Location: Counselor's Office
Chance stood outside the Counselor's office. He looked around, what was once a nervous tick that he'd be seen was now just a bit of muscle memory. He should be just in time, he thought as he pressed the chime.
Millie glanced over at the chronometer. At least one of the Crow family was consistent in keeping their appointment times, she thought with an inner-smirk. It was, however, slightly unusual for Chance to request the appointment himself. "Enter."
When the door opened for him, he entered a few steps in before seeing Millie with her usual comforts. "Hello."
She gave a gentle smile as she came around her desk. "Good to see you, Mr. Crow. Please, sit. How are you doing?"
He came around the couch and did as she requested. "I'm alright. How are you?"
"I am doing well." She tucked one leg under herself as usual. "What is on your mind today, Chance?"
"I'm worried about Trisha, I mean, not horribly, but she has been acting a bit strange lately. If I had to guess, it seems like she's getting stir crazy."
Millie nodded. "What do you mean by 'strange'?"
"I dunno," he answered, looking past her for a way to articulate his answer. "She paces a lot. I find her staring out the windows--I know that doesn't seem strange on the outside, but she never used to do that. It's like she's looking over her shoulder." He paused a moment. "And there's one other thing, but I know it'll just sound like I'm paranoid, so I don't know if it's fair to voice it."
"This is a safe place to talk about your concerns, Chance. Would you like to talk about it?" Millie folded her hands in her lap.
He took a breath before speaking. "It's been a while since we've seen or heard from James. I've found lately that I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."
Millie's face softened. She hated that she couldn't tell him the truth, that she and James had come to an agreement. "Do you think, perhaps, that he's moved on and chosen to focus on someone or something else?"
He gave her a deadpan look. "You obviously don't know him..."
"I have met him, too, and I've read the file that we have, as well as what Patricia has told me." She leaned forward. "His focus has always been inconsistent, especially when it comes to women. It does not take much for him to shift to another relationship."
"He's one of those men who thinks of women as property. Of course it's easy for him to jump from one to another, but if she's his, she doesn't get the same luxury."
"But she's not his." Millie gave a reassuring smile. "She is yours, and you are hers." She reached out and put a reassuring hand on Chance's knee. "I'm am sure that if you haven't seen anything from James, he's found a fascination in someone else. We haven't seem him since Moscow, da?"
"Like I said, I know it sounds paranoid, and maybe is. But he's fallen back to regroup before, and to quit, cold turkey? Most people don't do that." He sat back contemplating the whole thing and shook his head. "Then again, he'd get pleasure enough from knowing I'm worried about it."
As Chance shifted back in his seat, Millie shifted back into hers. "It all comes down to control. By focusing on James and waiting for him to show up, you are giving him that control over your relationship with Trisha. If you allow him to still have that hold in your life and relationship, then he wins, da?"
"I get that," he replied. "I really do. But not considering the possibilities means he has the opportunity to catch us off-guard, surprise us, get the upper hand. It feels like a catch-22." As the possibilities swam around in his brain, it only became more frustrating. He wanted something to hit, but was left with nothing but a low growl.
Millie noted the clench in his fists, filing it away in her brain for future notes. "You have met this crew, da?" She folded her hands in her lap. "You have seen what they are capable of?"
He nodded and answered simply, "Yes."
"And if you, or your son, or Patricia, or any member of your family were in danger, do you have any doubt that this ship would just ignore every command from Starfleet and ensure your family's safety?"
He leaned forward, running his hands through his hair. "No, none," he said with conviction. "Still, given his...our past, I can't not worry at all. That's much easier said than done."
Millie nodded. "Patricia has told me about her interactions with him." And, she thought to herself, I've had a few of my own experiences. "But you've never told me what your experiences with James were."
He looked up at her, not even realizing that she wouldn't have known. A sardonic chuckle escaped him before answering. "Well, shall we start from the beginning? The first time I met him he was breaking in on mine and Trisha's first date. His timing has always been...impeccable." He gave her a look that said he never thought it was coincidence. "The most memorable, though, may be when he almost killed me...no, I take that back. He almost had me killed. The bastard couldn't even do it himself. If it hadn't been for Trisha, I wouldn't have gotten out of there." He paused a moment. "Of course, if it hadn't been for her, I wouldn't have been there in the first place." He grinned, recalling the episode of steeling over to James' ship to convince her to come back.
Millie saw that smile. "That. That right there, the thing that made you grin. Tell me what you were thinking in that moment."
Chance looked at her, amused that she was getting this out of him. "That was the first time I told her how I felt, in a round about way..." The look she was giving him told him she was going to tell him to elaborate if he didn't just do it himself. "Alright, from the beginning," he sighed. "James found the Merc, came on board and proposed to her, on the bridge. It was all so over the top, it was ridiculous! I had arrived just in time to see it--his timing, remember?--and he glances over at me with this knowing grin. And, Trisha, she was the only one who couldn't see it. So, after she left with him, I followed a bit later, trying to convince her to come back. It wasn't really working, but at some point, when she was claiming all the ways he showed he cared, I just blurted out, 'He doesn't love you, not like I do.'" He saw the scene clearly in his head still. "It didn't work...at least not right then."
Millie, by now, had tucked both of her legs up under her and was listening to him talk. Chance was right about James and his manipulation of timing. "What finally changed her mind?"
"I don't know exactly. She actually walked down the aisle, but stopped short of saying 'I do.'"
"Why do *you* think she stopped short?"
"Well, she came back up to the ship, to me, so she must have realized what I'd been saying."
"She loves you an awful lot, you know..." Millie coyly smirked, leaning one elbow on the arm of her chair.
Chance grinned out the side of his mouth. "Yeah, I know. I'm pretty crazy about her as well. I've always felt like we've had an opposites attract sorta thing going on, but it works."
Millie responded with a smile and a nod. "Are you familiar with the ancient Taoist beliefs of Yin and Yang? Darkness cannot exist without the light, and the light cannot exist without the darkness. They are bound to each other, balance each other. As it is with you and Patricia."
He nodded after considering her words. "I think if you'd have asked either of us four years ago if this is where we'd be, there would have been a lot of laughing. Probably a few eye rolls. But despite the differences, I think there's always been an attraction, at least for my part."
"Oh, trust me, we've seen what happens." Millie chuckled. "That mission where we were all stuck in that holographic classroom? We all saw what you two were like."
Chance sighed. "Exactly. And we kept bickering because she kept pestering me." He shook his head at the absurdity of that day. "But if there was nothing there, we probably wouldn't have talked at all."
Millie grinned. "I think the two of you have nothing to worry about. If James ever does decide to resurface, we will all be there to support you." She leaned forward, placing a hand on his arm. "Now, you just have the future to look forward to."
It was comforting to know they had support, and he hoped that would be enough. He stood up. "Thanks. Hopefully nothing worse than parent-teacher conferences." With a chuckle, he turned to leave.
Millie smiled, standing to see him to the door. As he left, she let out a deep sigh. It felt odd, keeping such a secret from people she felt were as close to family as friends could get. But that was exactly why she couldn't tell them.
For now, at least, James' focus was on her. And as long as she could keep it that way, Patricia and Chance were safe.
Lieutenant JG Chance Crow
Medical Officer, USS Mercutio
Lieutenant JG Aemilia "Millie" Stepanova
Chief Counselor, USS Mercutio