After the events at Vega Colony, Rafale
is in drydock receiving repairs, and what is left of the crew is on shore leave to put the pieces back together. Jessica St. Peter, recently promoted for her heroics above the colony, is on Earth with her friend Justine Dubois, who has slipped into a state of shock at the death of her lover on the Merveille
Expanded Universes Characters:
Angst, Drama, Family, Friendship, TragedyWarnings:
Rafale - Star Trek Online
15 Oct 2012 Updated:
18 Oct 2012
A special thanks to "BrandNewHero," the player behind Justine Dubois, for his input on her character as well as writing a couple bits of her dialogue. I couldn't have finished this without his help.
1. Shocked by TemplarSora
2. Fair by TemplarSora
3. To Blows by TemplarSora
4. If by TemplarSora
5. Dreary by TemplarSora
6. Turn by TemplarSora
7. Phoenix by TemplarSora
And the tears come streaming down your face===
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home,
And ignite your bones,
And I will try to fix you.
-Coldplay, “Fix You”
"I'm almost there. Is that reading still just ahead?"
There was a soft crackle, and Elaina felt a slight twitch behind her ear as the sub-dermal communicator activated. “Affirmative, Commander. Another meter or so ahead of you."
Elaina passed the beam of her palm torch across the walls of the Jeffries tube, then back in front of her. She cursed. "I'm at another wall."
"You do know how to use a map, correct?"
There was a slight pause before the other voice responded with a frustrated "Standby." An alert from her tricorder told her the radiation leak was even more intense now that she was closer to Main Engineering. She took the moment to catch her breath and cycle her implants, quickly tapping her fingers on her palm in sequence before reaching up to the separate activator at her temple. There was a barely audible beep, followed by a moment of vertigo as the biomechanical implants removed the building radiation particles from her body. She blinked her eyes a few times and shook her head, trying to clear out the last of the unwelcome dizziness that inevitably came from activating the devices.
"Lieutenant Commander, we're not seeing a bulkhead where you are. Confirm your location?"
Seurer rolled her eyes and passed the beam of the light across the wall to her right. "Five-Seven-Bravo, GNDN three-four-two-niner."
"Copy. There shouldn't be anything in front of you."
Elaina checked again. Sure enough, a large bulkhead sat in her way, with no apparent entry hatch allowing access beyond it. She crawled closer and took a better reading with her tricorder.
"Dock control, can you check my tricorder reading? This is...odd."
"Receiving. Hmm...that is damn peculiar. It would explain the energy drain in that part of the ship."
"But why the hell is there a portable holo-emitter in one of my Jeffries tubes?"
"There shouldn't be, sir. Can you disable it?"
"Hang on, let me see what we've got." She manipulated the controls of her tricorder, searching for a control system to shut off the holographic wall. She huffed in annoyance, snapping her tricorder shut. "Screw it, why not?" She crawled closer, then reached out.
The wall shimmered and flickered as her hand passed through the barrier unimpeded. Smiling, she crawled through the hologram to the other side.
A spear of light flashed past her head, hitting the wall of the tube and raining sparks of molten metal and plastic on her. She pressed herself flat on the floor of the tube and called out, "Hold your fire!"
There was a rustle of movement in front of her, and a nervous voice answered her back. "Who are you?!"
Seurer slowly pushed herself back up and lifted her head. "Lieutenant Commander Seurer, who..." Her voice trailed off as she recognized the disheveled man in front of her. "Seymour?"
Lieutenant Sonia's eyes were wide as he recognized the engineer. His phaser dropped with a metallic clang and he moved forward, mumbling incoherently. He threw his arms around Elaina once he was close enough, and the woman felt him shudder as he cried into her shoulder.
She gently put her arms around him and held him. "It's ok, you're safe.
STAR TREK: ONLINE
Everything was red.
