Flip The Script
Location: USS Hera, Deck 11, Holosuite 3
05:00 hours was an early start time for many on the USS Hera, but not for her First Officer, Commander Rita Paris. In point of fact, she’d already been up for an hour, roused her logical mate to perform some good old-fashioned human bonding, then grabbed a shower before putting on workout clothes, booking a holosuite and crossing the corridor to hit the door chime of the quarters shared by Lieutenant Mnhei’sahe Dox and Ensign Mona Gonadie.
While a senior officer showing up at the quarters of a section chief was not necessarily the best protocol at 05:02, the casually-clad commander knew for a fact that Dox rose early just like her superior, and as an overachiever was likely already up, moving and engaged in some sort of activity, if only reading reports on her PaDD while still lying in bed with her feathery paramour. Thus while the door chime might be a surprise, it was not in much danger of awakening the portly pilot.
Unsurprisingly, Rita was right, as when the door chimed Dox was sitting in her crimson Starfleet robe with a cup of coffee at the dining room table, reviewing files for the day ahead on her PaDD. She had on a pair of green, fuzzy slippers and her thick, curly auburn hair was still damp from her shower as she preferred water to the sonic shower. Quizzically, she tilted her head wondering who it could be as the door. It would have simply opened for Doctor Dael.
"Come in." She called out in a friendly voice.
Stepping through the doorway, the ebullient Rita Paris strode into the flight control office's quarters, taking in the sights with appreciation in her eye. "I am SO glad she domesticated you, so you aren't living like a bachelor, Mnhei'sahe."
Clad in a tight sleeveless grey girl's distressed tee advertising 'Starfleet Academy Class of 2255' and tight black capri shorts, somehow her remarkable bust seemed almost tame in the miraculous sports bra she was currently armored in. The shoes she wore were, for a change, not running shoes, but clean white low profile cross trainers. Her hair, currently a bit long for Rita, was slicked back and she had a white hairband holding the hair back. As she approached the red robed Romulan, Paris refocused those baby blue eyes on her shipmate.
"I've come to ask a favor, Miss Dox. You... are a very dangerous woman. I've watched you fight, and you know how to hurt people in a hurry. This is a skill that I... lack. I don't like physical altercations," At that Rita squirmed a bit, her body language actually girly. "Have phaser, will travel has always been my motto. I mean I can flip and judo chop with the best of them, but... I'm a lover, not a fighter, plain and simple. Usually Sonak was there for the rough stuff, and he is remarkably fast, strong and efficient."
"But now I'm head of Security, and since my duty is the away team, that means half the time I'm a damn commando in power armor. I carry swords I don't really know how to use- well, not with any puissance. Which is okay, because the multifunction grenade launcher I carry. and my phaser. combined with a sensor suite that would have made a starship of my day envious I DO know how to use. But," Rita squirmed a bit more and grimaced. "I need to learn how to fight. I really don't want to but I really should. I'm a liability in melee, and if I'm in command then that's unacceptable."
Taking a sip of her coffee, Dox saved out the file on her PaDD, awkwardly stalling for a moment. Rita's body language made Dox uncomfortable to watch. Seeing the strongest woman she knew basically mirroring the kind of anxious fidgeting she was a master of was difficult. But she knew Rita was putting herself out considerably by asking for help like this and she wasn't going to let her friend OR her Commander down.
"I don't know how good I'll be at actually teaching anything, but yeah. Of course. I mean, it.... I understand the need... all things considered with what we do. So, yeah. Let me throw something on and let Mona know I'll be heading out early." Dox stood up, smiling warmly. She wanted to be as comforting as possible as she could read how uncomfortable the topic seemed to be making Rita.
"I'll be right back. If you want anything, make yourself at home." Then, she gestured to the updated decor with a grin. "It does look great though, doesn't it?"
"I am genuinely glad that you two decided to feather your nest," Rita nodded in approval as Dox disappeared into the bedroom, so Rita began to pace as she continued talking. "Having someone to come home to is huge, and it really helps make shipboard life much less military and much more like home. Allowing families onboard ships is an interesting twist, but I can see why. I would fight hard for my own life, harder for Sonak's, and I would exceed human limits for kids. Having families aboard means that it's not just your shipmates and the ship, but it makes the crew into an extended family. People will fight harder for their loved ones than anything. Yet in peace it keeps them balanced, because they aren't just about the mission. An element of modern Starfleet that I keenly appreciate."
