"Building up the Courage." By. Lt. Jg. Joe Castillo & Lt. Sara Crusher The lights in three forward were set to a lower level in the evenings then they were during the day. Something which Sara was more then grateful for as she sat alone near the window. It was much easier to think when the vibe around you was calm and peaceful. She sat there with her knees drawn up to her chest and a half empty glass of something that looked like orange neon on the table beside her. The only noise in the room was the clinking of the 3D chess board across the room and her own breathing. Sara closed her eyes as she rested her head on the back of the chair and waited quietly for Cyanah who was rewriting her grant proposal for the fourth time. Sara didn’t mind the alone time since it was giving her time to think. Her thoughts seemed to be all a jumble lately. Bits and pieces of conversations with Cyanah, Mrs. Troi, her brother, and even Rhi kept popping in to her head. All of which seemed to linger on the same topic. Joe had finally run out of real alcohol to drink and he needed some bad or he wouldn't get back to sleep tonight. After turning over every bottle under his bed to make sure there was none left, he decided to make his way over to three-forward to see if they had any real alcohol. As he entered three-foward he noticed his favorite redhead sitting at a table. They say that misery loves company and even though Sara didn't look miserable, he sure felt miserable and could use her company. He walked over to the bar tender and told him he didn't care what he gave him as long as it was real liquor and then walked over to Sara. "Is this seat taken"? Sara was startled at the sound of a man’s voice coming from above her but she smiled when she opened her eyes and saw Joe standing next to the table. "Nope it’s all yours." She said as she twisted around in her chair. She watched as Joe took the seat to her left and after taking a sip of her drink smiled again. "So what brings you down here so late?" Joe took a swig of whatever it was the waiter brought him and it tasted horrible. Hopefully it would do the trick and help him get back to sleep."Well, I ran out of real alcohol in my room. What's your excuse?" "I’m waiting for Cyanah to finish up a project and since three-forward has a much better view I thought I’d wait here." Sara didn’t add the fact that she’ d also forgotten the code to Cyanah’s quarters again. As Joe took another sip of his drink something he’d said finally registered with her. "Real alcohol?" He look a little ashamed realizing what he had said. "Uh yeah it helps me sleep at night" Sara gave him a concerned look. "You know as a doctor I could go on and on about the dangers that lurk in that habit but I’ll save that for your next physical. Instead, as your friend I’ll just ask what’s keeping you up that you need a drink to sleep?" Sara lowered her legs and stretched them out as she pulled the small black sweater she had on tighter around herself. "Is everything ok, Joe?" Joe let out a deep sigh and took another swig of the dreadful concoction. "Don't worry it's not a habit although I hear denial is one of the warning signs" He chuckled as he finished his last sentence. "The thing is I've been having these nightmares from time to time, and when I do, drinking is the only way I can salvage a half way decent night's sleep." Sara swirled her neon orange drink around in it’s glass as she nodded. "I know the feeling. Bad dreams can be such a bitch, their even worse when they turn out to be memories you‘d forgotten you‘d had." Sara laughed lightly and took a long drink from her glass before putting it down. "I have better ways to help you sleep ya know, and one of them is listening if you need an ear to bend. The others all involve a nice herbal tea or a nice hypo to the neck." Joe's mood was definitely lightened by hearing the words he'd told Sara so many times turned back at him. "I thought you were going to offer a massage or something" he said smiling from ear to ear. "Well I don't know, their really weird, but they usually end with someone almost dying or dying, I probably shouldn't tell you this but one of my latest ones featured Cyanah being thrown off of a cliff." "Just so you know, she’s hates that." Sara smiled kindly as she looked at Joe. He really did look tried and she could tell that something was bothering him deeply. It wasn’t just her empathy that was telling her that Joe’s troubled waters ran deep, but the look in his eyes. It was the same look she’d had when she was dreaming of exploding planes and heavily armed, pissed off Morrigans. "But seriously, Joe, it seems to me that there’s something that needs to be uncovered somewhere. Dreams aren’t just random ya know. They have points. Maybe you should ask Jansug for help with yours. If he went to the university on Betazed for his psychology training then he’ll know a few techniques to help you out." Joe sighed once again "Yeah I guess you're right. I've been avoiding it because, well, he's a counselor and I guess on a subconscious level I feel like going to him is admitting I'm cuckoo, but if talking to him is what it takes to get my nights back. I might just have to see him." Sara reached out and placed her hand on top of his. "Ya know most people see going to a counselor as a sign of weakness, but you know what? I don’t think it is. I think that it takes a lot of nerve and a hell of a lot of strength to go see someone for help like that." Sara squeezed Joe’s hand and he smiled which caused her to smile. She leaned