Jessica turned around, taking in everything. Displays flashed "Red Alert" in bright red letters, in time with the steady strobing of the red lights on wall panels and in the ceiling. Engineers in red uniforms raced around the cramped compartment, working their consoles the keep the ship alive or fighting the bright, red fires that burned from open walls. The warp core thrummed steadily, pulsing red and blue lights meeting at a half-way point where matter and anti-matter collided violently, providing the power to the maimed ship.
"I have a visual!"
She turned her head towards the voice. A somber looking Vulcan engineer stood in front of her, then stepped to the side, allowing her to see the large display screen behind him. She took a step forward, and then another, and the screen grew until it was as large as the viewscreen had been on the bridge.
A Starfleet ship was flying through the star-dotted blackness, its spherical primary-hull blackened and scarred from weapons fire. Behind her a giant, cube-shaped ship loomed, growing larger as it closed the distance from the Starfleet ship.
This is like a bad dream from geometry.
The cube fired a sickly-green lance of plasma energy towards the first ship, then another. Mercilessly, it pounded the smaller ship. Explosions rocked it, and its nacelles flickered as the ship began to die.
Jessica turned around, looking at the rest of the gathered officers. "We have to do something!" she screamed.
No one moved; everyone just stood transfixed, watching her or watching the viewscreen, she couldn't tell. The dark room was illuminated from behind her with a bright flash, and she turned back around.
The Starfleet ship hung dead in space, another explosion having just ripped through her damaged hull. There was a brief shudder, and the ship seemed to collapse in upon itself before an even brighter flash erupted from it.
She screamed as the ship blew apart from the core breach, obliterating it completely.
Jessica bolted upright in her bed. Her mouth felt dry and her throat was raw, and she looked around in a panic as she took in the unfamiliar surroundings. After a few ragged breaths and looking around, she closed her eyes and sat still, holding her breath for a few seconds. She released it in a steady exhale and opened her eyes again.
The room was dark; not even the moon was shining outside her window in the night sky. The only illumination was a small alarm clock on the opposite side of the room that showed in large, red numbers that it was only a quarter past two. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could make out the shape of the wardrobe that stood next to the bed, one of its doors open to what seemed an even darker space. A small table stood next to her bed with a PADD on top, the small, dim activation light slowly flashing in its low-powered state.
She rubbed her eyes and stretched, yawning, then shook her head.
It was just a dream. Again.
She licked her dry lips. Deciding she needed a drink, she swung her legs out from under the thick comforter and over the side of the bed. As quietly as she could manage, she stepped down onto the hardwood floor and lightly walked across to the bedroom door.
It was the fifth dream she had had of Vega that she could recall. As she walked down the steps to the kitchen, she decided it certainly wasn't the worst one.
Two nights ago though...
Jessica shivered at the memory, though she was certain the cold, Rhode Island winter night was partly to blame. That dream had ended with her on the bridge of the Rafale, just seconds before it had been targeted and exposed to the cold, silent, and utterly terrifying vacuum of space.
She took down a glass from the cupboard, filling it at the sink. Greedily she gulped down the water, then refilled the glass and drank more. As her parched mouth soaked up the liquid, she hoped she hadn't woken the rest of the house up with her screams.
Though by now, she mused, the rest of the house should have been used to the screaming. If it wasn't her, it most certainly would have been...
The silence was shattered by an ear-piercing scream, and Jessica sighed. She took another gulp of water before tossing the rest and refilling it, and then made her way quickly back out of the kitchen and up the stairs. The screaming continued as she hurried to the bedroom next to hers.
Justine was lying in her bed on her side with her back towards the door, just as she had been the previous ten or twenty times Jessica had completed this ritual; she had lost count after the fifth time. And, as before, Jessica quickly passed through the door and went straight to the bed.
On the bed stand was an assortment of old glasses, each one filled with varying amounts of water. Jessica made a mental note to clean the room of them in the morning. For now, though, she focused on her friend as she sat down on the bed and placed her free hand on Justine's back. She gently rubbed the space between her shoulder blades, whispering "it's ok" again and again to her friend.
