Summary: After Zaharis returns to the Genesis from detox, he, Reed, and Rhea have a very tough discussion about what to do next.
Date: 42 ACH
Related Logs: Hard Truth, Arrangements

Chief Medical Officers Office Genesis - Deck 13
42 ACH 6285 Souls

The office of the Chief Medical Officer is a small room, used mostly for consultations and review of sensitive patient materials than the paperwork of the Medical department, which goes through the Naval Administrative offices. Still somehow it has file cabinets along one wall stuffed full of papers, two chairs in front of a desk behind which a large leather chair is set. On the desk sits a computer terminal.
Sitting on the file cabinet is a Rod of Asclepius carved from two different types of wood. The rod is made from lighter wood, while the snake is darker. The eye of the snake is inlayed with tiny crystals so that it sparkles in the light. It stands on a smallish pedestal with a legend: Do no harm to thyself nor to others.

It's Zaharis' first time back in his office since he left, having skirted Sickbay to make his bag dropoff his first stop. He swipes his keycard and steps in, leaving the door open for Reed, and he pauses looking around the place. It hasn't been touched, of course, and its normal semi-chaos is totally gone from his days of putting everything compulsively in order down to the lined-up cups on the filing cabinet.

Reed comes into the office, looking around, and blinks, "Oh frakking hell. Is this going to happen a lot? Things I never got to notice before?" He says as he moves to a chair, to settle down, carefully.

Zaharis doesn't answer for a second, just looking at his immaculate office as it makes its impact on him. He finally pushes the door closed and heads for the cabinet, pulling down two of the cups. "Not your fault, Carter. You didn't know what to look for. Very few people really do."

Reed lets out a breath as he settles down, "Well, now I'm looking at it with that frakking lovely hindsight." He adjusts his seating and looks at Zaharis. "So, educate me."

Zaharis pulls his chair out from behind his desk, sitting down without the barrier of the heavy wood in front of him. He fills both cups with water, taking one and offering it over to Reed. "Let me backtrack a second, because I realised I was making an assumption when I talked to you the other day. Have you ever known an alcoholic or a drug addict? Before me. I mean, really known them, spent time around them."

Reed takes the water, considering it, then, "Let's just call it no and move on, alright? I've known a few people who have been through rehab for various things, but no in depth discussions about it."

"Alright." Zaharis clears his throat softly, sipping his water first. He tips the glass towards himself, looking at the ripples in the water while he talks. "People who've never been addicted to something often don't seem to realise the nature of things. They think that an addiction is something that can be treated and forgotten about, like an infection, and if someone relapses then that means they're just weak. But it's not. There's no such thing as an ex-alcoholic or an ex-junkie. An addict is an addict from the first day until they die. It's something you can't ever turn your back on, it's not something that goes away. You're never 'normal'. You're never someone that can have just that one drink or that one pill. And it's not about a part of yourself that's bad while the rest of you is good. It doesn't work that way."

Reed nods, listening attentively, processing the words as they come in. He doesn't interrupt, though, just taking it in as it comes.

"If I told you," Zaharis says, quietly. " — 'Don't touch that wall over there. If you touch that wall you'll deeply hurt Rhea and everyone you care about, you'll lose your job, you'll be court-martialed, and you might die.'. — Would you touch the wall?"

Reed nods, seeming to understand where this line of thinking might be going, "Rather bluntly no. I assume there's different rules for addicts."

"Course you wouldn't. You have no reason to, and everything about that wall is negative reinforcement. Why in Hades would you touch it?" Zaharis sips his water again, slowly. "A normal person has no answer for that last question. But an addict does." His jaw tenses slightly. "We don't touch the wall because we want to hurt anyone. Talk to someone in rehab who's lost their lives and their loves, and we're just as devastated as anyone else…even moreso because we do know it's our fault. But there is just…there is -something- that when you're in the grip of need and craving that overrides everything and compels you. Some…failsafe just doesn't go off like it does in you. And that's what we realise, people who are addicts and people who deal with addicts. That it's not about painting bad consequences like you do to a child, because if it were just that then there would be no more addicts. It's about finding that failsafe that doesn't click on, and diverting the path before you go over."

