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  Lt. j.g. N'Tazzia & Commander Stacey Harris, SD
Persistence Pays Off

Persistence Pays Off
Joint Duty Log: Cmdr. Stacey Bones Harris, CMO and Counselor N'Tazzia

(This takes place directly after the Excelsior sim of Stardate 201001.17)

After holding her breath, and her tongue, for most of the turbolift ride and walk to McMillian’s quarters, when the door closed and N’Tazzia heard the locking mechanism seal the room, she let out a loud sigh and leaned her head against the door to McMillian’s quarters.

Oh Peter, how am I going to help you…

She was conflicted. In the absence of any medical reason for him to remain off duty, it had been up to her to use her skills to judge his condition based on what he told her. She had been as honest and objective in her assessment of his condition as she could be. And while she knew he’d probably still have difficulty, she hadn’t anticipated how hard being back on the bridge would be for him.

He’s a complex case and I have to face the fact that I don’t have all the answers. N’Tazzia straightened up and began heading to her office. I’ll start searching through the Medical section of LCARS to see if there are any similar cases. It’s a real longshot but I might come across one that can help me get a better handle on how to deal with McMillian. The scope of the task ahead weighed on her heavily. I’ve got his career in my hands, I owe him my best effort.

Wait a minute! She thought excitedly. There may be a better way! As Dr. Harris had pointed out just a couple of hours ago, I’m no longer alone — I’m part of the crew. Why don’t I just go to Bones and ask her for help? At the very least I can request that she review Peter’s medical records and in case they contain something that was overlooked. N’Tazzia changed course and had started heading for sickbay when she remembered that Dr. Harris was off-shift. Instead, she consulted the computer and went to Dr. Harris’ quarters. An odd feeling of deja-vu rippled through N’Tazzia as she activated the chime, but she shrugged it off.

When no sound came from within after a minute, she chimed again, finally she heard a slightly slurred, “whoizit??” Taz closed her eyes, she didn’t like the sound of that and had a bad feeling. “It’s Taz. Can I come in? I want to talk to you about McMillian.” There was silence again, it seemed like at least a minute before another reply came from within the doctor’s quarters, “M’off duty.”

N’Tazzia wasn’t sure what to do. Should she respect the doctor’s privacy? After all, Bones WAS off-duty; But she had really wanted to discuss McMillian, and if her suspicions proved to be accurate, she probably should put a stop to what was going on in there.

She suddenly got an idea, “Come on, let me in…I just want to have a friendly chat…I brought…brandy.”

That did it, the door opened and Bones was standing there, “…good, cause I’m almost out…hey, wait a minute, you don’t have any…”

Taking advantage of the doctor’s slow reaction time, N’Tazzia slipped in before she could stop her.

Bones let the door close and headed back into the main living area, where N’Tazzia was standing. The doctor shrugged, “Well?”

N’Tazzia shrugged back, “I could ask you the same thing. I just came here because of McMillian —to ask you to review his medical record for me and, and for your advice on how to handle the situation. …but at this point, it doesn’t look like you’re in any condition to help,” she frowned.

Bones sloppily folded her arms and retorted, “Well don’t look so damn disapproving, I told you I’m off duty. What I choose to do in my time off…”

“You won’t get any argument from me there.” N’Tazzia nodded in agreement, “you’re right, it’s your own business…I know you are worried about your friend,” N’Tazzia frowned, What was her name?, then she remembered “…Jen, but you said yourself they expect her to be fine,” N’Tazzia held up her hands to stall a forthcoming protest, “…and I know you are angry about what happened with the patients being sent away, and you have every right to be…”

The tone the counselor was using seemed to be working — the doctor just stood there quietly listening, so she continued, “…and I know I’m just a rookie, but one could argue that as Chief Medical Officer you should never be that far off-duty. And allow me to suggest that in light of recent events, and by that I mean events that happened a couple of months ago prior to us all coming aboard…that maybe, just maybe, other people might not be quite so understanding, so you may want to consider a little restraint and not start drinking again?”

The counselor’s words had been delivered calmly. Her wordy, but friendly and understanding tone seemed to have the desired effect as the doctor did not immediately start yelling.

In fact, Bones continued to stare at her, letting Taz’s words sink in, then she chuckled a bit self-consciously and tossed her glass into the recycler and said, “My dear, starting drinking has never been my problem…it’s stopping that I seem to find especially challenging.”