Justine began to shudder as she silently sobbed; Jessica stopped rubbing her back, opting instead to place a reassuring hand on her friend's shoulder. She had learned after the first nightmare not to rub her friend's back or run her hand through her hair.
I can't do much of anything, I think.
Lately it seemed that no matter what she tried to do to comfort Justine, it only made the situation worse. A touch, a smell, a phrase, and Justine would be in tears, sobbing even louder. It was the only sound she had made since the battle.
The only sound since Bridget's death.
Jessica winced as a sharp pain like a knife stabbed at her chest at the memory of her slain friend. She had stayed at her post on her own bridge, on the medical ship Merveille, during the battle over Vega. One of thousands of casualties from the bloody return of the Borg. But the only one that matters to us.
Justine's sobs trailed off, and Jessica felt the rise and fall of her small body slow as her breathing steadied.
Jessica leaned over and gave Justine a light kiss to the top of her head before she stood and walked back out of the room, softly shutting the door behind her.
"Jessica, is she alright?"
Jessica turned around, finding herself face to face with Justine's father. She shook her head, looking apologetic. "I don't know, sir. She didn't say anything; she just fell back asleep."
He frowned, sighing. "Merci, Jessica. Goodnight." He turned around, retreating to his own bedroom and closing the door behind him.
She took a drink from the glass she held. She felt like she was failing, and completely unable to do anything about it. Justine never moved from her bed, never ate the food that was brought to her, and hadn't said a word since Bridget's death. Mr. Dubois had hoped being home would have helped her in her grief, but nothing had come of it. He had desperately asked Jessica to come be with Justine, but even her presence wasn't enough to break Justine's coma-like shock.
"Take good care...of both..."
Jessica wiped her eyes, tears welling up as she remembered that last promise Bridget had made her take.
"I'm failing so miserably, Bridg...I'm sorry." She hurried into her room and shut the door, weeping.
"Most of the crew is off on shore leave still. A few started trickling back to the space dock, and they're being tasked around the starbase or back on the ship to help with the refit and repairs."
Jessica glanced up from her PADD at the small, portable terminal on her nightstand. "Refit?"
The Bajoran lieutenant, Obruz Dossu, looked up from his own PADD on the other side of the monitor and nodded. "Err, yeah. I thought you were told about it three weeks ago."
Jessica sighed and shrugged. "Possibly. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast two hours ago."
The lieutenant laughed lightly and nodded in agreement. "Things have been upside down all over the place lately." He looked back at his PADD and continued reading off. "Refit should be complete in a month, maybe longer if Lieutenant Commander Seurer wouldn't insist on breaking every safety protocol in the book." He sighed, shaking his head.
Jessica smirked, following along on her own PADD. For weeks, Elaina had been insistent on going back to the stricken starship without an EVA suit - often times alone - to continue repairs of the less complicated systems. She knew it was only a matter of time before she would get bored and switch to the more dangerous ones, like the anti-matter containment pods.
"She also found a friend of yours yesterday."
Jessica glanced at the man. "Oh?"
"Seymour Sonia, Operations? He was in a Jeffries tube behind a holographic duck blind. Took a shot at the commander when she walked in on him."
Jessica blinked in a surprise. "He's alive? We had him written off, 'missing in action.'" She shook her head; as much as she didn't like the man, he was still one more member of the crew that had survived the deadly battle over Vega. Small victories, she mused. "How's he holding up?"
The Bajoran chuckled a little. "As well as can be expected, after a few weeks holed up in a Jeffries tube afraid the Borg were going to find him. He hasn't said much, although he was pretty surprised to hear you had been given command."
That's not surprising at all. She shook her head. The lieutenant didn't know Sonia very well, but Jessica knew exactly what surprised the operations officer. I got the chair before he did.
I wonder if I can transfer him off the ship?
"Anything else I need to know about, 'XO?'"
The lieutenant's face turned bright red and he looked away, smirking. "You were right, I do like the sound of that." He shrugged, putting his PADD down. "Nothing else to report here, 'sir.'"