After a brief moment, Dox stepped back out in a pair of black leggings, a crimson tank top with a pair of black sneakers. Mona was behind her now wearing the same crimson robe Dox had just been wearing, having just out of the shower herself.
With a smile, Dox turned and gave Mona a quick but deep kiss. "I'll see you in the office later. MacNielle is on Helm from oh seven hundred 'till thirteen hundred, then I take over. But I want to look over those new interface designs you're working on for the Scorpions. Those are looking amazing so far."
"Keep me abreast as well, Miss Gonadie," Rita grinned and nodded to the Miradonian aviatrix whose flight control systems would revolutionize the field- at least, according to a little birdie from the future. Time would tell.
"You two be safe and try not to hurt each other too badly, ok? Love you, Minay!" Mona said as the pair prepared to leave.
"Love you too." Dox replied with a warm smile over her shoulder for Mona, Dox stepped into the corridor as she and Rita made her way to the Holodeck to begin. "I get what you mean, Commander. Having someone worth fighting for is... a big deal. But I think what she makes me want to fight the hardest for is myself, if that makes sense."
"Why don't you tell me what it means to you, Miss Dox?" Paris asked. This was the usual dynamic- after all these months serving together, and particularly doing the 'walk and talk' as Rita put it, Dox had fallen back into a military gait out of force of habit. It made it easier to keep up if she was in step, and it was a military tradition that had survived for a reason. As they moved, they ate ground. Thus as they walked in step, they fell into the pattern- Paris the higher ranking more experienced officer turning even an admission into a teaching moment, with Dox as the junior officer put on the spot for an answer.
"She... makes me want to be a better me, I think." Dox grinned as she talked, as she was becoming quite familiar with Rita Paris' propensity for these kinds of questions. "I've spent a lifetime figuring out ways to convince myself that nobody actually cared if I lived or died. That became hard here on the Hera. Then it became impossible with her. She makes me want to be the woman she sees. And sometimes she helps me see I already am."
"That's excellent, Lieutenant. I think you are definitely learning the lessons to be found in relationships. I must admit, it's refreshing to see you optimistic. A good mate will always amaze you with how they see you. I am who I am today, in no small part, because Sonak helped me see who I was, without all of the neurosis and anxiety. Without getting in my own way. That, I think, beyond reproduction, is why we mate. To find ourselves, in someone else." Arriving at the turbolift, Rita pressed the button to call one.
"I'm trying. I don't always succeed. But I hope I do a little better each day then I did the day before." Dox smiled as she thought of Mona as the lift arrived and the pair made their way to their destination.
"That's all anyone can do. Deck 11," Paris called, and they passed the remainder of the trip in silence, which was unusual for the chatty commander. Approaching the holodeck, she sighed. "I kinda miss our poor stowaway in Holodeck 3. But we got it home, so hopefully that all worked out for the best."
"I hope so too. I mean... I think so. At the end, I felt gratitude before it left me. I still think we did the right thing." At the console outside the Holodeck, Dox pressed a button and spoke. "Computer, please initiate sparring room program 7-a. Standard safety protocols. Thank you."
With a chirp, the computer replied in the quirky fashion with which Dox was becoming familiar.
=^=You're welcome, Lieutenant Dox.=^= tag
As the door opened, the interior was now covered with teal pads along the floors. The walls were a light tan with a row of mirrors along the left side. Along the right wall was a folding table with a chilled water cooler, two cups and a stack of white towels and two folding chairs.
Unasked, Rita moved into a stretching routine to limber up. She may not have been a fighter, but she was an athlete, so she knew the basics of self-care and wasn't going to approach this incautiously. While doing so, she was quiet, withdrawing a bit without even realizing it as she spent some time inside her own head, arguing with herself about what she was undertaking, because she really very much did not want to. But that hadn't stopped her countless times before on dozens of alien worlds and bizarre situations, and it wasn't going to stop her now.
As Dox began stretching herself, she couldn't help but notice the silence in the room. From the usually gregarious Rita Paris, it was deafening. Dox might not have known exactly what was wrong, but she knew enough about Rita to know something was wrong that Rita wasn't saying. Breaking the silence, Dox began to speak as she stepped into the center of the room.
