Rating: PG, maybe be PG-13 later on
paring: ensemble cast
Summary: Felix Gaeta is moving on but things are hard. And different. He needs the help of training wheels. This is the sequel to In Lord Iblis's Secret Service.
Disclaimer: Battlestar Galactica and its characters are creations of Glen Larson and copywrited by Universal Studios. Stargate and its characters are creations of MGM. We make no money off this.
"He panicked," Janet said easily. "I wasn't in any danger."
"That black eye tells me something different," Hammond said. "So how long did it take him to calm down?"
Janet waited until Dr. Reiver looked up from his notes. "About an hour, and that was without drugs. He went to sleep, and when he woke up this morning, he was pretty shaky and worried that I was mad and worried that he had scared Cassie and I." She looked at Reiver.
Reiver sighed. "I worried something like this would happen but sometimes you need to let a patient fall before they're ready to understand that they aren't ready to run a marathon. Felix is overcompensating and trying to be the normal, mentally healthy Air Force officer that you want. The problem is that he is just a little over seventy days from being released from a hellish nightmare. He's not ready, and he's pushing himself far too hard."
"He did just fine during the incident with those rogue Jaffa in SGC," Hammond said. "I hadn't expected him to do much more than duck and cover, and he led the charge. We could have lost people and he was as cool as any of my seasoned teams."
"And because he seems so well, there's a tendency for people to ask him to reschedule sessions with me, and there's also a tendency to just keep pushing him into what we consider normal life." Reiver tapped his notepad. "And in response, Felix downplays any anxiety or fear he might feel. Even if he hadn't had this horrific imprisonment, he is from a completely different society and all alone. I've talked to Felix a lot, and he feels an overwhelming gratitude to Stargate Command, and he wants to repay us for saving him, for trusting him. He feels a debt is owed. He has a great deal of difficulty putting himself and his needs ahead of a group, and he worries that people will be disappointed in him if he isn't fine. Add in the post traumatic stress, and when he finally reaches his breaking point, you end up with what happened last night. He needs more attention, and more coping skills."
Janet nodded. She was as much to blame as anyone else. She had left Felix alone in the house, to take Cassie to a school function. He had been fine up until then. The power had gone out during a thunderstorm and Felix had….just collapsed. She had found him curled in a ball, rocking himself, almost completely unresponsive at first and hysterical. "So what do we need to do?"
"Does he need to be hospitalized?" Hammond asked. He looked at Janet with concern. "You said he was out of it, disoriented and violent. I can't in good consciousness ignore that he hit you, Janet."
Fortunately Reiver was already shaking his head. "Hospitalizing Felix for anything other than an acute episode would be a disaster." He sighed. "He's well aware of the stigma of mental illness, and it's a much harsher stigma in his society. Frankly, while his society certainly is more technologically advanced, when it comes to mental illness, they're still in the leeches and evil spirits stage. He would decompensate rapidly. And no, even if that wasn't an issue, I don't think he would benefit from hospitalization. I don't believe he's dangerous to Janet or Cassie." Reiver set down his notebook. "The truth, George? He's got a monster case of post traumatic stress disorder, and from a hell of a lot reasons. He's trying to cope with that, and a huge amount of survivor guilt, and add in a completely new world to deal with… You need to go slower. My sessions with him have to be a priority. I'm going to work on coping skills with him, and he needs some support structure. And… I have an idea but the both of you would need to be on board with it. It's a little radical."
"How radical?" Hammond asked. He seemed to realize how harsh he sounded. "Look, I have to put the priorities of Stargate Command first, but I happen to like that young man. He deserves a chance, and I want him to have it. I just can't have him hopped up on reefer or whatever the latest therapy craze is."
Reiver smiled. "No… it's nothing like that.
"You need to eat, Felix."
"I'm not really very hungry," he said as he picked at the unfamiliar food. He had just taken the daily special without asking and he wasn't feeling adventurous. 'Enchilada' sounded vile and looked like glop and his stomach was rolling.
Janet put her hand over his and squeezed it gently. "I know you're worried but everything is going to be fine."
