Just a Scratch
Timeline: Three Days After "sea-sand and sorrow..."
Levi had been settling in quite nicely to his new posting, there was a lot of work to be done and he and a team had been doing the final walkthroughs of a new section of residential units about to be brought online. That was the plan anyway, until Levi had noticed a few bulkheads that didn't look quite right, upon closer inspection he found not only had the welds been sloppy but when he tried to check the EPS conduit behind it it had discharged and shocked him strong enough to send him flying back a meter or two. The nervous Ensign with him insisted on taking him to medical.
"I'm fine Ensign, get back down there and get the report finished, I'll be having a word with Engineering when I'm done here."
"A- Aye Sir. You're sure–"
"Ensign if you ask me if I'm okay one more time I'm going to have you reassigned to waste reclamation on RZ17." Levi cut off the junior officer.
"Yes Sir." The Ensign replied before bolting off.
Standing in the receiving area of medical a nurse looked over at him, seeing the singed uniform but not obvious major injuries she pointed to a biobed, "Grab a seat, a doc will be with you right away."
Levi just so happened to make it to Medical during a small window where Brandt took time to do his rounds every day. As the CMO, and XO he had a lot on his plate but he tried to take at least an hour or two every day to make his rounds in the medical wards, check in on patients, doctors, nurses. He might be their chief but he was definitely a hands on type of guy. It wasn't that busy, so when the duty nurse added a patient to the board with a name Brandt recognized, he offered to take it.
"Good morning, Commander," the doctor said as he checked the readout on the screen above the bed, logging the man's vitals in the datapad in his hands. "This isn't exactly how I planned on introducing myself but... Dr. Grayson," he said as he extended his hand in greeting. According to the younger man's record he was the Chief Operations Officer. Brandt was still learning all their names and trying to find ways to meet. "Singed a bit were we?" Brandt asked as he pulled out his tricorder to take a more detailed scan.
"Yeah, along with a bit of scratch," Levi said holding up his left arm. "I've got to have a talk with Engineering about the quality of work they're doing on some of the new residential blocks." Levi looked up at the doctor and smiled, "Levi Forbes, nice to meet ya." He said shaking with his good hand.
Brandt scanned his wounds. Nothing major. No internal damages. He had high blood pressure but that was expected considering he'd just gotten an electric discharge, and had a scratch on his left arm. The cut would be easy enough to fix with a bio-mender to seal the cut and stop the bleeding. "I'll have a word with Commander Mrol as well. It's counter-productive to get something 'finished' only to have that something cause an influx of work-related injuries that flood my sickbay."
Brandt put the tricorder away. "I'm going to grab a bio-weaver, so sit tight. I'll be right back." Brandt left to go grab one of the bio-menders and when he returned, to Levi's side he asked, "Would you like a painkiller?" The mender was quick, but it was still not the most pleasant sensation to have ones skin grafted back together.
"I'm fine," Levi said with a laugh, "I've been through worse."
Brandt huffed dryly in amusement. "Alright. Well, this is gonna sting a little," Brandt cautioned him before he used the skin-weaver to mend the man's cut. It would feel like a slight burning tingling sensation as the mender did its thing. It took a couple minutes but when it was finished the cut was healed and would not leave a scar. Brandt cleaned the area with an alcohol wipe. "There we go. Good as new."
He updated the man's chart. "You don't seem to be suffering anything from the shock except a minor concussion, so try not to fall asleep for the next 8 hours or so. If you experience any unusual symptoms like sudden pain, vertigo, nausea, things like that, make sure you come back in, ok?"
"For sure, thanks Doc." He said getting to his feet, "Except my shift is done and I've been up for about 20 hours so I guess I'll have to find something to keep myself amused so I don't sleep." Levi said with a laugh, as he stretched his arm and flex his hand the repaired skin feeling a bit stiff.
Brandt was on hour 32 of his 48 so he could definitely empathize with that. "Any of your friends able to keep you company for a couple hours? Get a little game of Cards Against the Galaxy going on? That's bound to keep anyone awake." Because of all the laughing and hilarity that usually ensued. Brandt reached into the pocket of his coat and came back out with a small handful of lollipops, and he offered them to Levi to take one if he wished. "Would you like a lolly? I highly disagree with the idea that they should only be for children."