"So, you were there when I gave the silly speech to the security team about Llaekh-ae'rl. That was the level best I could think of to try and be... Inspirational. It's not my strong suit, to be sure. That was the spiel, this is the reality."
"My mother started teaching me this... as early as she started teaching me anything. I was studying Llaekh-ae'rl before I ever sat in a pilots chair." Now Dox was beginning to show her own nerves. "She knew that if one of our... clients... got onto our smuggling ship... that there were plenty of them that wouldn't have hesitated to have their way with a little girl. So... she... she taught me how to kill them if I had to. And eventually she taught me enough so that I wouldn't have to."
It wasn't exactly a rousing speech, set to inspire, but it was honest and frank. Llaekh-ae'rl was an ugly thing, after all. "She believed in teaching by doing. She showed me each technique by... using it on me first. Never with enough force to cause any damage. But with enough intention to instill that fear in me of it."
Shifting her tone a little, Dox tried to force a half smile. "Obviously, not what I want to go for here. Here I want to focus on defense. I want to focus on showing you what you can do to disable someone if you have to. Get them away from you because ultimately a phaser on stun is a much nicer way to deal with a threat."
Gesturing for Rita to come over to where she was, Dox put her hands at her side. "But first I need to see what you know. I'm not going to do anything but evade at this point... but... hit me. Imagine I'm a threat that needs to be stopped and there's no phaser."
The brows on the face of the pretty pilot furrowed, then she slid into a combat pose with a nod- the very standard 'horse' stance taught in Starfleet Academy judo. Taking an experimental swing with a knife hand, it was textbook judo. As Dox sidestepped it slightly, Rita's weight shifted, and she brought up a snap kick, using her longer legs and greater height to her advantage to drive the smaller woman back, save that she was too slow on the recoil, and it would have been easy to capture her leg or take a quick punch to her groin. Spinning around to try to land a backfist, it was far too clearly telegraphed, and Mnhei'sahe caught the arm easily, which led to Rita shifting her weight to try to flip her opponent, again, in classic Starfleet judo style.
The normally congenial commander still hadn't said a word, which was certainly a very clear sign to her opponent.
As Rita attempted to pull Dox into a flip, Dox shifted her own weight back and down, making it harder for the much taller woman to get the necessary leverage to maneuver the much heavier Lieutenant into a flip. Instead, it left Rita off balance.
"You're nervous," Dox said somewhat flatly.
Stepping back into a basic ready stance, Dox put her hands behind her back to indicate that they were pausing and Rita saw and acknowledged. "You know the moves mechanically, but you're still consciously thinking about them. That's something that time and practice will take care of as with any skill. Federation Common is my second language, but I've spoken it enough that I don't need to think about it to conjugate a verb anymore. Fighting is also a language. Everything we do is a language."
Pausing for a second, Dox knitted her eyebrows as she thought before continuing. "My onboarding. You got me to walk around a deck that I had memorized the layout of and still made me not think about what you were doing. You knew every time I wasn't being completely open or straightforward. You knew when I wasn't telling you something. You still do. How do you do that?"
“I just… do. I read your body language and I remember how it felt when I was in your shoes. What’s that got to do with this?” The answer was a bit hurried, not entirely correct, and delivered with far less patience than normal.
Nodding, Dox replied somewhat flatly. "When you took your stance, you placed your weight on one leg. That told me what hand to expect. What leg had to be used. When you swing, you rebalanced. Shifted your shoulders first. Flexed one hand and not the other. Your eyes moved to what you we're aiming for. It's the same thing."
Keeping her tone equal and as neutral as possible, Dox didn't want to feed Rita's frustrations. At least not yet. "That's just the language I understand. I leaned how to avoid a punch by being punched. A lot. So I know how it felt when I was in your shoes here. And that's really all it is to it at it's core."
"Do you remember the first lesson I told the security officers in that training session?" Dox asked, tilting her head.
"That the martial art you practice is called 'the laughing murder?" Rita responded incorrectly, and a bit snappish for her usual easygoing speech pattern. Plus she was missing the point, which was unlike her.