He shrugged and didn't say anything. He didn't know what to say. He felt like a complete jackass over what happened. The power had gone out in the house, and he had felt his nervousness increase and then the thunder and the lightening…. He had been fascinated at first, he hadn't seen a rainstorm since New Caprica but then it had overwhelmed him. Only *children* get frightened in storms, he told himself harshly. Janet had been incredibly kind to invite him into her home and he had repaid her by… getting hysterical and hitting her. He was fairly certain that he was going to be left at the hospital. The Tau'ri certainly made the insane asylums look nicer, and Dr. Reiver had made a point of showing him the facility in one of their sessions after he had talked about his fears in that regard, but it was still a crazy house. People weren't chained down, but they weren't free to leave either. And the Tau'ri weren't opposed to sedating people into submission.
"Well, it's almost time for your appointment, and you're not going to eat, are you?" Janet said after a moment. She smiled again as they stood up "I talked to Dr. Reiver… I think you'll like what he's going to suggest but you don't have to agree to it. And you're not going to be staying in the hospital. Everyone involved agreed that it wasn't necessary."
"Everyone?" He had to assume that meant General Hammond. Of course Janet had told Hammond and no doubt everyone knew he'd had a breakdown. He put his hands in his pockets to keep them from shaking.
Janet could see how upset he was. If nothing else, his episode the night before had served as a warning that she didn't think Felix was able or willing to give. He wasn't ready to really trust that things were better for him. He wasn't ready to trust his feelings with other people. She only had minimal training in psychiatry but she could see the underlying personality traits that made Felix not only a strong man, but a bundle of nerves once a crisis was passed. He was a worrier, and he was too insecure to see that he wasn't disappointing anyone. Far from it. She knew Hammond well enough to know exactly how impressed he had been with Felix Gaeta when the rogue Jaffa had infiltrated, pretending to be rebels. It had been Felix who had gathered and rallied the janitorial staff and stopped the Jaffa from taking over the facility. Felix didn't talk much about his family, but she knew he had been raised in what the people of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol called 'children homes', places where foundlings and orphans were raised by the state. He had told her that he had been lucky, that a family had taken him in when he was eleven as their own child but she had a feeling things hadn't been easy for him even as a child. It showed in how much he craved approval and in how he downplayed his accomplishments. Sam Carter had been more than impressed, she had been startled, not only by his grasp of physics and mathematics but by how he considered himself poorly educated in the fields. Janet and Sam both suspected that he simply had no idea what he was really capable of, because he had never been encouraged much beyond making sure that he didn't end up illiterate and destitute.
That was why she had wholeheartedly approved of Reiver's suggestions. Felix needed the break, he really did. "You don't have to worry. I think you'll like what Dr. Reiver has in mind."
"Ok," he said softly. He didn't sound happy at all but that didn't surprise her. She led him down the long hospital hallway. It was good that Reiver had been able to move quickly with his plan, she realized. Making Felix wait would have likely made things worse.
Reiver smiled as they stepped into his office. "Felix, Janet… please sit down." He waited until they did sit to continue. "Felix, I know you're upset so I want you to understand right away that no one thinks you need residential care. What happened last night was a setback, it was not a reason to think you can't manage. We do need to manage your schedule better and not put you under as much pressure and… I think we need to try something a little different." He stepped over to a room that Janet knew was his private bathroom. He came back, leading a very large white dog with a cinnamon mask and markings. It looked like a giant fox, really, and she hadn't expected the dog to be so large. It was squirming with anticipation. Reiver smiled and patted the dog on the head. "Felix, this is Neville. Neville is an eleven month old Akita and he's a trained service dog."
"Like for a blind person," Felix said after a moment. "But I can see." He eyed the dog and it looked at Reiver and then whined.
"Not all service dogs are for blind people. Neville here is trained to help people who have anxiety problems like yours." He led the dog closer to Felix. "Do you like dogs, Felix?"
"I never had a dog…" Janet wondered if the plan was going to fail right then. Felix looked afraid of the dog. Then he held out his hand to let the dog sniff him. "There was a dog in the fleet… he was always happy to see me." Neville sniffed his hand politely and then jumped on his lap and licked his face. "Hey! Hey…. Down, there…." And Felix began to pet the dog. Janet knew then that it would work.
"He seems to like you," Reiver said, "and you would be doing us a favor by taking him. We had him ready for another patient but that person ended up being too afraid of dogs to handle him. His job is to help you by supporting you and making sure that you're all right. If you decide to take him, then I will have his handler spend the afternoon showing you his commands and tricks. It is a commitment though. He can't help you if you leave him at home all of the time. As a service dog, he can go to work with you, and he should, and he can even go into restaurants and stores. His handler will explain all the rules. You'll also need to walk him, which from what I understand will work well with your physical therapy."