"I've only been here a couple days so haven't really made any friends yet," Levi said with a shrug, "although I have a mountain of paper work I should work on but I don't know good that will be for keeping me awake." He then grabbed a red lollypop, pulled the plastic off the candy portion and popped it in his mouth. "Thanks again!"
"Hmm," Brandt mused idly, smiling at Levi's choice. "Cherry's my favorite as well." He stuffed the suckers back into his pocket and finished updating Levi's chart. "Well, I tell ya what... If you'd like to bring your work back here with you to my office we can work on our 'paperwork' together." It was all digital but that didn't make it any less tedious. Brandt was the station XO and the CMO so on any given day he had hours upon hours of paperwork, notes, patient files, requisitions, inquisitions, miscellaneous shift work and all manner of things he had to sort through and fill out.
"Sure," Levi said, "Do you like coffee?" He asked.
"Does a Vulcan bleed green?" Brandt made a pfft sound, which turned into a laugh. "In case it wasn't obvious, that means yes," he said as he gave Levi a subtle wink before tucking his medical datapad under his arm. "Check out with the nurse before you head out, and when you get back my office is up on twelve."
Levi nodded and turned to head to the nurses station to check out.
He returned about an hour later, and made his way up to the administrative wing on 12. Brandt's office door was labeled clearly Commander Brandt Grayson, M.D., Ph.D.
"Knock knock." Levi said as he stuck his head through the open door, then entered fully. He set a large mug down on the Doctor's desk. "I may not have been around long enough to make any friends, but I have been around long enough to find the best coffee on the station. It's not replicated. The beans are grown on Rigel and they have a roastery set up in their shop in the residential district."
Brandt had looked up from his computer and waved the younger man in the moment he poked his head through the door. "Come on in." The coffee smelled amazing, and Levi confirmed he got it from the place Brandt had hoped he'd get it from. "Was it called Tekos?" Brandt asked to confirm his suspicions.
Levi nodded, "Well it's not a surprise but then I'm sure you'll enjoy it."
In the meantime, he picked up his coffee, lifted the lid and took a big whiff, where he closed his eyes and sighed. "Hmm. I reckon they don't call it the best part o' wakin' up for nothing."
Brandt's office was fairly large as offices went. It was a corner office that had floor to ceiling windows on two walls. It had a couch and oversized armchair with coffee table on one side and a small kitchenette area that had countertops, cabinets, a sink, and a mini fridge built into the space under the counter. Brandt walked over to the kitchenette and opened the fridge to get out a bottle of hazelnut creamer. He poured some of the contents into his coffee, gave it a stir with his spoon then took a testing sip. He made a refreshed "Ah!" Sound and turned to look at Levi. "Cream?" He offered.
"Nah, Black is good for me when the coffee is this good." Levi said. "Nice office, I think it's bigger than mine, which I was a bit shocked by. Most of my service had been ships my last office was less than a quarter this size." He said dropping down onto the couch and leaning against one end, his PADDs of work abandon on the coffee table,
There was a metal, collapsible linen rack in one corner that had several hangers with various articles of clothing and uniforms hanging from it. "I tend to live out of my office most days, so bigger office space was part of my negotiation for taking the position." Brandt was in charge of overseeing not just the entire hospital, but he was the station XO as well. He had a lot of hats he wore and spent more time in his office than his quarters, which was why his office looked more lived in than his own apartment. There were several diplomas and honours framed and hung on the wall behind his desk, but the certificates were dwarfed by how may pictures of family and friends Brandt also had hung on the wall, and displayed on his desk.
He put the creamer away and took up a seat at his desk again, then took another sip of his coffee. "Hmm. Thank you, by the way, for the coffee. It is very much appreciated. I definitely needed the pick me up." He set the cup down on a crystal coaster by his computer terminal and woke the screen back up to continue his work. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," Levi said, "I've had a few concussions in my day." He took a long sip from his coffee and started wandering around the office looking at all the pictures. "Big family?"
"Extended yes. I've got two brothers, two sisters, a bunch of cousins and stuff, but immediately it's just me and my two kids, though they're both grown now and would argue about being called children." The smile Brandt had on his face was soft but affectionate. There was a picture above the couch that was of Brandt, Wyatt, and Avery on Avery's High School graduation day. Avery, his daughter, was in a graduation gown and cap, and Wyatt and Brandt were flanking her with their arms around her and all of them were smiling like someone had just said the funniest thing and they were the happiest people on earth.