Noting Rita's growing frustration, Dox essentially ignored it and kept talking. "Well, that was the first thing I said, but the first lesson was 'always let your opponent move first.' That's how you get a read for them. See their strengths and weaknesses. I know you understand that core concept. You prompt your opponent to make a move. Make a mistake. Then work that mistake to your advantage."
Slightly unsure of herself, Dox pushed past her own anxiety. Rita was being defensive and, it seemed, actively trying to not answer correctly. So instead, she shifted focus for a moment to a different tactic. "But let's move on. Let's move on to defense, okay?"
The buxom bombardier nodded silently, a bit too quickly as she slid into a standard stance once more, pausing to wipe the sweat out of her eyes, despite the fact that she had yet to exert herself.
"What this is about is that I need to see how you read me in a combat scenario. So, take your position. I'm not going to be putting any power into anything here. It's all about reading my signals and my seeing what your defensive patterns are, okay?"
In response, Paris nodded quickly again, clearly anxious despite her trainer’s reassurances.
The younger lieutenant was speaking softly with a comforting voice. She wanted Rita to relax as much as possible, and not be afraid. Standing across from her, Rita assumed a defensive stance, planting one leg back and raising her guard. putting Her hands assumed the ‘knife hand’ style still taught at Starfleet Academy in the modern day up to block.
With that, Dox took a similar posture, bringing her hands up and standing in a more standard, Starfleet approved fighting stance as she threw her first swing. It was a wide, slightly slow left towards Rita's side that the Golden Commander easily blocked. The entire time, Dox kept her eyes locked on Rita's, which were watching the incoming blow, not her opponent.
Second by second, Dox continued. A wide kick, a broad right hook, all deftly defended. But as she moved, she began striking faster and tighter. Her swings becoming more straight thrusts as Rita had to pick up her own speed to compensate. And Rita was blocking each attack reasonably efficiently and gaining confidence. But with each new strike, Dox inched slightly forward, forcing Rita to step back slightly. The entire time, Dox watched Rita's eyes, her shoulders, her body language.
It was abundantly clear how uncomfortable sparring made the throwback officer, but she was still gamely rising to the challenge, fending off the slow and powerless blows with a minimum level of competency. To the well-trained combatant, it was abundantly clear that she had not been trained beyond the basics, and while she had natural athletic ability, it didn’t appear that she understood how to coordinate, use her balance well, control her breathing, and she was mopping sweat out of her eyes with a surprising frequency.
Finally, Dox shifted her tactic and brought her attack up to Rita's face and out of nowhere, the usually controlled and confident officer shut her eyes and flinched back slightly as she successfully blocked the hit.
Stepping back a step, Dox allowed Rita to re-orient herself and shake off the moment, as Rita blinked rapidly and shook her head. Observing closely, Dox knew what her next moves had to be. The redheaded Romulan’s eyes seemed to lose focus slightly as her arms fell to her side for a moment. Rita put her arms back up in a defensive stance. And as she did, Dox moved.
Much quicker now, the rotund pilot brought her arms up with a quickness Rita wasn't expecting. Instead of swinging, the blows were straight thrusts from Dox's core to Rita's midsection. The force was slightly greater but still light enough as Rita blocked each move successfully. A few thrusts and a kick kept pushing Rita slightly further back each time.
Finally, Dox slid slightly sideways and feigned with her right hand for a body strike before bringing her left into a sharp thrust aimed straight at her Commander’s face.
With her own defenses down for the feigned right, Rita panicked, wincing in anticipation of the hit Dox had already stopped inches away, and backpeddling before falling backward with a slight yelp. A higher pitched sound Dox recognized all too well was heard as Rita hit the mat behind her.
Stepping back and relaxing her posture, Dox's face showed her concern, not for her Commander, but the friend she thought of as a sister. But she did her best to keep her tone as neutral as possible. "You're okay."
“I’m, I’m, I’m fine,” the conventionally confident commander stammered, her breathing much too rapid for the level of exertion, and there was a tremor in her hands that was usually reserved for getting too close to a transporter. It was abundantly clear to the rotund redhead that fight or flight was in full force inside the buxom blonde, and that she was engaged in a considerable struggle to remain in the fight, or even in the room.
But Dox began to understand what happened as she looked down at her frustrated, angry First Officer. "The Commander?" Dox asked, knowing full well that her title was a harsh reminder of her own Father and his harsh style of so-called parenting. "He used to hit you, didn't he?"