"And you have to take care of him," Janet added. Part of the therapy was for Felix to feel empowered and taking care of a pet would help.
"But… will General Hammond be all right with a dog at work?" Felix scratched the dog's ears as he asked, and his tone was surprisingly wistful. "I always wanted a dog…. But I moved around from family to family too much…"
"General Hammond thinks it's a wonderful idea," Reiver said. Janet nodded as well. She had been surprised at how well Hammond had accepted the idea but she also had a sneaking suspicion that Hammond had a soft spot for Felix. She smiled as Neville put his head on Felix's lap, clearly asking for more ear scratching. It was going to work.
"I have a list of things that I need to pick up for Neville," Felix said as they walked to the car. Janet made a point not to smile, but it was hard. Felix was a handsome man, much more dashing now that he had gained some weight and filled out. The man had been painfully thin when he had been brought to Stargate Command. Iblis had been more than a control freak, he had carefully designed Felix's meals to be nutritious and to keep him just healthy enough to stay alive. With more generous meals and the physical therapy she had been overseeing, he was still slight but quite good looking, and unlike a lot of men, he knew how to dress and present himself. He was quite dashing, in his sunglasses and heavy leather jacket, and the large cinnamon marked dog only added to that aura.
"Don't worry," she said cheerfully as she unlocked the car. "General Hammond thought of that. So we are stopping at Petsmart to get Neville his necessary things. Dr. Reiver said you had a good training session."
"We have to attend a class for the next few weeks." Felix said as he opened the back seat's door and gestured for Neville to get in. "It's on Saturday, in the morning. You sit," he said to the dog. Neville obliged, his tongue lolling out as though he had run several miles and was mightily tired. Felix still looked stressed out and worried. "I am so sorry about last night. You let me move in and it's been nothing but trouble for you…"
"You can stop that," Janet said, her voice warm but firm. "Felix, when you're too much trouble, I assure you, I will let you know. I think you have spent so much time worrying about other people, you never stop and worry about yourself, and you never give yourself a break. Dr. Reiver said something to me that really made me think. You've only been on Earth for two and half months, and you have only been living in a house and not a cell for eight days. If I had been in your shoes, I think I would probably be ranting and raving inside a padded room. You are handling it so well, it's almost scary, so stop beating yourself up. You are not trouble, and you are stressing yourself out for no reason."
Neville whined in accompaniment, and made a point of trying to nuzzle Felix until Felix reached back and gave him a few pats.
"I just…" Felix took a deep breath. "I hate the idea that I might… always be a basket case. I hated it when people had to help me with things….after the amputation… and I don't…. want to be fifty or sixty years old and be too stressed out to live alone or to drive safely." He gave the dog another friendly pat. "I like Neville…. But I can't shake the feeling that this is another crutch and that I'll need crutches forever."
"You have to let yourself have time to heal. You talk about your amputation, well… were you up on a prosthetic leg two days after it happened? Or did you need time to heal before you adjusted and started to adapt? It's not weak to need support when you're hurt, Felix, and frankly I think you're the kind of person who doesn't accept help unless you're completely miserable." She made a point of taking his hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. "Neville is not here to make you dependant, he's just here to help and I think you'll find that in a few months, he'll just be a pet and not something you need."
She could see he didn't quite believe her but she didn't expect him to simply start coping. Admitting his fear about recovery was a major step. A good step. "Now, let's get going. Do you have a list?"
Felix nodded. "Some things are marked optional." He pulled a list out of his pocket and then a plastic card. "General Hammond said I should use this and that I was supposed to buy whatever I needed. He also brought this for Neville's work harness." He held up a leather case that clearly could be clipped to the dog's harness. It was a photo id for NORAD, and Janet recognized the security features for Stargate Command. The best part was that it had Neville's photo, and his name and rank. "Sgt. Neville Gaeta of the United States Air Force…. That's adorable." She couldn't help it, she chuckled.
Hammond clearly had a soft spot for Felix and she could see that Felix appreciated it. He was blushing as much as someone of his coloring could.
"It's cute." he agreed. "Neville seems to like it."
"Well, we better make sure we have the house set so Neville feels welcome." She looked back at the dog who merely smiled at her as though it was simply his due to be well supplied.
"Are you sure it's ok?" he asked again as they approached the store's door.