Reed nods, listening carefully, keeping his attention firmly fixed on what Zaharis is saying.

"So." Zaharis again sips his water, keeping his focus on the cup. "It's not…that we're evil. It's not that it's philosophical or that we don't know the difference between what's right and what's wrong. We do. And that's the hardest part, knowing full well that it's wrong and yet you just /can't/ stop. It's humiliating to be told 'well, that's bad and you shouldn't do it'. We know that already, we get it. We're not evil." He exhales in a quiet rush and clears his throat. "Ever sat and watched water go down a drain, in the sink?"

Reed nods, "All the time." He says, listening carefully.

"An alcoholic I was close to taught me about The Drain. That's what he used to call it." Zaharis gently starts moving the base of his cup in a circle, the water beginning to swirl. "Water heading down a drain is a certain way. Number one, it isolates itself. It doesn't flow towards anything or join with other water, or seek to nourish. It closes off and avoids anything but itself. Number two, it repeats itself. It sees the same things, the same problems, over and over again, thinking in a circle. Around and around. It's trapped, there's no way out. And as it goes further and further down, the walls of the sink look higher and higher until there's no point in thinking about them anymore. And number three, as it gets closer to the bottom it goes faster and faster. The drain is the only way out, the only thing that'll stop the swirling. It's the only thing you can see." He rubs the tip of his nose. "I've remembered that for a long time. It's the only image I've ever had that's ever stopped me in my tracks. Where I would have a brief moment of clarity and go 'Shit, I'm in the drain!' and get back out."

Reed nods, considering that imagery as he speaks, letting it sink in before he looks back to Zaharis, not interrupting.

Zaharis takes a breath. "When I started counseling people on Picon I learned to look for the drain in other people. Every addict does it in their own way, but those three things are always there when they're in danger of falling off. Sometimes I didn't catch it until they were already gone. Sometimes I saw it early. And with those rare couple people I found they would trust me even before it started, so they never even began circling at all. When you get close to an addict you start noticing that they have certain triggers. Certain things that, more than others, start everything swirling. Everyone's got them and everyone trips them sometimes. Recognising, acknowledging, defeating. That's what our lives are about." He pauses to sip the water, which has gone still now that he's stopped moving the cup.

Reed considers for a moment, letting the silence stretch out a moment, before, "Okay, so I have a couple questions." He says, waiting to see the reaction.

It takes a second for Zaharis to look up, but when he does it's with determination to keep speaking. "Sure."

Reed nods, "Okay, this time, this latest time, when did it start? All I can narrow it down to is, I left you in the Cafeteria, as normal as you get, and when I came out of my Coma, you'd been showing signs."

Zaharis' eyes flicker towards the wall as he remembers back. "The second day you were in a coma. I'd hurt my arm in the evac and they had me on painkillers. I wanted to think and I couldn't."

Reed nods, "The second day I was in a coma. So a little basic math tells me that this lapse spanned all of nine days?" He tilts his head, "Rhea's under the impression this was going on for weeks."

Zaharis smiles slighly. "She's wrong." He lifts his water for another sip. "Nine days doesn't sound like a lot. For a non-addict? Doubtful that would have caused a real problem. For me, though…it's different."

Reed nods, listening. "Things fall apart faster, I take it."

Zaharis nods, his head barely moving. "There's a difference between using a drug and needing it. Addiction happens when you cross the line. And an addict, well…sometimes it only takes once."

Reed nods, sitting back. "Okay, time to table the rest of the questions and move to the bonus round. We've come back to a full neat 360." He shrugs, looking at Zaharis, "Now what?"

Zaharis gives Reed a wry half-smile. "Now I keep myself out of the drain. Again." The final word brings something profoundly tired onto his face, that comes on and then fades away. "There are no magic bullets and no guarantees. But you understand better now. And I will try to trust you more."

Reed nods, thinking, "Do you have any plans in mind to deal with the damage?" He asks, watching Zaharis as carefully as before.

