FEDERATION'S END III: TWILIGHT
by E. L. Zimmerman
In the comfortable counseling room provided for official use on Starbase 118 - one of Starfleet's favored spots for crew exchanges - Commander Deanna Troi reclined in her floral chair, crossed her legs, and placed her cupped, folded hands on one knee. She noticed that the atmosphere in the sealed room was faintly scented with lilacs, and she admired that the walls were colored a soft shade of blue - almost an aqua. Whomever had designated the room for therapeutic conversation had realized that the traditional Starfleet 'antiseptic white' of the Sciences Division probably wasn't conducive to difficult, open, and frank exchanges between counselor and patient.
Despite the wonderful ambiance, her patient remained tight lipped ...
... as usual.
"Reg?" she broke the resounding silence.
Looking up from his PADD, Lieutenant Reginald Barclay glanced hopefully into her deep eyes. "Yes?"
She studied his expression, and she hoped, to herself, that this wasn't going to be another uncomfortable amorous confession from the lieutenant. To her personal knowledge, he had put those affections for her - and for Doctor Crusher, and Ensign Lefler, and Doctor Selar, and countless others - aside a long time ago. It wasn't as if he had resigned himself to a life of celibacy; rather, he had determined that service to Starfleet was a higher calling, his life's pursuit.
"Reg," she offered, "I can wait as long as you can, but the waiting game won't get us any closer to a solution."
Deflated, he stared back down at the transfer orders brilliantly spelled out in magenta on his PADD's screen. He had served the Enterprise faithfully for so long, and now Starfleet was calling him in ... other directions.
"Is the answer to your current trouble printed there on that PADD, Reg?" Deanna asked.
He swallowed, forcing the bile of nervousness back down his throat. "No," he eventually said, smiling briefly at her. "No, Deanna. It isn't."
"Then let's start by defining the problem. Let's talk about what you're feeling and how we might begin the process to get you past your discomfort."
"Okay," he flatly agreed.
"That is the reason we're both here after all, isn't it?"
Again, he studied her before nodding. "Yes. Yes, it is. You're absolutely right, counselor. That is why we're here."
"Reg, you don't have to refer to me by my position."
"I know. I know. I apologize."
Realizing that perhaps he wasn't ready to begin the healing process, she shrugged. "Would you rather talk about something else?"
"No, no," he blurted out, instantly sliding the PADD aside and then grabbing it back, curling his fingers around the cool metal edges like he was a babe clinging to a security blanket. Smiling to herself, Deanna realized that that analogy might not be very far from the truth. "No, no, no." He smiled, sighing with it, and then he sucked in his display of emotion with an embarrassed jerk. "Commander," he tried. "Deanna," he tried again. "Commander -"
"Reg, we've been friends for a very long time, and, right now, I think it best that you talk with Deanna Troi, your friend ... not Deanna Troi, your counselor. Agreed?"
Once more, he released a smile. "Yes, Deanna. I'm sorry. Really, I am."
"You don't need to apologize."
"Really, I apologize ... for apologizing."
"That's all right."
Interrupting, she was intent on getting this counseling session on track.
"As I understand, you're being transferred back to Earth?"
He nodded once, determinedly. "You're so good at this. I wish I were one-tenth as good at communicating with you as you are with me. Yes. Yes, I am ... being transferred to Earth."
"And this transfer is causing you some anxiety?"
Dropping his guard, he let a tiny smile slip through for her to see. "Yes, it is! Deanna, you can't even begin to imagine the level of career angst this is causing me!"
Relieved that she was making progress so quickly with, perhaps, her greatest counseling challenge ever, she smiled back at him. "And, I'm willing to venture a guess, that the cause of this elevated level of anxiety is the responsibility, the ownership you feel toward the Pathfinder Project?"
Now, nodding eagerly as though his head were about to disconnect, Reg practically bobbed out of his chair. "Yes, Deanna, yes! Thank you for putting it into words so eloquently!" He stopped nodding. "Then again, that's what you do, and this is what I do, and I just don't know if I should up and abandon the Enterprise while the ship is in the midst of a crisis!"