Jessica frowned, shaking her head. "I hate that. I'm not a male, I'm not some gender neutral species; as far as I can tell, I'm female, or at least some analogue. It's 'Jess,' or 'ma'am.' No more 'sir.'"
He laughed, nodding. "Aye aye." He looked off to the side for a moment, then back at the screen. "How is Justine?" Jessica fell uncomfortably silent and looked away from the console. "That bad?"
"She hasn't said a word." The blue-skinned woman shook her head. "She won’t move. She barely eats anything. And sleep is...fleeting, at best."
The man on the other side of the monitor frowned sadly. "Well, for what it's worth...I guess tell her I said hi? And Jess, again, I'm..."
Jessica held up a hand, stopping him mid-sentence. "I know, Dossu. Thank you. And I'll let her know." Jessica smiled. "Give me a buzz if anything else happens, ok?"
Obruz Dossu looked confused for a moment. "A buzz? Oh! Call you. Right. Will do si- er...ma'am."
Jessica laughed lightly as the channel was closed before she sighed and frowned. She tossed her PADD onto the nightstand next to the terminal and leaned back on the bed, stretching until she felt a small pop in her shoulder. Her eyes fluttered closed for a moment as she relaxed on top of the fluffy comforter.
She was tired of reading reports, tired of listening to progress and status updates. News of another surviving crewmember was bittersweet; she knew she should have been more thankful, but it was Seymour, and it was just one person who wasn't...
She covered her face, feeling her eyes watering up again. It wasn't fair, not to Seymour or the hundreds of other survivors who had been found after the battle. It wasn't that some deserved to live more than others: she was supposed to be happier about all of this. People were alive, after there had been so much death and destruction.
And yet, it still wasn't fair. Not for her, not for Justine. Not for the Kinsleys. She struggled to swallow the lump in her throat. Where was the joy for...
Joy. Jessica grabbed her pillow and pulled it over her head in an attempt to muffle her sobs from the rest of the house. It was - or rather, had been - Justine's pet name for Bridget.
How stupidly fitting, that she's gone now and Justine is nothing but...
But what? Jessica hiccupped, pulling the pillow off her face and wiping her eyes. She couldn't think of what Justine was now. Numerous words overwhelmed her, each descriptively fitting.
One caused her to pause, her eyes welling up and threatening to overflow again.
Dead. Justine's just as dead as Bridget. And it's worse because we could bury Bridget.
I can't bury Justine.
When had the sun risen?
It peaked out from a crack between the thick curtains, illuminating a small portion of the otherwise dark room.
Slowly she blinked her eyes, barely aware of a pressure on her thoughts. It was close to her, and incredibly sad.
What was that, that emotion she had long ago forgotten, grown numb against? She knew what it meant, she understood it in theory. But, when had been the last time she had felt sad?
It seemed like ages ago. Day had melted to night, had melted back into day, back to night, to day, to night...
She continued to take slow, easy breaths. How long ago had it happened? How long had she been on the ship, in the temporary triage, holding the girl's lifeless hand, laying across the sheet that covered her broken body? How long had she been on Earth? Had there even been a funeral?
The day played over in her mind again and again, it seemed. Was she even awake, was this all a dream? Would she wake up to replay that moment in time one final time, and hope for a better outcome than the one she had dreamt? Surely that's what was happening. It wasn't that uncommon for Betazoids to have some sense of future sight, not uncommon enough for it to be looked at as impossible at any rate. Surely she'd awaken from this nightmare at some point. It was only a matter of time.
She shuddered suddenly and violently, her arms flailing wildly about her. Every muscle in her body ached, and she felt her stomach growl hungrily in protest. For a dream, she was in an inordinate amount of discomfort.
The fog of her sleep dissolved in an instant as recognition set in. She'd had this discussion with herself many times already. She needed to stand up, move around the room. Get something to eat, to drink, clean herself up, change into clothes.