Zaharis sets his cup on his desk, refilling it with water. "The only thing I can do. Address it face to face."

Reed nods, setting his cup on the desk, "Okay, so let me tell you. It's a lot more clear now, how this works. There's few real hard and fast rules, but more like indicators. Few to no absolutes, and that's fine, or it would be if it weren't for one thing."

"What's that," Zaharis says, before sipping from his cup again.

Reed clucks his tongue a couple of times. "We're in the frakking military in high pressure positions of leadership, defending the last remnants of humanity from genocidal cybernetic lifeforms bent on erradicating us from all of existance." He looks at Zaharis, "Now, given that, and given the fact that only you and the gods know what laws you've broken over the last week and a half, and exactly how much your actions have harmed the department you're here to protect and keep together, you're officer enough to know precisely the position your actions have put not only me in, but Rhea as well. Adele hasn't taken any oath of service, but we have."

"I know that," Zaharis replies plainly, as he looks at Reed's face. "I've never said I was in the moral right. Nor have I asked you not to say anything to command or otherwise. I will never ask you to violate your oath on account of me. Especially now that in your eyes I'm probably more a liability than anything else. Whatever your and Rhea's choices are from here, I won't judge."

Reed chuckles, "Oh, no no, nonono." He shakes his head, "No. Sorry. You're not getting out of it that simply. You're not going to drop this on us and continue blithely along leaving your fate so neatly in our hands. Not after the fighting you've done so far. You're going to have to face a little more than that, and man up further." He takes his cane, and plants it, rising from the chair slowly, "But I'm not going to talk about Rhea anymore without her here." He grunts as he rises, and makes for the wireless.

Zaharis raises an eyebrow slightly. "'Drop it on you'?" A tinge of perceived insult is definitely in his voice. But he doesn't stop Reed, just standing up and pulling his chair behind the desk to its normal spot again.

Reed nods, "We'll have to look at it more carefully." He pulls the handset, flicks a few switches.

[Intercom] Attention! Pass the word, Major Zimmermann to the CMOs Office. Major Zimmermann, CMOs Office.

Rhea comes in from Sickbay.
Rhea has arrived.

Zaharis doesn't say anything more now. He picks up his neglected zippo and lights a cigarette in the newfound silence.

Reed flicks a button on the wireless, racking the handset and turns, using his cane to move back across to the chair he just left, and turning, levering himself back down with a grunt. "We'll see what her take on it is."

Rhea comes as paged. In stereo, as it was. Her presence is buzzed by a nurse before she comes knocking on the office door properly.

Zaharis' demeanor has shifted to much more reserved now that he's on trial. He presses the little button that signals to the nurse to go ahead and admit whoever it is.

Reed looks to the door as Rhea comes in. He gives her a smile, and gestures to the returned Zaharis, "Look who's back."

Rhea strides into the office, closing the door behind her with a 'click.' She nods to Reed, though she doesn't return his smile. Her focus goes to the CMO, looking him up and down. Concern evident. She relaxes a notch after studying him for a long moment. The cigarette makes her smile faintly. "Hey," she says. Then pauses. Not sure what should come after that. So she opts for a non-sequitur. "You wanna hear a joke?"

"Hey." Zaharis taps the cigarette into his long-too-clean ashtray, with a faint smile despite himself. His eyes are no longer overly-bright, lips not chapped from dehydration. Even his fingernails are starting to repair themselves. Now all he needs is the lost weight back. "Uh, sure."

Reed nods, "I would absolutely love to hear a joke right now, yes." He says with heartfelt sincerity.

Rhea clears her throat. "It's a doctor joke. You'll like it. Anyway. Here it goes. A doctor had just finished a marathon sex session with one of his patients. He was resting afterwards and was feeling a bit guilty because he thought it wasn't really ethical to screw one of his patients." Of course it's dirty. Rhea is the teller. "'However, a little voice in his head said "Lots of other doctors have sex with their patients so its not like you're the first…' This made the doctor feel a little bit better until still another voice in his head said…" She pauses, for dramatic punchline affect. "… but they probably weren't veterinarians."

