|USF Personal Log|
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Over the next few weeks, T'pala noticed Masterson's absence. First, she noticed he wasn't participating in the pair of classes they shared. Then, she noticed he had stopped working out. A quick perusal of the replicator logs indicated he wasn't attending communal meals, either. She took it upon herself to visit his quarters after class one day.
She pressed the chime button and waited for an answer. Unexpectedly, Masterson answered the door. He had the same haggard look as the last time she'd seen him. He looked her up and down and then invited her into the room with a sweeping gesture. T'Pala entered and waited for Masterson to lead further into the room's sitting area. She noticed that he was wearing a PT uniform and her more sensitive olfactory detected that he had showered that morning.
"What can I do for you," Masterson asked, waving T'Pala into a chair as he seated himself on the couch.
"I noticed that you hadn't been in class and had, for all intents and purposes, withdrawn from the student body. I was…concerned," she explained. Noah noticed that her intonation at the end of the statement made it sound like a question.
"Can I offer you a beverage, T'Pala," Noah asked, rising from the couch and starting toward the replicator.
"Perhaps a mineral water," T'Pala responded.
Noah ordered two mineral waters and returned to the couch. He set hers on the low table between them.
"Technically, I'm on a Psychiatric evaluation period. The cadre has been very…liberal in how that evaluation order has been interpreted," Noah explained.
For her part, T'Pala merely nodded her understanding and sipped the mineral water.
"Additionally, I requested some time away from the student body because of…" he trailed off, his voice breaking.
"I understand that Eris's parents are going to be coming this week to collect her personal belongings," T'Pala said.
Noah didn't respond but simply looked into the glass he was holding, swallowed hard and nodded.
"If you would like, I could meet with them. It would be appropriate since I was the mission commander," T'Pala reasoned. Noah shook his head, took a sip of water and explained.
"I have to meet with them. They were aware of our relationship and knew that we were planning on getting married after graduation," Noah explained.
"That and I have some of…Eris's…things," he said, barely holding back the tears.
After an awkward moment as Noah gained control of himself, he continued on.
"It would be appropriate that you be there and I think Eris's parents would appreciate the gesture as you were her last commanding officer," Noah offered.
"I will, of course, follow your recommendations. I know very little pertaining to Andorian cultural practices," T'Pala said.
"If I may be candid for a moment…" T'Pala asked after several moments of silence.
Noah sipped his water and then gestured for her to go on.
"There are mind-meld techniques available that would help you to…process, if that's the right word, this experience more efficiently…if you wish," T'Pala explained.
Noah smiled a thin, lopsided grin.
I'll be damned, he thought. She actually cares about me.
"I appreciate the offer, T'Pala. I really do. But, as a human, how I process this guilt and grief will define me for the rest of my life…and the only way that I can do that is by accepting and acknowledging those feelings. Once I do that, I can begin to put to rest those internal, self-accusations that cause those feelings," Noah explained.
T'Pala sat quietly for a moment and absorbed this information. Finally, she spoke.
"I do not understand your emotions but your plan to deal with them seems to be well thought out and has its own type of logic to it. I wish you well and offer my help when ever you may need it."
At that, she rose from the chair, placed the half full glass on the table and turned to leave. She stopped at the door and turned back to Noah, who had followed to see her out.
"I will notify you when Eris's parents arrive on campus. You have my most sincere condolences, Noah. Eris was a gifted student and her loss will be known for some time to come," she said before leaving.
Noah was left there at the doorway, surprised by the candor and warmth of the Vulcan's words.