Needs and Wants fought a small battle in her mind. The Wants won again, as they had every day for almost a month now.
She let her head sink back into the pillow, letting her body relax again. What good was it to do anything? She didn't care about whatever sick promise Bridget had made her make - she had broken every promise she had made for years.
Tears stung her eyes, but she felt like the emotion was far away from her, behind a wall, where she couldn't reach it to feel it even if she tried. It was an act. All of it was an act. Why should she cry for her when she had left her so utterly...
Justine flung herself onto her side and screamed, her hands pulling at her hair in frustration. She screamed until her throat felt sore, and then she continued to sob, her small body racked with spasms. None of it was fair, none of it made sense, none of it should have happened, none of it...
She barely heard the door open, was hardly aware of the soft hands that pulled her hair back and slowly rubbed her back. She vaguely heard the soft whisper, telling her that the person was there, that it would be ok. It wouldn't be ok, dammit!
Bridget's dead, how is anything alright?
She cried harder until, exhausted, found herself back in the mess hall on the Merveille, laughing about her hair with her friend.
When the first dark cube flew past the window she gasped, and she started to scream again when the second followed.
Mr. Dubois was in the kitchen already when Jessica came downstairs, the sound of grease crackling as he prepared breakfast. She came up behind him and peered over his shoulder, smiling a little.
“Eggs and pancakes again?”
Mr. Dubois startled a little, turning around with his spatula raised before he recognized Jessica and let out a tired sigh. He smiled as he turned back to the food with a chuckle. “But of course.” He nodded his head towards a tray on the countertop next to him. “Would you mind, Jessica?”
She stepped next to him and lifted a plate off the tray, holding it out for him. He quickly lifted two eggs out of the skillet where they had been cooking sunny-side up and slid them onto the plate. Turning, he pulled a couple pancakes off of a small, steaming stack he had on another plate next to the stove where he was working and lay them next to the eggs with a “voila!”
Jessica shook her head, giggling a little at the show as she returned the plate to the tray before going to a cupboard for a glass. “You know, Mr. Dubois…she’ll probably only eat one of the eggs. Again.” She went to the antiquated-looking refrigerator and opened it, searching for the pitcher of orange juice. “Why the big breakfasts?” She paused, repeating what she had said to herself before turning around, looking ashamed. “I mean, I’m not trying to sound ungrateful. Just…”
Justine’s father stopped, staring down at the still sizzling skillet on the stove in front of him. He shrugged before resuming his work. “I do not know.” He reached over to a bowl and picked up a measuring cup, pouring the goopy contents out onto the skillet. “I suppose, making her favorite couldn’t hurt.” He fetched two more eggs and cracked them onto the second skillet, pushing them around idly with his spatula.
“But, she isn’t eating it.”
The elder Dubois laughed and shrugged again. “What else can I do, Jessica? You tell me. Je suis d’oreilles.” He turned around, crossing his arms as Jessica poured the juice into the glass she had retrieved. “She doesn’t talk. She doesn’t move. She doesn’t eat.” He shook his head. “I cannot go into my own daughter’s room without her shying away from me. I cannot console her; it isn’t a skinned knee that I can simply kiss away for her.” He motioned to the stove behind him. “I do what I can to keep busy while you do what you can to help. If all I have is breakfast, I will do it.” He turned back to his cooking and sighed, muttering something under his breath as he lifted the pan off the stovetop and turned back around. He held the pan out for Jessica to see. “It takes skill and patience. And a watchful eye. Otherwise…” He lifted the burned pancakes off of the skillet with his spatula and tossed them away in frustration.
Jessica watched the discarded food hit the floor and slide away with surprise. "I'm sorry. That was...that sounded terrible."
Dubois laughed and turned back to his cooking. "I do not think I will toss you out today, chere. Go, make sure she eats something. I'll have breakfast waiting for you."
"That's really not necessary, sir." Jessica smiled apologetically as she lifted the tray. "I still need to get dressed for my meeting today..."
