Mission 1: Best Laid Plans
Location: Alex and Jayla's Quarters
It had been a long day.
There had been more children in Jayla's surgery gallery today than she had seen in her whole career. Okay, so that was probably an exaggeration (in fact, it was) but even so, the state of some of them had hit her hard. Only two were being kept for observation, thankfully; Jayla didn't think she could have handled seeing any more of them in that state. The parents had been notified and were offered guest quarters on the ship, which they took. After explaining to the parents that their children were likely to fully recover, and also going over the worst-case scenario while stressing that she was optimistic, she had finally left Sick Bay to return to her quarters.
They had not had to keep many patients, and for that reason, Jayla had not been forced to vacate her quarters. Once she walked in the door, Lucas chittered at her from his latest web in a corner near the door and Silver yipped and jumped on her knees. "Hi, guys," she said wearily. "Daddy's not back yet, huh? All right, dinner," she agreed as Silver ran to sit under the replicator.
Once she got them both settled with something to eat, she decided to jump into the shower. Showers always made her feel better after a hard day. So, she shed her scrubs and fired up the shower.
Alex was beat. He'd been run ragged at the field hospital. They'd gotten overwhelmed quickly and Alex quickly went from supervising to supervising and wearing his Independent Duty Corpsman 'hat' (so to speak). Now, however, he was done and ready to see Jayla. He got to their quarters, opened the door, and... was not attacked by the furry dynamic duo they lived with? He looked around and found them eating, oblivious to the world. He listened and he heard the shower running. Alex grinned. He quietly stripped off his clothes and crept into the head and climbed into the shower behind Jayla. He slid his arms around her and kissed her neck and shoulder. "Security!" he whispered in her ear. "There's a naked woman in my shower!"
"And you want us to move her to your bed?" she replied cheekily, but with a weariness that betrayed her hard day. "Are you as exhausted as I am?"
"More so," Alex said. He took a washcloth and began to wash Jayla's back. "How are you? I heard things got pretty rough up here."
She made a noise that sounded like an angry cat. "You should have seen it," she replied. "Well, you wouldn't have wanted to. Seeing the adults wasn't so bad, but the children that came through my gallery!" She shook her head. "It's just... I had a hard time not crying every ten minutes."
Alex stopped washing Jayla's back. He set down the cloth, turned Jayla around so she was facing him, and pulled her into a hug, wrapping his strong arms around her. "I love you," he said. "I love you." Alex didn't say more than that. He knew Jayla was emotionally wiped from her day and just needed him to be there for her, like she would be for him, were their positions reversed. Injured children hit Jayla hard. And yet, when given the opportunity, Jayla jumped back into being a pediatric surgeon. To Alex, that made Jayla incredibly brave.
For a long time, they simply stood there, Jayla sobbing gently into Alex's chest, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist. She was so thankful for him right now. Without him, she was certain she would have nightmares of the tiny boy who had been brought to her with one side of his rib cage completely crushed, bits of bone sticking out through his skin. She had saved him, but the sight was enough to shake anyone to their core.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, she pulled away. "Thank you," she said. "We'd better get out. I'm getting wrinkly."
Alex chuckled. "Okay," he said. "Wait one sec." And one second later, when Jayla stepped out of the shower, Alex was holding a towel up for her. "Hmmm... Jayla, you are very easy on the eyes."
She laughed, despite her tears. "That's good to know," she said, hugging the towel around her like it was a hug from her mother. Then she stretched up to kiss him gently. "So are you," she told him. "Especially after today. I've seen enough horror for a lifetime."
"I hear you," Alex said, holding Jayla in his arms as they talked. "And I couldn't agree more. So, how can I make your evening better than your day was?"
She considered many options- food, sex, sleep- but nothing seemed adequate. "I don't know," she said with a sigh. "I just keep thinking about those kids. The sight of them was...." She swallowed the lump in her throat. "Maybe I'm not cut out for this," she admitted. "Maybe accepting this assignment was a mistake."
"Jayla," Alex said, holding the Trill close and gently running his fingers through her hair. "You're a lot stronger than you give yourself credit for being, a lot braver, too. Don't sell yourself short."
“It’s just... those kids!” she insisted. “I can’t believe anybody- or any species- could be so cruel to children! I don’t know if I can look at any more children in that state and keep my sanity.”
"Shhh..." Alex said, continuing to comfort Jayla. "It's alright. If you really feel you need to ask to be moved to a different position, you have my full support. But maybe making this decision right now, while you're upset, isn't the wisest move?"
"No, definitely not," admitted Jayla. "And anyway, who would help the children? No, I'm a good surgeon and I'm great with kids. I'm not going anywhere. But I don't think I was really prepared for this assignment."
"It has been a while since you worked specifically with children," Alex said. "And this is a warzone. Give it time, love. You'll find ways to cope. One of them is to celebrate life as much as possible, to balance the pain, suffering, and death you encounter at work."