Janet nodded. She suspected that Reiver had intentionally mentioned Petsmart just so it would be easy for Felix to be in public with a service dog. It helped that Felix wore dark glasses to protect his eyes and that Neville had a very standard service harness. People would assume he was blind and that, ironically, would make it a lot easier for him to go into stores and restaurants. "This place actually allows pets inside but because Neville is a service dog, he can go anywhere."
Felix nodded but she could see he was still nervous. Neville was tight against his legs and tugging him just a little to the door. The dog was a good idea, Janet thought again as she followed Felix into the pet supply store. She had tried to get Felix into stores, the post office, the grocery store, and he had been difficult to pry out of the car. He usually waited for her. She had gotten him into the post office once, and that had been about it. But he seemed grimly determined to make sure the new dog was well taken care of.
She made sure to grab a cart. The list was large and she intended to make sure that Felix splurged a little. "What's first on the list?"
"Food," Felix said easily. "We're not supposed to give him people food." Neville seemed to agree, as he gently pulled Felix to the food aisle. Felix consulted the list. "The trainer says that Neville likes Iams dry kibble in the morning and a can of wet food, and that we should have milk bones for treats and for rewards." Felix looked at the various stacks of dog food with something akin to horror.
And it was a situation where she could understand why he was overwhelmed. He had never owned a pet, and he had lived in a society where pets had been a rare luxury, so it was understandable that picking out pet treats was a little overwhelming. That the list recommended brands made it easier, a matter of finding the items on the list. Neville was on a big dog food mix, although he was eager to point his nose at little milk bones that Felix grabbed.
"We used these in the training," Felix said as he put two boxes of the biscuits in the cart. Those were followed by a large sack of dry food and two racks of canned food. Janet found herself more amused at how people stared at them. It was obvious that people thought Felix was a blind man and she considered that a positive. Service dogs were supposed to be welcome everywhere, but people often weren't understanding when the disability wasn't obvious. Because of the light sensitivity issue, Felix wasn't likely have a lot of problems with bringing Neville with him.
After a lengthy amount of time shopping, Neville was well stocked with food, dishes for work and home, brushes, a leash for walking, booties for Neville's feet when it was wet, and two beds, one for home and one for work, and it was time the optional things.
Namely toys. Felix was a bit overwhelmed already, not veering from his list except to insist on garishly yellow food dishes, for good luck he said, and the isle of toys seemed to stump him completely. "We… had a ball that we threw…."
Neville in contrast seemed excited and pulled Felix to the garish plastic squeaker toys. Showing no worry, Janet placed several of the extremely garish toys into the basket. "You know, Felix, the squeakier the toy the more they like to play with it." The look he gave her told her otherwise. He was starting to deteriorate and she knew if she didn't get him out of the store sooner rather than later he would have a very visible break down. That was something she didn't want him to go through.
Before she could do anything a low whine came from Neville. She looked down at the large dog for a moment and quickly realized that he was starting to pull Felix in the direction of the front doors. Neville was trying to get him out of the stressful environment Janet realized. "I think we've picked up everything we're going to need for now," she said as she squeezed his free arm. "Why don't you go on ahead, and I'll meet you outside once this is taken care of," she indicated the full basket.
"Okay," Felix said softly with obvious relief as he handed over the card and let Neville lead him out of the store.
As she stood watching the total grow exponentially at the checkout register Janet let out a sigh of relief that she managed to get Felix out of the store before things deteriorated any more than they were. She could tell he had tried really, really hard and she was grateful for it. But, at the same time, it seemed too soon for him to do any more shopping.
"He's blind, isn't he?" the girl asked as she reached over and scanned in the large back of dog food with a hand held scanner.
"What?" The question brought her back to the present.
"You're boyfriend. He's blind, isn't he? We normally get pets, but not a seeing-eye-dog."
"He's not exactly blind. He's just very light sensitive right now," Janet answered with a bit of a smile. The rest of the girl's comments were not what she was expecting.
"Good luck," the clerk answered as she handed her the receipt. "He's definitely a keeper," she continued under her breath.
"Thank you." Janet pushed the heavy cart out of the store and towards the car. She wasn't that surprised to find Felix standing beside the vehicle. He had yet to be given a set of keys for it. He still looked stressed, but not as much as he had been while in the store. "Now that you're out here all calmed down, you can put Neville's things in the trunk," she said as she opened it. As he dutifully put the bags in the car Janet stood back and watched him while mulling over the comments the cashier had made. He's very nice, she thought to herself. I'm just a friend, that's all, she told herself forcefully. But, and it surprised her, she suddenly wondered if there could be more.