Zaharis is in pain from that. No, seriously. His face scrunches up as he tries not to at least snort a laugh. "Oh gods, Rhea."

Reed smiles, lowering his head, and rubbing his forehead, he laughs, snorting, then winces, "Ow, frak. That was funny." He tries to limit himself to chuckling for the moment. belly laughs are bad right now.

Rhea snorts at the both of them. "I've been practicing. It was either that or the one about the gynecologist and the bearded Virgon." There. Ice broken through bestiality humor. So approaches Zaharis properly now. For hugging purposes. "C'mere you horse's ass."

"Such a wanker." Zaharis leaves the cigarette smouldering on the ashtray as he stands up to accept her hug, his arms under hers. Short as she is.

Reed smiles, watching them, resting his head on his hand, looking between them.

"Frakker," Rhea curses Zaharis. With love. She squeezes him firmly, giving him a clap on the shoulder before he's released. As if making sure he's solid.

Swearing. How mature adults express endearment. Zaharis lets her do as she likes, his eyes and his demeanor back to that impenetrable calm that he normally displays. "Good to see you, punk." When she seems satisfied he takes a step back, sitting back down in his big swivel chair.

Reed smirks, continuing to watch for the moment until they've made sure that each other is real. He's not interrupting this.

Rhea is quiet for a moment, once she's out of dirty jokes and endearing swear words for Zaharis. She takes a deep breath. "You scared the frak out of us. It's good to have you back." Her tone is thick with emotion, but that's as much as she says on it. "So. What now?"

"It wasn't on purpose," Zaharis says, after a moment. "And I'm sorry." He picks up his cigarette, flicking off ash. As for what now, he's not the one that buzzed the intercom, so he just takes a drag off his smoke.

Reed looks to Rhea, smiling, and nods, "Yeah, that seems to be the question I've been trying to ascertain the answer to." He scratches his cheek, "See, we've been talking for a while now about what exactly happened, and how this all works." He looks to Zaharis, and Rhea, "About what we can expect from here on out, and how to address the lingering problems associated with it."

"You don't have to apologize to me. But I'll take it. Thanks," Rhea says. She listens to read but her eyes stay on Zaharis. She shares a wry little smile with him. "That's up to him, Reed." It's said kindly enough, but in a sadly knowing sort of way. "People fix themselves. If they can. You clean up pretty good, Jesse. I hope you stay that way. I'll help if I can. I'm not sure how much I can do but…I love you. You're my family. Better family than a lot of the real ones I've had. Remember that, okay?"

Zaharis nods slightly to Rhea but says nothing yet. He has the air of someone who's settling in to take his lectures before he airs anything from his own side.

Reed tilts his head, "I don't think that's the case here, Rhea. Neither that he's fixed, nor that it's up to him. If there's one thing I've become aware of in listening to the Doctor here, it's that those two things are inaccurate." He looks to Zaharis. "Though I do want you to know that my position is motivated in a very real way from the same place that Rheas is."

Rhea doesn't have any lectures to give. She doesn't seem to see any point to it. So she investigates the coffee carafe. Giving it an idle shake, to see if it's full. So she can get a fix. "That's not quite what I meant," she replies softly to Reed. "This isn't the sort of thing you repair. It is what it is. How you deal with it…" She looks back at Jesse. "…that's on you."

The coffee carafe does indeed have nice watery brew in it. Zaharis and Reed have been drinking water. Neither Reed's assurance nor Rhea's final words draw anything from him yet, his fingers idly turning the ashtray around in a circle as his cigarette burns.

Reed listens to Rhea, nodding, before he looks to Zaharis. "So you want to lay out your plan on how you're going to deal with it?"

Rhea pours herself a cup and sips on it. Nose wrinkling a little. She's still not used to the watered-down stuff. She drags over another chair and curls up in it. Hands around the cup. Taking what warmth she can from it. She's quiet now, just watching Zaharis.