It wasn't a question, but a statement.
Those bright blue eyes looked up immediately, wide with alarm, then her gaze fell to the deck. With a rather pronounced sigh, Rita Paris paused for a very long few seconds, then nodded, shamed by her admission as she could not make eye contact.
The friend, Mnhei'sahe Dox, desperately wanted to sit down on the mat next to Rita and hug her. But in her heart, she knew that it would only delay what was really needed. What Rita was really asking for help with, she probably didn't know she needed, herself. So instead of sitting next to Rita, Dox stepped over and held out her hand to help her First Officer up as she spoke softly. "I know the sound. I know that reaction. It was... different for me. But just as familiar."
Waiting for Rita to take her hand, Dox's tone got slightly more firm. "Look at me, Commander. There's no shame here. Never with me. I've watched you face down reanimated corpses and immortal Valkyrie without breaking a sweat. I've watched you give orders to GODS and have them obey. But this is an enemy you can't face directly. An enemy long gone that lives forever in your head. And the blunt reality is that he's always going to live there. And right now, he's winning. But he doesn't have to keep winning. He's only as powerful as you allow him to be. So let's get up and do this again."
The stout Romulan was trying her level best to be what Rita had been so many times for her and had no idea what she was doing. But she knew Rita had to get up and keep at it. And she would be there to help her as many times as it took, with her hand still out.
Brows furrowed, face flushed, Rita Paris took the offered hand and rose from the mat again. Trying to shake it off, she slid back into a combat stance once more, and brought both her guard and her eyes up with no small effort to face her friend, whom she had asked for help. Always a terrible liar, it was clear from her expression that she was fighting back tears, but she was forcing herself to continue. Nodding silently, she pressed on to continue with the training.
It was all the vintage Starfleet officer could do not to put up her hands and try reason.
Allowing herself a slight smile, Dox stood plainly now, arms loose at her side as she spoke. "Now, it's no longer I attack and you defend or vice versa. You've seen my attacks, I've seen yours. We've seen each other's defenses. Now we're going to put that all into practice. Now we're going to TRY to hit each other, Commander. Hopefully without any Court Martials."
It was a light joke to remind them both that they were among friends, ultimately. "Some basic tips. Don't look at my eyes exclusively. Posturing, macho idiots tell you to watch the eyes to see when an opponent is going to move. Remember what I told you to watch for. Everyone telegraphs their moves in some way. It's all in the hips and the shoulders. Watch for feints. I will try and misdirect you. Misdirect me right back. And don't be afraid to make contact. Asa's a tremendous Doctor that's fixed my broken nose twice. And just so you know, it's been broken seventeen times in my life, now. It will be again."
Chuckling slightly, Dox added another joke to hopefully lighten the tone for a moment. "The last time was just me falling out of bed and landing on my face. Not the most impressive of battle stories." Then she reset the mood to its appropriate one.
"I'll break my first rule. Be ready." Then Dox stretched her neck and shook out her hands and without hesitation began to strike, throwing a wide punch at first, purposefully leaving her side open.
Rattled, Rita retreated from the wide punch, then spun around to launch a side kick, using her reach to try to land a blow. It was clear that she was off-balance, as the pit of fear in her stomach refused to quell, despite her forcibly overriding it to stay in the fight. A few punches were easily blocked, even as she worked to keep her defenses up and go with the flow. Intellectually she knew Dox would not hurt her, despite the shorter woman’s greater density and proficiency.
However, that did nothing for the fear that continued to hound her. Which was keeping her in the fight, but her strikes lacked power, and if anything now she was flinching that much more in anticipation of blows, and giving ground that much faster until she finally felt the bulkhead behind her. With a grunt she launched herself forward to go on the offensive, only to overreach and end up sprawling face-first on the mat.
With a growl of frustration, she levered herself back up onto her feet again, mopping perspiration off her face before settling back into a ready stance again, her trailing hand trembling slightly.
Watching, Dox was becoming frustrated and didn't want to push Rita further- but she knew she might not have a choice. Breaking her own advice, she looked Rita in the eyes and began stepping up to her as she spoke. "For all the people you lost, you continue to give HIM power?"
