people harness their fear and use it for their benefit. They don't shy away from it; they embrace it. Maybe they're tired of being thought of as a victim, or broken, or even vulnerable. Instead, they take control of their own destiny, accepting that the fear exists and using it," he shrugged, not sure how the scale balanced itself with those that could face their fears versus those who avoided it. "Scientifically speaking, there is much to be gained by employing coping mechanisms which allows an organism to survive, even if temporarily. But, I suppose that's the point. It shouldn't be temporary. Survival should be assured until an organism's natural end, right?"

Maddie sighed heavily. "But is survival enough?" Maddie countered. "Again, this is where we come back to a catch 22. We do what we can to eke out survival, but is it enough to just survive without actually being able to live?"

"But what does that even mean? Aren't the two synonymous?" He took another swallow of the cola, relishing the pop of its carbonation. "The survival of any species is dependent on many variables, and only when those needs are met can a person advance to the next stage of existence, right?"

"No, not even close." Maddie smiled slightly. "Surviving is getting by, coping, doing what you can do just to get through today, and then tomorrow, and then the day after that. Living is embracing life, throwing yourself into the universe around you, enjoying every moment, being happy, seeking dreams, and fulfilling desires."

"Fair enough," Canaan conceded, drumming his knuckles across the wooden tabletop. "Understanding all of this, why is it that you're only surviving, Maddie?"

Maddie watched him for a long moment in silence, her eyes on his. "Because I don't want to live," she finally said quietly. "You?"

Their eyes held one another in that long moment of silence, Canaan's gaze unyielding. There was a slow, near imperceptible nod in his head as he chewed at the corner of his mouth. He envied Maddie's bravery. "It takes a lot of strength to admit that," he said just as quietly, his expression soft with inherent understanding. "I want to live," he shrugged, "I've been surviving for so long, I don't remember how." An unmistakable feeling of pain wove itself between the words he spoke, giving them both depth and meaning. "You've not given up, though, have you? That 'don't' isn't quite a 'won't.'"

"You need to take baby steps," Maddie said quietly, breaking her gaze away from his. It felt for a moment like he was staring into her soul, a feeling that left her unnerved. It had been a long time since she'd been so open and honest with anyone, and last time, well, it certainly hadn't helped her desire to 'live' in the long term. "Find small things that bring you joy and embrace them, make happiness a part of your everyday life in small increments. Have you ever tried meditation?"

He grinned, "I was never very good at it, although I tried - It's difficult to quiet a restless mind. But conversations like this help. I enjoy moments like these, as uncomfortable as they can be. I suppose running is my form of meditation - It helps me order my thoughts and work through problems. And you?"

"Running is great; I just wish I had more space on this tin can," she quipped back with a quick smile. "It's hard to really run when you get three steps, and you hit the bulkhead. I know there are treadmills in the gym, but it just isn't the same." She drew in a deep breath, thoughts turning to the last time she actually went running properly and where that ended. "Though I guess I should get used to it."

Canaan glanced around the lounge, gesturing with his hands, "It's home, after all, right? Trinity and Arnie recommended designating half a corridor's width on deck three as a running track. I gave them my blessing and volunteered Ewo to map it out with indicators. Sure, it isn't like running in the great outdoors, but it'll suffice in the meantime." Between Trinity, Arnie, Maddie, and Canaan, they shaped up to be a crew of runners. "Between you and me, I also thought we should do something special down in the main cargo hold."

"What did you have in mind?" Maddie asked, intrigued. "But, if it involves making me do shuttle runs, I'm noping out right now!"

"No, no, nothing like that," he said with a laugh. "Knowing our little ship here is amenity light with few creature comforts, I may have smuggled onboard the supplies for us to build a jacuzzi." He confessed with a grin, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.

Maddie's eyes widened slightly. "Are you serious?" she asked, her own voice lowering to match his as she leaned forward. "Seriously serious?"

He nodded enthusiastically, "We don't have a holosuite or holodeck, no arboretums or swimming pools, or really anything that a larger class of starship has to offer. So, I may have bribed Starbase 11's Quartermaster for something a little extra. I like a good soak after a long run," he said with a smirk, leaning back in the chair and finishing off his beverage.

"Sign me up," she said with a grin. "I'll be more than happy to beta test it for you, you know, just to make sure it's all in shape, from a strictly medical perspective, of course."

"Of course!" He agreed, "I'll take a more scientific approach. We've just gotta build the damn thing first. Until then, let's keep its existence between you and me, okay?"

Maddie held her hand out, her little finger extended toward him as she laughed. "You have my word, pinky swear."

Canaan linked Maddie's pinky with his own, giving it a little squeeze while noticing the warmth in her digit versus his. Pulling back, Canaan retrieved the empty glass and stood, depositing it back into the replicator for recycling. Stifling a yawn, Canaan offered a good grin to the Doc. "I think it's time I try for a few hours of sleep. You going to stay up a little while longer?" He asked, pushing in his chair.

Standing up, Maddie moved her own mug to the replicator and picked up the cookie jar to return it to the pantry. "I might head back to sickbay; maybe I'll take the scenic route. It should delay my trip by... oh, a whole five minutes?" She grinned as she set the cookie jar in the pantry. "Sleep, sweet Commander."

"You, too, Doc." He walked Maddie to the door, the pair stepping into the corridor where Canaan turned right toward the aft crew berths, and Maddie went left toward the forward lift. No further words were exchanged as either night owl retreated to their respective nests for a well-earned rest.

The soft chime rang out five times.

And all was well.


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Comments (1)

By Trinity Anderson on Friday March 26, 2021 @ 1:57pm

Brilliant! I love these two posts...they had everything, humour, philosophy and vulnerability. Really looking forward to breaking in the jacuzzi :)