back in her chair again as they both paused to think. Then the familiar hiss of the lounge doors caught her attention and Sara was quick to glance in their direction. She frowned when it wasn’t Cyanah and then turned back to her drink with a sigh. Joe noticed how quickly Sara frowned when she realized it wasn't HER favorite redhead at the door. "Man o man this Lt. Calorie must be some kinda woman if her NOT showing up can turn your smile to a frown that quickly" "Kaelyre." Sara said with a giggle. The mispronunciation of Cyanah’s last name didn’t seem to sting coming from Joe like it did when other people said it. Sara’s smile briefly returned before melting away again. "It’s just that with work and everything it’s been so hard to find time to spend together and shoreleave seems so far off and." Sara paused and laughed a little. "I guess I just got *Us* on the brain lately." Joe sighed once again "It's great to be in love isn't it. The way the thought of them just brightens you whole day, how every moment without them is an eternity and every hour with them feels like seconds. Wonderful feeling love. How long have you guys been going out?" "Almost a year and half." Sara said proudly. She could have sited exactly how many months, weeks, and days but she didn’t want to sound like a love sick teenager. She much preferred the love sick twenty-something angle. "Been friends longer then that." "Wow that's a long time. Longer than any of the relationships I've ever had. You guys are pretty serious then?" Sara nodded. Her whole face seemed to beam. "It’s the longest one I’ve ever been in and the only one that’s truly meant anything. Until now being in a relationship was like being in one of my Aunt‘s plays. I was playing a part, acting along to a script that someone else wrote." She paused and took a sip of her drink. Her mind momentarily relishing in the sensation of her feelings. "But this.. This thing with Cy... It‘s real. I‘m real." Joe beamed a smile at her " Oh it's 'real', I'm glad to hear that. Have you guys had the talk then?" "Huh?" Sara looked a little confused. "Talk, what talk? We talk about a lot of stuff. I don’t think we would have made it though what we’ve made it though without being able to talk." Joe smiled " You know THE TALK. you guys have been going out for so long and it's going great, both of you are hopelessly in love, it's only natural that you think about marriage." If a person who was fair skinned to began with could get ever more so then Sara would have just a set a new paleness record. "Ah, well, um." Sara sighed then chuckled as she shook her head. "You see.. Well, Cy’s Delosian and well they have these really long courtships, probably cause they live longer then humans and even longer then Betazoids who have longer life spans then humans, actually as far as life spans Delosians would be more like Vulcans then anyone else...and.. and Well. Anyway, no we haven’t had that talk. I mean I don’t even think it’s on Cy’s mind. I mean she probably thinks.. Well.. Well, I’m not sure what she thinks, I’ve never asked.." "Well, you say you talk all the time and you love her. I mean I'm no expert on relationships but it seems pretty weird that you've been going out for a year and a half and you haven't talked about it at all" "I don’t wanna rush things." Sara said with a smile, but the look on Joe’s face repeated ‘a year and half‘. "I’m afraid that if I tell her that the thoughts crossed my mind then she’d think I’m being pushy or even worse clingy or something. I don't know.. Mostly I guess I’m afraid that by bring it up I’d somehow lose her." Sara shook her head and sighed heavily. "I know.. I know.. She loves me and I’m just being silly but still. It’s a major life changing topic." "Can't argue with that, but sweety; If you want to, and she doesn't isn't it better to find out sooner than later. The longer you go without knowing the more the possibility of being hurt. Don't get me wrong I want nothing but the best for you, but you shouldn't live with this uncertainty" Joe didn't know where all this was coming from but in his alcohol induced state of loose tongue, it sounded right. Sara simply nodded. "She wouldn’t hurt me for the world, Joe, nor I her. But your right. I mean for all I know she’s had the same thoughts and I could be missing out on what I want." "My sentiments exactly, I mean I remember this one girl I had a crush on forever and I never told her until the day I left for Starfleet, and you know what she told me? She liked me to. It's amazing what we humans miss out on in life because of a silly thing called fear." "How’d you get so smart, Joe?" Sara smiled again. There was something new in her eyes now, a glimmer of reassurance and determination. Something told her that the next conversation she and Cyanah had while cuddled on the couch wouldn’ t be about what they were having for dinner. "Thanks Joe." Sara finally said after a long moment. My pleasure sweety." Joe leaned over to give her a hug but almost fell over. "Uh I think I've had enough to get a couple of hours sleep before it's time to get up again. Tell Lt. Calorie to stop avoiding me. I want to meet this redhead that has my favorite redhead all worked up." He managed to get up and give Sara a kiss on the forehead. "Have a good night hun" "Goodnight, Joe. Be careful and rest well." Sara watched as Joe made his way to the door and then made a mental note to call Jansug in the morning. Then she curled back up in her chair and returned her attention to the stars outside the window.