With a pit in her stomach threatening to burst, Dox brought her right arm up to draw Rita's defenses up while her left hand whipped in and laid a solid slap across her face.
Eyes closed, Paris brought a hand up to her cheek, the slap having clearly startled her as her guard completely dropped as she clutched her cheek. Blinking back tears, Paris brought her guard up again, shakier than before, arms close to her body, weight no longer balanced evenly between her legs.
The silence filled the space as Dox pushed down a desire to break out in tears. But she didn't let up.
Stepping forward again, Dox's voice was raised. "He's gone. He never even EXISTED and you're letting him control you!" Again, a quick feint and another loud smack.
“Stuh-stop it,” Paris only managed a whisper, but it was still audible in the room with only the two of them present. Breath coming in short gasps, face contorted in a grimace, she forced herself back into the fray launching a kick to try to drive her attacker back.
"HE IS NOT COMMANDER PARIS! YOU ARE COMMANDER PARIS!!" Dox could read the rage on Rita's face building to a fever pitch, and this time she pulled back for a wide slap, mimicking what she assumed was Rita's father's posture, leaving herself wide open for what Rita needed to do.
Which was apparently cover her face and head with her arms and stumble back a step, only to collapse on the floor, hands and arms wrapped protectively over her head in a fetal posture that was unmistakable as she began to sob. "Sorry... I'm sorry... I just... please stop, I'm sorry..."
"Askain FENNA!" Dox chastised herself in Rihan as the pit in her own stomach exploded and tears burst out. Terrified to make the situation any worse, she kneelt down on the mat in front of Rita, hesitantly reaching forward before snatching her hand back.
In her attempt to help, she had just physically abused her friend and didn't know what to do. She had reinforced Rita's fears instead of helping her release them. "Oh, Rita. I'm... I'm... I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't... I don't..."
Dox was rambling, trying to keep herself from falling apart worse. "You came to me for help and I... I thought if I could..." She wanted to reach out and pull Rita into her arms and hold her and assure her it was going to be okay, but didn't want to risk causing her to slip further back by touching her again. Instead, twitching, Dox bit down hard into her own wrist, coming just shy of breaking the skin.
"I thought if I could... could make you face it... take it out on me... it might help. Give you something to vent on... but you have NOTHING to be sorry for. NOTHING." Dox emphasized but didn't raise her voice any higher than a soft whisper. "You didn't do anything to be sorry about."
It took a moment for Rita Paris to compose herself again, and when she did, she could not make eye contact. Sitting up, she mopped at her face with her open palms and tried to force her ragged breathing to stabilize. Knees up around her chest, she wrapped her arms around her legs and rocked a bit, trying to calm herself. “I’m… I’m sorry, Mnhei’sahe. I asked for your help and I’m… uh, not a very good student, I’m afraid.”
“Some Commander, huh? One rap in the mouth and I fall apart,” she tried to chuckle, but despite her best efforts started crying again, gently bomping her head against her knees. “Still just a stupid little girl…”
Feeling a little less worried about provoking a negative reaction now, Dox sat down and scooched over to next to Rita. "I'm sorry. I... did what I thought would help based on me. But I've run on anger my whole life. It's how I frame everything up until now. But that's not you. But you're not a stupid little girl. You're a woman who was broken as a girl then over and over again and some of those pieces are still jagged."
When the old school officer spoke, her voice was quiet. “I’m sorry… I guess I should have been a little more up front with you. I’m… I’ve never been a good fighter, and I thought maybe… but I should have told you I just… I didn’t think I’d get so worked up, but once you…" she interrupted her confession to cup her cheek, chich was still bright red and stung fiercely.
“I remember… it was the day of my mom’s funeral. We went to the funeral, and I cried a lot, which irritated Daddy. I was upset because he wouldn't hold me or hold my hand, because he was holding Albert and I was too big for that now. When we got home, I went into my parent’s room and pulled on my mother’s favorite sweater. I just... I missed her, you know? I was six and she was gone.” Rita looked up to finally make eye contact again, although she was still hugging her knees, minimizing the space she took up like a child hiding in a cupboard. “Then Daddy came in and found me, and he was just so angry. It took him three steps to cross the room, then he yanked me up by the arm and he…”
Gulping, her lip quivering, Rita blinked back tears at the memory. “He... he slapped me, in the face. Hard. So hard. Hard enough that I saw stars, I still remember it so clearly. Then he yelled at me, and he roared about how dare I come into his quarters and touch his things, and I tried to explain, but he didn’t want to hear it. He didn't care, he just kept hitting me all over, then he sent me to my room.”