"'Lay out my plan'?" That comes out a little more defensive that Zaharis intended it to, and his eyes flicker back and forth between the two of them until he gently rubs the bridge of his nose. "Look. I am 36 years old. I've been a drug addict for 23 of those years. I've been a colonial soldier for 19 and an officer for 14. Did I fall off of the wagon? Yeah, I did. But I'm not out of control and I'm not weak; if I were either I wouldn't be where I am and I wouldn't care a crap about what's coming. But I am here, and a mistake doesn't make me any less than the two of you. I'm not sure what you want from me."

Reed takes his cane, planting it between his feet, and puts his chin on the handle. "No, you're not out of control. No, you're not weak. But also, No, you're not out of danger here. You've started telling me what my opinions are, Doctor. Be aware of that." He lifts his brows to Zaharis. "Don't tell me I see you as a liability." He takes a breath. "Now, here's what you've made very clear to me. There are no guarantees about the future of your addiction. You might slip again. Given our situation, I find that possible. It's not your failing, it's what you are. An addict. And I'm prepared to face that on the same terms you've explained to me. You slipped, and have been covering your tracks as you slid, but I highly doubt you've covered everything perfectly. That's not how things are on this ship. You want to get back to work like nothing happened. Like everythings cool and we can slide right back into where we were. You think that's realistic?"

"I know, Jesse," Rhea says softly. It sounds genuine, though. "You wouldn't have come back from the Carina if you were weak. Some people…they fall off and they don't come back…" She looks down at her coffee. Not drinking. Just looking. It's a beat before she raises her eyes again. "…you did. Whatever else you might be, that's something. What do you want me to do? Yell at you? I think we both know that's not going to do anybody good. I just want to know where we go from here. Whatever comes. I am glad you're not promising this'll never happen again. I'd be more worried if you were."

Zaharis listens to both, the onslaught of words making his hands retreat into folded. His voice becomes clinically level, aimed at both. "What do you want me to do?"

Reed looks to Rhea, then back to Zaharis. He tilts his head at Zaharis, "I think you know full well what you should do as an Officer, Major and the CMO. Sooner or later, this is going to leap out in an ugly mess all over everyone, and cause incalculable damage, unless you take the reigns, and face it on your own terms. Because the simple fact is, neither of us are the people who need to know about this."

"Jesse, don't," Rhea says, tone still soft. "All I want is my best friend back. I really don't care what else comes out of this. And it doesn't matter what we want. You're the one who has to take care of this. I'll help, as I can."

Zaharis looks away from Reed somewhere in the middle of that, looking at the wall instead. He's silent for a very long time, nothing moving except his shoulders as he breathes. "Nineteen years."

Reed leans back in his chair, there's a wince as he shifts in his chair, one hand getting into his pants pocket. "You're too valuable to lose completely in this war, Doctor." He says with a strained voice, then pulls out a small hardcase box, relaxing with a sigh. He then leans forward, hand on his cane tightening as he places the box on the desk, "And you're brave enough to protect people in the future from what may happen. And you're far too brave to not be able to face what needs to be done." He lifts his cane, placing the rubber capped end on the desk, using it to slide the box to Zaharis. "and the Commander agrees with me on your valor. For valorious conduct in the face of danger during the PAS evacuation. I'm ambulatory enough to do this now."

Rhea sets her coffee cup down, reaching across the desk to try and clasp Zaharis' hand. She box makes her smile slightly, though she crooks it into a smirk. "Ambulatory, are you?" she asides to Reed. Trying to be as light as possible. Though she can't keep the smirkig up long just now. She looks back at the CMO. "You've got more years in you yet, Zaharis. Nothing's done. Maybe it'll be easier, not holding it all in."

Zaharis doesn't smile. His attention slowly shifts the box, then to Reed as though the man had just punched him in the stomach. He laughs a little bit, utterly devoid of humour. "Save it. You know the penalties as well as I do. It's over." He sits back, gently rubbing under his right eye. "Please leave."

Reed doesn't smile either. "Don't be fatalistic. It's not done and over, not yet. But you can't hide this forever. That's not a part of this, and I think you know it."

