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Leather and Lace

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What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
― Aristotle

The Citadel, 2177

“Hey Essie… I know it’s been awhile since we last talked, but I found out that I’m going to be your first client, God that sounds so weird anyway I have to get going see ya later.’’ Esther looked around the cafe trying to spot her old friend. Taking a sip of her coffee she heard a gentle mewing sound. It had been her idea to meet at the new Mew Town Cafe, a newly cafe opened in the Presidium. Esther sipped her coffee while waiting for her friend. Old Terran music drifted through the cafe. The tingling of bells was heard, and in walked in Ruby Shepard. The twenty-three year old woman had a haggard look about her. Her red hair tossed up in a messy bun, dark circles under her normally soulful eyes. Esther stood up and immediately took her friend into her arms. The action seemed to startle Ruby momentarily, but relaxed when she realized it was Esther.

“Ru, it has been too long.’’ Ruby nodded. How long had it been since she last saw Esther? Five, maybe six years? Who the hell cares, they were together again. Esther led her back to her table, which was now populated by two persian cats.

“So… I guess the first question to ask is How’ve ya been?’’ Ruby asked while rubbing the back of her neck. Esther shrugged and took a sip of her now long cold tea. What were you supposed to say to someone you haven’t seen in five years? Much less to someone you were ordered to evaluate? Esther shrugged, and jumped right into it.

 

“I’ve… been fine.’’ Esther answered hesitantly , “I graduated from school, you’re my first official client. Mom and dad are doing fine.’’ Though the girl in front of her was a psychologist, it didn’t take one to see that she was hiding something. Ruby remembered something her dad had mentioned when she got back from Akuze.

“Is it about the kid?’’ Immediately Esther’s hand flew to her stomach. Ruby sighed. Damn… they both had a hell of year. Ruby put her hand on top of Esther’s and rubbed it. Her eyes pricked with tears. She got out a handkerchief and dabbed her eyes dry.

“I didn’t even know. It just happened…’’ Esther confessed. Ruby stood up from her seat and wrapped her arms around her friend. There were no words in the world to describe what Esther was going through. No amount of words would ever make it better.

“Look at me, look at me Essie. Look it wasn’t your fault. I’m not doctor, but when stuff like that happens it’s never what the mom does.’’ She ran hand through Esther’s black hair, gently kissed on top of her head. Esther pressed her forehead against Ruby’s and clung to her neck. “Mi dispiace.’’ Esther whispered.

“No, no. Don’t be sorry. How about we poke and prod around my brain?’’ Esther gave a small smile.

“I would like that every much. Let’s get started.’’ Esther said dabbed more at her eyes before grabbing her datapad. She pulled up her friend’s file. This should be fun.

“Are you ready?’’ Esther asked as she took a sip of her coffee. Ruby groaned and rubbed her hands over her face.

“Okay Ru. We are gonna be doing something called Memory Recall. First I want you to close your eyes, and then think of a safe place you can go to. It can be your bedroom, a favorite spot, just anything that makes you feel safe.’’ Ruby closed her eyes and pictured her room. The room where she and Esther spent so many nights together.

“You got that spot?’’ She heard Esther ask. Ruby nodded. She could see the room clearly. She heard her mumble something. Ruby felt Esther grab her hand and gave it a squeeze.

“This is the hard part. I want you to try to recall that day on Akuze. How it smelt, how you felt, what your team was doing. It’s okay if you don’t remember everything that’s okay.’’ Ruby swallowed hard.

“Are you ready?’’ Ruby nodded.

“Let’s get this over with.’’

 

 

“Well? Have I officially lost it?’’ Ruby said after a while. Esther typed away on her datapad before looking up. The session itself went fairly well. All lot of talking about feel

“In professional opinion you have “not lost it’’.’’ Esther grabbed her friend’s hand bringing her closer to her own face, “But as your friend I do think you officially lost it back when you kissed that Krogen at Michelle’s party.’’ Ruby let a howling laugh. How could she forget that!

“Well in my professional opinion I was drunk on turian brandy.’’ She stuck out her tongue. It was good hearing the sound of laughter again. Esther’s laugh was like that of tinkling bells, on a summer’s day, but she sounded like a braying donkey. Esther composed herself, but giggles still racked her body.

“Well… It’s good…’’ Esther cleared her throat. Taking a deep breath she continued, “While I do believe have not completely bonkers. I do believe have signs of PTSD.’’ A sigh came from Ruby, Esther swatted at her hand.

“I’m not done yet silly In fact you do show the classic signs of PTSD, but this can be treated. I want to see you again, oh in two weeks okay. We can meet here or back at my place.’’ Esther said. She honestly felt proud of herself, even if was weird that her first client was her best friend.

“So what do I do in meantime, like if I have dreams or something?’’ Ruby asked. That wasn’t mentioned in the flies. Why weren’t the nightmares mentioned in the files?

“I can’t prescribe anything… but if you want you can all always call me.’’ Esther came over and gave her friend a hug. They clung to each other for the longest time, not dearing to let each other go. After awhile they reluctantly parted.

“It’s been good seeing you mia bella.’’ Ruby kissed Esther on the cheek. How long had it been since they last kissed? Like really kissed? The action starled Esther a moment before she crashed her lips onto Ruby’s.

“We should do that again.’’ Esther gave a coy smile before kissing her again.

“Yes we should, my place tomorrow. Eight sound good to you?’’ Esther looked down at her watch. “I needed to go like yesterday. Anderson wants to hear my reports.’’ Ruby tilted her head in confusion. What would Council want with her?

“Why does Anderson want to do with you?’’ Ruby asked. Esther shrugged her shoulders as she hurriedly grabbed her belongings.

“Come diavolo dovrei saperlo?’’ She answered in native Italian. She put everything a small purse. She turned and gave her friend a quick hug.

“ I’ll see you tomorrow at eight, yeah?’’ Ruby nodded, watching the woman rush out of the cafe dodging cats on her way out.

 

“So you truly believe that Ruby is fit to serve?’’ Anderson said looking over Esther’s report. Esther nodded confidently. Anderson and Admiral Hackett read over her reports. A majority of the report said that Ruby showed signs of PTSD. but with several visits the symptoms would lessen over time, and daily medication if needed.

“Yes I do sir. I firmly believe will be fit serve in a year or two. Throwing her back into the battlefield would be catastrophic. It would be like throwing meat into a pond full of piranhas.’’ Esther adjusted her skirt as the two military men listened to her.

“She is one the best soldiers we’ve have in years…’’ Admiral Hackett tried to say, but Esther threw up her hand.

“Pardon me Admiral, but as I said she needs time away. She needs time away from the military. If something were to come up in the next year or I would suggest limiting her exposure to battle.’’ Esther concluded. Anderson nodded, he admired her confidence.

“She’s right, Admiral. Ruby is one the best we’ve seen in years, but after what happened on Akuze. Shepard needs a break.’’ Anderson said giving a knowing smile to Esther. Hackett sighed reluctantly agreeing with Anderson. Dr. Medici was right.

“She doesn't need a holiday! She needs extended leave, like I said one to two years at the most.’’ Esther said firmly. The two men that sat in front of her. With a nod Anderson said.

“Well it’s agreed upon. Ruby will attend one year and mandatory therapy with you.’’ Anderson said. Esther nodded.

“Thank you sir.’’