"Nice, my family was never particularly big, neither of my sisters have kids, one's married though, I always kind of wanted kids, just never found the right guy to settle down and have them with." Levi said looking at the pictures.
"Who says you gotta settle down to have kids?" Brandt asked before taking a sip from his coffee. "Single-parenting is challenging sure, but it can also be very rewarding."
"True," Levi said. "But I think I would want a partner to do it with." He took another sip of his coffee and returned to the couch. His eyes fell on the portrait above the couch, her decided to not ask about the children's mother. "So doubling as XO and CMO on a station this big, must be a lot of paperwork."
"That definitely makes it easier. Divide and conquer and all that jazz," Brandt said with a nod. "It is, but it's not like I have any other priorities at this point. My kids are grown adults now. Wyatt's serving on the Enterprise, and Avery is a sophomore at SFA." Apparently Brandt was a lot older than he looked, and maybe, just maybe some of the rumors that Levi had heard about Brandt being an augment just might be true? "I like all the work honestly. You know what the say about idle hands?"
"They make for a good time?" Levi replied with a smirk. "You really don't look old enough to have adult kids." He said staring at the other man's face and taking in the small details. Flicks of grey in his stubble, the small mole under his eye.
He chuckled at Levi's joke. "Yeah I guess that's true. But they also do the devil's work, apparently." Or so the very old idiom went. He rubbed the back of his head almost bashfully at Levi's comment. "I, uh, I get that a lot. Must be something in my genes." His medical record was sealed, so his Augmented status was not common public knowledge, but the moment it got out, it usually didn't take long to spread. "I'll be 47 this year."
"Well you look damn good for 47. I hope I look that good in 10 years." He said with a wink.
Brandt's smile widened and he chuckled softly in the back of his throat. "Eat right and exercise, although I must also recommend staying away from electrical conduits. Being barbecued is definitely not good for your health." Brandt gave the man his own wink back.
"It doesn't happen all that often although a little more often then I'd like." Levi said laughing, "but it's part of the job I guess, like I said I'll need to have a chat with engineering."
"Well, if you need a little extra muscle to intimidate their butts into gear--you have my frequency," Brandt's smile was genuine, but playful.
Levi smiled, his mind going to far more interesting activities they could do, "I'll keep that in mind. So what exactly is our current mission besides getting the station going and trying to help the Rigellians figure out if they're going to be full members again."
Brandt paused what he was doing and sat back to give Levi his full attention. "It's not just Rigel we're helping out here. We're also overseeing the settlement on Kailailah and aiding the Romulan refugee efforts, as well as assisting terraforming activities in this region of space." He reached for his coffee again to take a drink. "Our primary objective might simply state we're securing Federation interests in this portion of the alpha quadrant, but as we're the only Starfleet and Federation hub this far in space that puts a lot of responsibilities on our shoulders, and that's nothing to sneeze at."
"Sounds like it means a lot of paperwork for you." Levi replied, taking another sip of coffee and disappointedly finding it empty.
"Sweetheart, you have no idea," the man replied with a grin. Either of Brandt's respective positions on their own meant a lot of paperwork and beaurocracy, but put them together and he was constantly swamped. He barely had any personal time, and even when he did manage to find some downtime it was constantly interrupted. But he honestly preferred it that way. He liked being busy. Lords knew he had a unique disposition for it that not many in his shoes could maintain healthily. "But I'm not complaining. I like to be busy."
"So what do you do when you aren't keeping lonely patients awake? besides paperwork." Levi asked leaning back on the arm of the chair the pile of work he brought on the table yet to be touched.
It was a harmless enough question, but Brandt was very well aware of the dulcet flirtatiousness behind it. He leaned back in his chair and sort of fiddled his stylus around in his hands as he regarded the man across from him. "I'm afraid that does take up a majority of my time, but--" He shrugged. "I like to swim, and bake, or read. Always looking for recommendations there... I also dabble on the guitar a little." He shrugged. "I'm afraid I'm rather boring all things considered."
"Why is that boring?" Levi asked, he looked into his coffee mug again as if it willing it to have magically refilled, he gave up and moved to the replicator helping himself to a fresh mug, not nearly as good but not terrible. "I can't bake to save my life, mom tried to teach us the basics when we were younger, 'You never know when you'll be without a replicator' I can cook half decently but never got the hang of baking; too finicky and if you screw something up you can't fix it later. Cooking is much more forgiving."