“That was the first time, but as you might guess, it, ah, definitely wasn’t the last. He’d always start with a slap to the face… sometimes that led to the rest of the beating. Sometimes it was only a slap in the mouth, just to ‘put me in my place’ and ‘teach me some respect’. And now… I mean, I’m not a coward, I’m not, it’s just…” Rita trailed off, self-conscious and awkward. “Some golden age hero, huh?”
"I have seen first hand multiple times just how not a coward you are, Rita. But you're right. You're not a 'golden age hero'," Dox replied, starting to regain some of your composure. "Because that's not a real thing. That's an invention of other people you are under no obligation to try and live up to. What you are is the best damn Commander in the fleet by a wide margin. A big part of why is because you are nothing like him. And you're nothing like me. You run on compassion and hope. You lift up this universe and force it to be better with your actions. You're a Starfleet hero, the real deal."
Taking a chance, Dox put her hand on Rita's as she clutched her knees hoping contact wouldn't make it worse. "But what I said wasn't wrong. You're letting him live in your head and he has no right to be there. He's not Commander Paris. YOU are."
A sad smile spread across the face of the beleaguered beauty, and she unfolded herself to latch onto the stout sailor of the stars, to enfold her into a mildly smothering hug. There were still a few minutes of sniffles, but slowly Rita composed herself. “Sorry, Dox. I honestly didn’t think I’d fall apart like this… I should have been more honest with you, and I’m sorry for that. And you’re right, he’s not even a ghost, and... I should be better than this. I need to be.”
Returning the hug, which squeezed out a few more tears from Dox, she responded with a treble in her voice. "You will be. It's just something that will come with time. But you know you've got support. I'll always do what I can for you, and it will usually be much less violent."
Chuckling awkwardly, she continued. "And honestly, I think you should talk to Asa about this all too. They've really helped me with a lot since they took up the counseling gig. I don't think I would have been ready to even try to be with Mona otherwise. They might be an even better counselor then they are a doctor."
"As far as falling apart, an extremely wise woman once told me something about that. I think now she'd say something about how we fall apart so we can learn to put ourselves back together. And when we can't carry all the pieces ourselves, that's why we have friends to help us carry the load." Dox Leaned her head against Rita's. "I bet she'd say something like that."
'Your friend would say that, would she?"
"I suspect she would."
"Your friend thinks she should fight holographic opponents, and have you coach her so you aren't hitting her, because that was a terrible idea she had," Rita admitted, seeing the real flaw in her plan. Asking a loved one to hit you was not the best idea for an abused child. But now the lesson was learned, so she'd do better. "What do you say? I think we still have twenty minutes or so with the room. Want to show me what I'm doing wrong?"
A bit more of the usual Rita was there, as burning cheeks and all, she was still determined to improve herself.
"Like I said, she's an extremely wise woman." Dox replied with a smile as she thought about it for a second. With an exaggerated grunt, the rotund Romulan pushed herself up and back to her feet then turned around to stand in front of Rita as she raised her head to speak to the room.
"Computer, please initiate Dox sparring partner program and add to the existing environment. Level one." With a chirp, in the center of the room appeared a two meter tall teal blue figure of a humanoid that appeared to be made of rubber with the loose features of a face barely visible. It was a holographic, walking recreation of Dox's now discarded practice dummy.
Turning to glance at the stoic hologram as it stood there, Dox smiled with a quickly half grin. "I kinda missed him. He was the perfect man. He shut up and let me vent. But with the safety protocols, now I can't hurt myself on him anymore."
Turning back, Mnhei'sahe looked down at her friend and Commander, and as before, she held out her hand to help her back to her feet. With her quirky half grin still in place, she spoke in a determined voice.
"Let's be better."
Taking the offered hand with a genuine smile, the very traditional and somewhat unbelievable Starfleet career gal took the hand of her friend and fellow explorer. Because that's what they did- help one another up.
"Indeed, Miss Dox. Let's be better."