Rhea frowns, standing. "Don't be an idiot, Jesse. You're a good doctor. And a good officer. You've held this Sickbay together through impossible circumstances. There'll be some shit to eat. You're a big boy. You can deal with that. People've done a frak-lot worse since the attacks. This Fleet isn't just going to throw you away because you frakked up."

Zaharis runs the backs of his knuckles across his mouth, watching the desk. "Please." His composure is still there but it's clearly hanging by a thread. "Please leave."

Reed plants his cane, and levers himself up, though he looks to Rhea on this one, waiting to take a cue from her.

Rhea plants herself, gaze leveled at Zaharis. Reed is given no cues from her, but she isn't hurrying off. "You know what? No. Frak that," she says with a toss of her long dark hair. "I'm not going to let you bullshit me out of this office again. Not like this. The last time I did that, I didn't see you again until you were on the Carina, sick and frakked up all over Adele's bedsheets. I can't tell you what to do. I can't make this easier for you. But I am frakking well not going to let you just shut me out again."

Zaharis keeps his eyes closed, rubbing his fingers over them. His thumb ends up smearing a barely-visible streak of moisture. "Rhea. I just want five minutes to figure out what I'm going to say to Regas. Please. I'll call you when I'm done."

Reed seems to be able to take a cue from Rhea, even if it's not from her actions, her words do seem to give him an indication, and he looks to Zaharis. "Fotilas." He says, "Do it properly, and go through the chain, link by link, or it's just one more thing to irritate him about, unless you're prepared to address that too." He tilts his head, gauging Zaharis' current state.

Rhea regards Zaharis. Still planted. Reluctant to let him alone. Again, she doesn't seem to know quite what to say. So she opts for another non-sequitur. "Why did the gynecologist ask the Virgon maiden to stand on her head?"

"Rhea…" Jokes? Negative, the perhaps-soon-to-be-ex-CMO isn't in the mood. Zaharis gently rubs the bridge of his nose and repeats, under his breath. Pleading now. "Please."

Reed looks to Rhea, now, then back to Zaharis. "Frakking hell, man, what do you think you're going to do that's going to bother us? /Us./" He takes a step forward with his cane, looking to Zaharis, "Don't you realize we're here to help you? Even if it's the worst thing to face, it takes the closest friends to face it together."

"He wanted to see what she'd look like with a beard…" Rhea murmurs. The punchline lacks flair. She's not in the mood, either. She sighs. Backing off a bit. "Fine. I'll wait outside. I just…I'm glad you're back, Jesse. We've all lost so much. I love you. I'll have your back with Regas. We both will." Not that she bothers to ask Reed. Perhaps it's a given. Or she just assumes he'll do her bidding. She turns to go. Though she lingers a second to say one more thing. "Reece is here. On the ship, I mean. I didn't tell him anything. He just figures I've got some maternal drill to put him through up here. You should go see him. When you're up for it. He's been asking about you."

"Just…trying to preserve a shred of dignity for a second." Zaharis answers Reed, after a long exhale. He moves his hand away from his face, his eyelashes wet. Nothing falls, having been blinked back. He nods to Rhea without looking, already reaching for the wireless. "Okay. Tell him I'll come by."

Reed nods to Zaharis, turning around and walking to Rhea, closing his eyes, and bowing his head, seeming to reestablish his own composure or concentration as he moves. When he's next to her, he turns to face the ChEng, swallowing.

"I'll tell him you'll come by," Rhea says simply. "It's a promise." One she's going to hold him to. But him saying it seems to relax her. She can go now. She offers Reed her arm as she heads out. For support. It's unclear whether it's for him or herself.

Zaharis' foot jogs under his chair as he waits for someone to pick up. His eyes close as someone picks up the line, and finally one tear streaks its way down his face. But listening to his clear voice, one would never be able to tell. "Yeah, Ensign. This is Major Zaharis in Sickbay…"

Reed takes Rheas arm, nodding and moves to the door. Doesn't seem he cares who's supporting whom, but maybe that's not a one way thing. He leaves with her.

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