"My wife wasn't much of a cook, either, so that fell to me most often than not, unless my kids and I wanted to starve." He smiled fondly at the memory of Scar's ability to burn water. "But I learned from helping my ma who carries dozens of awards for her food, so..." Brandt decided to have mercy on the man after he watched him go to the replicator to fill his coffee. "Don't do that," the doctor said as he got up and moved over to the far side of the room where he had a counter area with a built in sink and several cabinets.
He opened the cabinet and from inside he pulled out a french press coffee pot, and set it on the counter next to the electric water kettle that was already plugged in there. He filled the kettle from the sink and set it on the base before he flicked the switch to on. He then removed the lid from the press and took down two bags of coffee grounds from the cabinet which he turned to show Levi. "Hazelnut or dark roast?" he asked. Yes. Levi now knew Brandt's very well-kept secret; he had his own private stash of gourmet select coffee grounds.
"Hazelnut. I remember the first time I learned dark roast has less caffeine in and I can take all the caffeine I can get right now." He said setting his still empty mug on the counter next to where Brandt was working. "Mom never won any awards but she knew her way around the kitchen."
The bag of Hazelnut was definitely not as full as the bag of dark roast, so in that Levi also now knew what Brandt's favorite blend/flavor was. "How many siblings you got?" Brandt asked as he scooped a decent amount of the grounds into the empty glass carafe.
"Yeah, two older sisters." Levi replied, watching Brandt work.
"Bet that was fun. They ever do that older sister thing where they dress you up like a doll?" Brandt inquired further, grinning as he turned to lean back against the counter as he waited for the kettle to finish heating.
"Once or twice." He replied with a smirk, "But I was taller than both of the them by the time I was 8 so they couldn't do a whole lot."
Brandt's lips curved up into a smirk and he chuckled softly in the back of his throat. "I'm the oldest of five," he supplied a little bit of his own history. "I got two younger brothers and two sisters." Though one of his younger brothers felt more like a son most days, considering Brandt had practically raised him after his learning disabilities and behavioral issues became a little too much for his folks to handle.
The kettle light came on, so Brandt lifted it off the base and poured the hot water into the glass carafe of his press til it was about half full. He then got a long spoon out of the drawer to his left and gave the contents a good stir, waited about thirty seconds, then poured more water to fill the pot nearly to the top. He then placed the lid with plunger on too and just rested the plunger lightly on top of the grounds that had accumulated at the top of the water. He lifted his wrist to set a timer of 4 minutes on his smart watch then turned to rest back against the counter again. "It's gotta extract a little." It might seem like a lot of work for coffee, but Brandt personally loved French pressed coffee when it was done right. Worth the little extra time. "Where'd you grow up?" He asked conversationally since they were talking about family and the like.
"Melbourne for the most part," Levi replied. "Mom was a Doctor so she kept the house in the burbs and ran practice before taking over one of the main hospitals. Dad was CoE so he was on assignment a lot, but he retired early and came and settled down. He did consultant work after that." He realized he was very much inside the other man's personal space as they stood by the counter but he made no effort to leave it. "What about you?"
Brandt didn't seem to mind the closeness, or maybe he was just oblivious because he had no sense of personal space, which was probably closer to accurate, honestly. "Huston, Texas. My family owns a cattle ranch out thatta way."
"I forget some times that people still do stuff like that." Levi said enjoying the smell of the steeping coffee. "Like legit farming and ranching and stuff." He added with a small laugh.
Brandt smirked and glanced at his watch still had a minute or so to go. "Yeah. Grayson Farms," he said with a smirk. They were actually a pretty widespread brand for packaged meats, and all kinds of dairy products and stuff throughout North and South America.
"Neat," Levi replied, "So you didn't go into the family business then, why Starfleet?"
Brandt shrugged. "I almost did, but--well, I had a full academic scholarship to almost any Uni I wanted and my parents had plenty of help on the ranch... Plus, my wife's dream had been to practice what she liked to call Frontier medicine. We did that for a while but then she got sick and everything changed." He shrugged just as his watch started beeping so he turned and started depressing the plunger on the coffee pot to press down the coffee grounds. He got down two mugs from the cabinet and poured them each a full cup, then slid one mug Levi's way. "She would have loved all this," Brandt said, then brought his mug with him as he approached his office window.