Whoa. The doctor’s admission came as a total surprise. Taz sat on the sofa.

“And when you do stop, How do you feel? Does the reason you started to drink make any more sense or hurt less?” N’Tazzia asked without any trace of disapproval or judgment in her voice.

Bones plopped down next to Taz and briefly put her hand on the counselor’s knee. “Of course it does.” she slurred. “I feel much better.” Bones winked at her. “I’m not that drunk Taz I know what you’re trying to do.”

“Well then you had better explain it to me, because I’m not sure what I’m doing.” N’Tazzia laughed nervously " But seriously, be honest with me Stacey," If the doctor could put her hand on N’Tazzia’s knee, even if briefly, then N’Tazzia felt that calling Bones by her given name wasn’t being too familiar. “What benefit do you get from being intoxicated?”

The doctor cocked her head to the side, not sure what to make of Taz’s question…or was it something else? Yes. The counselor definitely reminded her of Rae…the way she talked, the way she mother-henned, the way she said her name. Bones all of a sudden found herself wishing she didn’t just throw her glass in the recycler as a wave of painful memories just resurfaced. All at once thinking of Rae and Prae and how much she missed them, thinking of the son she might never know, thinking of Pres and how she treated him, of almost not making it back onto the ship, of Jen…all this gave her renewed reason to drink. Reasons this…kid could not possibly understand. Bones looked up and Taz was still watching, waiting expectantly. Bones stood and decided to answer her question with another question, “Just how old are you anyway, kid?”

That shouldn’t be such a hard question to answer. N’Tazzia thought. I have no idea how she’ll react to learning my age, but allowing the doctor to persist in her belief that I’m ‘just a kid’ isn’t fair.

“I’ll be celebrating my 29th natal day this year.”

“Oh….” Bones was taken aback. She’d assumed all along that because Taz had only recently graduated Starfleet Academy and was admittedly new to being a Counselor, that she was…much younger, when in fact there wasn’t much difference in their ages at all. “I thought you were…”

Taz stopped her by putting her own hand over Bones for a second and smiling. “You really don’t need to explain or apologize because my age really isn’t the relevant factor here is it? You’re really wondering how I can possibly understand anything at all about you when I haven’t gone through the things you have. I’ll tell you a little secret that counselors don’t usually share. A good bit of what I do isn’t based on getting me to understand you. It’s all about getting you to understand yourself.”

Bones sighed and walked over to her little kitchen area to get some water. Just doing something physical made talking easier. “I’ll tell you everything as long as it stays between us, doctor/patient confidentiality eh?” She looked over and saw Taz nod in agreement.

“It’s weird for me to be on the patient side of that. Also, if V or Pres finds out I fell off the wagon, they will have my head. Ok, here it is in a nut-shell, " she said from the kitchen while putzing around in there doing non-important stuff like cleaning and moving things around, “I don’t like shrinks, I don’t like heights, I don’t like having my atoms scrambled in those unholy devices they call transporters, I don't like that blasted Commodore Vick, I'm not that fond of water to tell you the truth, so I obviously have issues…but I do like the occasional drink. It just somehow makes all that unlikeable stuff…like stress and grief a bit easier to deal with at the time. That’s it, nothing deeper than that.”

The doctor took a deep breath and looked over to the counselor, who was listening intently, and she continued, “however, having said that, I’m not happy with myself because of the couple of times it may have affected my work. So….that won’t happen again.”

The doctor went over to the replicator and got some coffee for herself and an herbal tea for Taz, “So, I’m not gonna be doing a heart transplant or wielding a laser scalpel tonight, but we can certainly talk. What’s what with McMillian?”

Somehow the doctor had managed to squeeze a lot of personal insight into that one long sentence, but N’Tazzia knew that saying the words and recognizing a problem was only the first step to conquering the issue. She wanted to spend more time working on a resolution but knowing Bones as she was coming to know her made the Counselor realize that pressing on and trying to force matters could be extremely counterproductive. That, and I don’t want to damage the beginnings of our friendship by being too officious. Still, she knew that if she were forced to choose which was more important — being Dr. Harris’ friend or her counselor, she would unhesitatingly say counselor. And only in part because I’m even less experienced at being a friend than I am at being a therapist.

