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The Howard/O'Brien Relate Counseling Session Transcripts - Part 1

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C: Good morning! Come in, make yourselves comfortable, we have tea and coffee—the machine's over there. I'm Mrs. Partridge, your counsellor for today, and just so you know, I'm a fully-qualified relationship counsellor with a degree in social sciences and, as per your request, a security clearance. I usually work with servicemen and women who are experiencing problems resuming family life after deployment overseas; I understand the agency you both work for—that would be SOE, Q-Division—shares some of their requirements. I must say, it's a pleasure to see you both here and obviously well-prepared this morning—did you read the material we sent you in the post?

M: Yes.

B: It's on my desk somewhere ...

C: Not to worry, part of this morning's job is to talk you through it again. But just in case you need a refresher afterwards, many of our clients find the brochure very helpful!

[ SNIP ]

C: By the way, are you the Mr. Howard who was on "Newsnight" last week? You're famous!

B: [Faintly] Oh dear.

M: I told you so.

C: Nonsense, I think you did very well! Paxo eats cabinet ministers for breakfast!  

B: I hear he has the heart of an eight year old boy—in a glass jar, on his desk.

C: …

[ SNIP ]

C: But anyway! Let's get back on-script, shall we? I can't fix your relationship—that's entirely up to you. What I can do is provide a framework couples use to work through their problems, and act as a mediator and facilitator for you. Much of the time relationships run into trouble when one or both parties fail to express what really matters to them: what we do here is provide a process for you to work out what you're not saying, and then see if there's some way of dealing with it. 

C: But first, I need to just go through my summary and make sure I've got the right people!.So, just to confirm—you are Mr and Mrs Howard? Robert and Dominique?

M: I go by my own family name.

C: Ah, right. How do you prefer to be addressed?

M: I'm Dr. O'Brien. And this—

B: I'm Bob.

C: Yes. And I see here ... Dr. O'Brien, you've worked for this organization for the past 10 years, and Mr. Howard, you've worked for Q-Division for 12 years?

B: Yeah.

C: Interesting. [Pause] This may be a sensitive question so you can tell me it's none of my business, but: did you meet on the job?

M: ...

B: You could say that.

M: [Distantly] Yes. That.

C: You sound a little negative about it, if you don't mind me saying so?

M: I was the job. 

C: What kind of job, if you don't mind me asking?

B: The usual. Middle-eastern terrorists tried to summon a dead god in California using Dr. O'Brien as a human sacrifice. Only what they got on the line was an alien ice giant busily sucking the heat out of a dying alter-Earth where the victorious Nazis had engraved Hitler's face on the moon. And there was the thing with the territorial SAS and the zombies and the damaged hydrogen bomb.

M: I had nightmares about tentacles for years afterwards. Still can't abide calamari.

B: But you survived! And prospered, sort-of.

M: Yes dear, that which does not kill us makes us stronger and so on and so forth, do kindly shut—

[ SNIP ]

M: Mrs. Partridge? Hello? Are you all right?

M: This is your fault. You've  broken the counsellor.  And we've been here less than ten minutes.

C: Excuse me, I didn't quite catch that. Would you mind repeating it?

B: Sure: It was the usual, terrorists—

C: Yes, I understand that. Afghanistan or Iraq, then? Or Dewsbury?

M: [aside] Bob, are you sure she's security cleared? I mean, cleared-cleared?

B: No ... I mean, I asked for a counsellor with clearance, like we agreed. Do you suppose HR got the wrong message?

M: It's possible. Likely, even, after what happened in Leeds. They must be over-stretched right now.

C: Hello? Are we still talking?

M: Mrs. Partridge, about your security clearance—I'm sorry to have to ask you this but, when you were being cleared, did you receive the regular enhanced background check or did you also get a [REDACTED] check?

C: [Blinks] What's [REDACTED]?

M: [Looks at B]

B: [Looks at M]

M: [Standing] I'm sorry for wasting your time, Mrs. Partridge, but we really can't continue this interview any further. I'm afraid there's been a mistake and we really need a counsellor with [REDACTED] clearance. I think someone in HR overlooked the requirement.

C: What's [REDACTED]? Is it really important?

B: It's ... a chunk of what's come between us is work-related, and we really can't talk about it with outsiders. We'd better leave.

C: Well, I'm sorry to see you go, but I wish you the best of luck next time!