Levi nodded and accepted the mug, and the pair feel into silence for a moment. "How long ago did she pass?"
Brandt took a sip from his mug not feeling the need to fill the silence. "About fifteen years ago," Brandt admitted with a soft smile. "So, we're all much better now."
"I'm sorry for your loss." Levi said resting a hand on the other man's shoulder.
"Thank you," Brandt said as their eyes met for the briefest of moments.
Levi lingered for a moment before returning to the couch. "So what's the deal with the Captain, I only met her briefly but she seems pretty interesting."
Brandt moved to the fridge to grab some creamer which was vanilla flavored and he added a little to his coffee before putting it away. He gave his cup a stir and then moved to sit in the chair behind his desk. "Captain Carlin is great. She's young but she's got an exemplary record, real experience, and she cares about Prometheus and what we're doing here probably more than anyone I've met."
Levi nodded, "Everyone seems to be pretty good, I mean other than whatever engineering team needs to be better at finishing their work." He said with a laugh holding up his now healed injured hand. He took a sip of coffee and smiled, "This is really good."
Brandt grinned. "May take a little extra TLC, but when done right, French press is always the way to go... In my humble opinion. I'm sure there are others who may not care for it. Now, you know my secret, though. Hopefully, I won't have to kill you over it," he teased with a crooked smirk and a playful wink.
"Well, if there is someone who could get away with it it would likely be you." Levi said, "But I'll probably just make you make me coffee." He said with a smirk.
"Make me make you coffee, huh?" he asked with a playful smirk. "I take money and first-born children as tribute."
"Well unfortunately this job pays crap and I don't have any kids so I'll have to find another way to pay you back." He replied with a wink.
"I hope to be dazzled by your creativity," Brandt quipped back. "Until then, though, we should probably get cracking. These reports aren't going to fill themselves out."
"You aren't dazzled yet?" Levi replied with a grin, "But yes, I guess we should stop fooling around and get to work." He said grabbing a PADD.
Brandt too got back to his reports and they worked in companionable silence for a while. Every time Brandt noticed Levi starting to nod off, he'd think of some excuse to ask him to get up, or engage him in conversation or something along those lines.
Several hours, a bunch of reports, and a full bioscan later, Brandt gave the man a clean bill of health and told him he could head home. "Think you can manage on your on or would you like a medical escort?" Brandt had started closing down his computer and was actually planning on heading out himself. It really wouldn't be out of his way to walk the man to the residential district.
"I'm sure I can manage but I wouldn't mind the company." Levi said smiling.
"I'm headed that way anyway," he said with a smile. "Lemme just clean this up and we can head out." Brandt cleaned out their mugs and the coffee press in the sink and left the dishes on a towel on the side of the sink to dry. He moved to grab his jean jacket off the rack by the door and shrugged his arms into it before he grabbed the beige Stetson hat off the top and slipped that onto his head. "Shall we," he stepped up to the door and opened it to let the other man through first.
Levi stepped out and began heading towards the nearest lift and ordered it to the residential section. He was tired and was looking forward to being able to sleep but he had also enjoyed the time with Brandt.
Brandt locked up his office behind them and led the weary Levi first to the lift, then to the closest transporter platform which would take them to the residential district. After getting his building and apartment number from Levi they headed to the nearest platform to wait for the tram. Brandt realized they were almost neighbors; Brandt's flat was a couple floors up.
Their stop came up and the duo exited together to enter the building and another lift ride to share. Brandt selected Levi's floor then his own. Levi's floor came first. "And this is where I bid you adieu," Brandt said as he stretched out his hand to prevent the lift doors from closing. "If you start feeling worse I'm just a comm and a couple floors away."
"Thanks." Levi said smiling and extending a hand to Brandt.
Brandt took it and gave it a firm shake. "I'll seeya round, Mr.Forbes."
"See you around handsome." Levi said, the word slipping out before he could stop himself. He felt his face blush and without another word he stepped into his quarters and let the doors close behind him.
Brandt merely smiled at the slip and watched Levi go for a moment before stepping back onto the lift and letting the doors close before he took it the rest of the way back to his floor. It was a harmless enough slip. Brandt was sure Leci meant nothing by it.