“He had another…relapse…on the bridge a little while ago. He was seeing things that weren’t there and hearing things no one else heard. I was hoping you could look over his medical records to see if there’s something in them that we didn't see.” She handed Bones the PADD she’d been carrying.

Bones looked concerned. “Man, poor fella.” She took the PADD and began scrolling through the contents. “Was this incident the same as the last time with the extreme paranoia?” she asked wondering if it was a relapse or something different.

“No, actually…he seemed oddly calm, just insistent about what he was experiencing.” N’Tazzia hadn’t really thought of that before.

Bones took her time reading through the file, mumbling to herself and nodding occasionally.

“You’re a psychologist, not a psychiatrist......” Bones said looking at Taz with the beginnings of a smile on her face.

“Yes…” She wondered where Bones was going with this train of thought.

“.....meaning you listen, but you don’t dole out pills, and you don’t study brain chemistry…”

“Right.” Taz agreed feeling confused.

“…That would make it almost impossible for you to pick up on this.” Bones said as she waved the PADD around then noticed the look of dismay on Taz’s face. “Hey, I almost missed it myself. Starfleet Medical missed it and you and my staff were only working off the most recent data we had on file for Mr. McMillian….basing your judgments on that information; but looking back at the bigger clinical picture, there’s something unusual about our patient.”

She turned the PADD so Taz could read it. “Look at the levels of corticosterones and cortisol here. This is probably what predisposed him to the influence of those cubes in the first place. Hell, it might have predisposed him to the tumor that nearly killed him! I bet if he had ever had any tests that could have detected this before, we would see a pattern going back a long way. Hell, he was probably born with this chemical imbalance.”

Bones pushed the PADD back to Taz and continued, “Luckily for Mr. McMillian, we can help him get those levels regulated with a regimen of medication.” She looked at Taz. “I said help not cure because a part of the treatment involves helping the patient regulate his own levels. That’s where you come in. First off, you’re going to need to help him relax, to stop being so serious all the time…the more stressed out he is, the more the levels will spike, and the more trouble he’s going to have.”

N’Tazzia felt truly relieved. She had an answer and the beginnings of a plan to help Peter at last.

“You...are...amazing.” Taz looked at Bones almost reverently.

Bones shrugged nonchalantly, secretly pleased with herself too but not about to let Taz know that.

The counselor smirked. “I’m so glad I came to see you. I was about to give up on him, thinking he was just….”

“A loon? Well now, that’s not a very nice thing for a counselor to think is it? Hey, I’m kidding!” She punched Taz in the arm and chuckled before the Counselor took her seriously. “He does seem more than a little impetuous and outspoken. But then again, some of the best officers in Starfleet have been both!” She grinned and sat back down, leaning back on the couch as if to say ‘My work here is done’. After a minute, she continued, “The real test is going to be learning to use those traits to his advantage and not get himself court-martialed in the process.” She snorted derisively. “Anything else I can do for you tonight Taz?”

N’Tazzia considered the situation before she replied. “Yes, there is one thing. I heard you say that you tend to drink when life throws a lot of crap your way….as a way to make it less unbearable.”

Bones rolled her eyes. She thought she’d managed to dodge that bullet. Damn she’s persistent.

“Yeah…I said that.”

“I’d like you to consider this. Next time you feel like your emotional load is getting too heavy, give me a call — NOT as the ship’s counselor but as a friend. We can sit down, have a drink or two if you like and bitch about how unfair the universe is until all hours of the night if need be. I’ll still keep whatever happens between the two of us and you’ll have the satisfaction of both enjoying your brandy and bringing life back into perspective.” She stopped and waited for Bones to answer.

The doctor smiled, stretched out and closed her eyes before she answered, “Yeah, sure, kid.” She quickly changed the subject away from her own mental state. “I’m guessing your next stop is Mr. McMillian. After your finished with your mental voodoo, make sure you send him by sickbay so he can get started on that treatment. I’ll let Nurse T’Zel know what he needs.”

N’Tazzia nodded. She really was glad she had reached out to Bones. It felt good, she thought to herself for a minute, then she said as she turned to the doctor once again, “I should get going; you have no idea how much I apprec…” but Bones was fast asleep. Taz let herself feel a tiny bit of envy at how easily she could do that. Then she got up, picked up a blanket that had been draped over the back of the sofa and laid it over Bones. She’d come for advice and had gotten an answer, actually, she’d gotten way more than one answer…

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