"Worlds Behind"
(Continued from "Larger Target" by the impressive Tiffany)

“Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We'll wander back and home to bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!”
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Fellowship of the Ring"


Setting: USS ANUBIS, Deck 1, CO's Ready Room
Stardate: 30145.1515

Ensign Stark agreed to Eve's offer to meet in the Captain's Ready Room without an argument. Frankly, the Counsellor hadn't been sure what to expect. Anger, denial, perhaps? But none of these had come to the surface as Jayson sat on the sofa in Morningstar's office, a touch of dejection gracing his features.

"Do you understand why Commander Maya called me to the Bridge?" she asked. She didn't think the CO would mind this unauthorized use of his space to assist the troubled Operations Officer. It just didn't make sense to drag him back to the Counsellor's office.

Stark let out a ragged breath, brushing a hand over his scalp and close-cropped hair. "I wasn't paying attention to my duties."

"What's the last thing you remember before you were distracted?"

"I'm not sure... the control panel? The outline for our mission?" It was the first time he realized he didn't quite remember.

"Not to worry," Eve said soothingly. "There isn't a right answer."

Jayson looked up and drew a breath in sharply. Pain was clearly evident in his dark brown eyes. "The right answer is to focus on one's responsibilities."

"We all have responsibilities... to our choice of career, to the Federation and to Starfleet, and to our fellow officers. But we also have a responsibility to ourselves."

Stark gestured with his hands for emphasis. "And I want to be a top notch officer. End of story."

Eve sat on the arm of the couch, in a relaxed posture. "Acknowledgement of your memories, your entire being, is critical to your performance. Surely you understand that?"

"I think I do," he replied resolutely. This wasn't his first trip to 'crazy town', to use a bastardized expression. He'd grown to tolerate, even occasionally like, the Counsellors who had helped him throughout his time at the Academy.

"You're not the first officer to be 'lost in space' at your station."

The Ensign struggled with his thoughts. The grief at the loss of his wife and unborn child wrestled with the fresh start and chance to make a difference that he held in the palm of his hand. The threads of those stories were inexplicably and irrevocably intertwined. "Everything reminds me of her," was all he could muster. "Leena."

"Of course it does," Dalziel said softly. "We all desire to share things with those closest to us, whether they be good, bad, or indifferent. Obviously your connection with her and love for her is very strong."

"I can still feel her sometimes," Jayson said in a raspy voice. "And I want her to be proud of what I'm doing... but sometimes the memories get in the way." He looked down into his clasped hands as if he was in prayer.

The next words fell out of Eve's mouth without much thought. "What made you decide to pursue a career in Starfleet?"

If Stark was surprised by the conversation's change in timbre, he didn't seem affected by it. "After Leena... well I didn't feel like my life had any direction. My family was there to support me and encourage me, and that eventually led me to SFA."

"Sounds like you were trying to completely submerge yourself in hard work."

"Yeah... I guess so. But even I can't work twenty-four seven."

"And you shouldn't have to."

For the first time since they started talking, Jayson almost looked amused. "Okay, we agree. Great. So what do I do then?"

The corners of Eve's mouth twitched a little as she thought. "I want you to schedule your thoughts."

"Huh? I don't get it."

"Set aside 30 minutes each day, while off- duty of course, and deliberately think of nothing but Leena. It would probably help if you kept a journal of your memories for each day."

"What if I start to think of her at some other time?"

Eve shrugged. "Stop and tell yourself you have a scheduled time to, well, remember her. I'm not saying it will be easy, but knowing you've promised yourself that time is very important. It allows you to exert control on something that doesn't feel  controllable right now. I can check back with you a couple of weeks and see how it's going."

Jayson nodded. He had nothing to lose. "Okay." He stood to leave. He had to get back out on the Bridge.

"One more thing," Eve said as the Ops officer turned around. "I want you to write in your journal one thing each day that you liked about that day. What serving on the ANUBIS means to you. For yourself. Trying to honor your wife and make your family proud may have got you in that uniform, but unless you find those things that make *you* truly happy in your career, it's not worth sticking around. I don't have to tell you that life is too short to waste."

Ensign Stark took a sobering look at Lieutenant JG Dalziel, their eyes meeting in a mutual understanding. "Thanks," Jayson offered.

Eve crossed her arms and smiled, then began to follow Jayson out. "It's my job."

Susan Ledbetter
Lieutenant JG Eve Dalziel

"I savored those stories; I read them slowly, one each day. And when I was done, I wished I hadn't read them at all. So I could read them again... like it was the first time."
-Melanie to Old Jake, DS9, "The Visitor"