“I know,” she insisted, resuming toweling off. “I just have to remember all the lives I saved today. And the fact that I didn’t lose any.”
"Great Bird of the Galaxy!" Alex said. "Sorry, it's just that you are so gorgeous. Okay, if you want dinner before I take you to bed and make you forget all of your troubles, I should throw on some clothes and make that happen."
She grinned sheepishly, almost as if she was sorry he found her attractive. "Food is a good idea," she agreed, realizing that she had skipped lunch and it was now well past dinner time. "I don't feel like eating, but I really should."
Alex smiled mischievously, then pulled Jayla into a kiss that would have made an asexual, single-celled organism's toes curl. After a moment, he released her, turned her towards the door of the head, and swatted her playfully on the backside. "Go on," he said. "Go get dressed before my lust gets the better of me."
She giggled, but complied, finding one of his T-shirts that was snug on him, but she swam in it. She also pulled on a pair of her own sweatpants that were nonetheless two sizes too big and pulled the cinch strings to keep them on her hips. Big clothing was comforting in a way she just didn't understand, but accepted completely. Once clothed, she joined Alex at the tiny table that just barely left enough room for both of them to eat. "I never realized how much I appreciate being bored until I'm busy," she commented.
Alex chuckled. "So, lovely lady," he said. "What culinary delight can the replicator and I put together for you, and do you want a glass of water, wine, or something stronger?"
“Just water, I think,” she replied. “I’m afraid I’d throw up if I drank anything too strong.” She thought about food for a moment and found she had the oddest craving. “Pesto sauce on rotini. I know, weird combination. It sounds good, though.”
"Your wish, my command," Alex said. Within minutes, the table was set with a serving bowl of pesto on rotini in the center and two bowls full of the mixture, one in front of each place setting. There were also two glasses of water and a pitcher of the same. Alex took a seat across from Jayla. "Eat, drink, relax, put the day behind you."
"That sounds like a great plan," agreed Jayla wearily, tucking her feet up underneath her and picking up her fork. It was a comfort position for her, probably from when she was a child and couldn't quite reach the table. Whenever she was tired or worried or troubled, she invariably reverted to this position for meals. "I didn't even think about it," she said around a mouthful of pasta, "but I didn't think you'd be back tonight. I thought they'd keep you on the planet to guard the doctors."
Alex frowned. "Because I can shoot straight?" he said. "That would be a waste. Why tie up a trained medical profession pulling guard duty when Security can do the same thing? Nah. Serious mismanagement of resources."
"Good point," she agreed. "I'm glad I'm not the only person who remembers you're a medical corpsman. So how were things down on the planet?"
"Busy," Alex said. "And at times gory. I don't know if it's a good thing that I can sort of compartmentalize pretty well. There does seem to be a limit, but as long as I get some time to decompress, I'm usually okay. If it's back to back, wall to wall horror shows, then I start burning out and I start having nightmares and flashbacks and the like. I think I'll be okay this time around. If I start to feel shaky, I'll do something about it. I'm not actually too worried. Having you in my life grounds me, keeps me from going off course."
"Glad I could help," she replied with a grin. "Sometimes I envy you. You spent years training for this kind of assignment. I spent a couple of months. And you have previous experience. The worst thing I've seen is those creatures that took us over on Black Hawk. I can't even remember their name. But we beat them. And they didn't hurt any children."
Alex reached out and comfortingly took Jayla's hand. "Not witnessing horrors isn't a drawback, and being a witness to horrors isn't a badge of honor. You've done amazing work in your career, tackled enemies that I couldn't dream of defeating, and come out the victor. I choose my path based on the fact that I wasn't smart enough--don't look at me in that tone of voice! I don't mean I think I'm dumb. I'm just not academically inclined. So I chose a different path to help people, and I did it in a time of war. That put me on a violent path." Alex squeezed Jayla's hand and then released it. "Anyway, this assignment seems to fit me. I get the challenge of field work without the covert ops stress."
"Well, at least one of us is happy," she replied with a wry grin.
Alex set down his utensils and wiped his mouth with a napkin. "You clearly need cheering up." He got up from his chair and went over to the computer console. "No... no... nooo... well, yeah, that'll do!" Suddenly music started coming out of the suite's sound system. Lighthearted and fun music. Alex, wearing a t-shirt and shorts and a zip up hoodie, held out his hand to Jayla. "Come," said. "Dance with me.... no?" He removed the sweatshirt. "How about now? Still no?" He removed his t-shirt. "If not now, things are gonna get real!"
Jayla giggled at his antics and stood to join him. "Although, maybe I should let you finish that striptease," she laughed. "It was pretty entertaining."
"Later," Alex said, taking in his arms, holding her close and leading her. He kissed her on the forehead and then the lips and then just held her and danced with her. "I was serious, you know. If you want to leave, I'll be right their with you. But let's not make that decision tonight. For now, let's dance and decompress, and when you're ready, I'll carry you off to bed."
"That sounds like a good plan," Jayla agreed, settling against him happily.