"Nonsense. You need breakfast." He shooed her towards the stairs with the spatula, ending the argument.
Four hours later and high in orbit over Earth, Jessica was glad she had managed to scarf down the three pancakes and eggs Justine's father had made for her. The meeting was finally nearing an ending point, and she could tell the other officers were getting more uncomfortable and drowsy as the meeting progressed. She was sure she had heard a stomach or two growl over the audio feed in the holo-communication room.
Gathered around the large conference table were the holographic avatars of Elaina Seurer, the chief engineer of the Rafale; Obruz Dossu; and Nizeri Sano, one of her fellow science officers from the Rafale. The Trill woman looked the most uncomfortable and out of place in the meeting - so far, the subject of discussion had been the refit of their ship as well as a few personnel issues that Obruz, in his voluntary XO-position, had been following up on with Jessica.
"That about covers the list of repairs so far, Jessica. The SCE is looking to upgrade the space frame, give her a bit of a smaller build to help reduce subspace warp-damage. The design looks amazing." Seurer smiled a little as she leaned back in her chair. "She's going to look different, but damn; she’s beautiful.”
“Well, with that note, I think we’re done here.” Jessica sat forward, pressing her PADD to bring up the next order of business for her. “Elaina, thank you for the updates. Keep up the work. You can go.” She looked over at Sano, who was beginning to log out of the holographic conference. “Nizeri, I need to talk to you for a second.”
Elaina nodded and tapped a control on the table in front of her; her avatar flickered for a moment before dissolving, disappearing from sight.
Jess turned her chair to face Sano, who regarded her with confusion. “Nizeri, I wanted to know what your plans were.”
The Trill crossed her arms in front of her, looking from Jessica to Obruz and back before shrugging. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean, Jess…err…ma’am.”
“Did you want to stay aboard?”
Nizeri sat back quickly in her chair, looking surprised. “I honestly hadn’t given it much thought. I’m still not sure what the best place for me is right now.” She frowned, casting her eyes off to the side. “I’m not even sure I should still be in Starfleet.”
Jessica’s smile faltered, and she quickly glanced over at Dossu, who shrugged. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I’m a terrible science officer.”
Jessica laughed in disbelief. “Nizeri, you taught me pretty much everything when I came aboard. Hell, you were already working shifts on the bridge. How could you be terrible?”
Sano shook her head. “I didn’t question my scans - or believe them for that matter.” Her eyes slowly came up to meet St. Peter’s. “I shouldn’t have just dismissed it.” She closed her eyes and leaned forward, sighing. “I feel like I just added to the problems.”
“Added to what problems?”
Obruz cleared his throat and sat back. “I guess you hadn’t heard, Commander.” Jessica turned to him, waiting for him to continue. He frowned sadly. “Command had received…numerous reports from ships being attacked in that area of space, including Rafale and the Merveille. The probes did have a match, but everyone was sending their reports back to Command to be verified because it was such an impossible possibility.”
“Jess, those probes that attacked us, when you hit your head,” Nizeri was wringing her hands nervously in front of her now. “I got a match on them. They were Borg.”
Jessica drew in a sharp breath, looking from Obruz to Sano. Her breathing grew heavier, and she felt her eyes beginning to water. “You…knew? Did you…tell someone?”
Sano bit her lip and shook her head. “I was doing more scans when the last one was destroyed. I had nothing else to double check my initial scans. I…dismissed them.”
“You what?!” Jessica jumped to her feet as she screamed, her fists clenched. “You didn’t do anything with them?!”
Dossu stood up behind her, putting a heavy hand on her shoulder; she quickly shrugged it off as she stood over Nizeri. “Commander,” he quietly said in warning.
“I’m sorry, Jessica.”
“Do you know how many people died?”
Nizeri stood quickly, meeting Jessica’s glare with one of her own. “I know what happened, Jessica! I was there with you! My little scan is peanuts compared to what the Revere and Merveille sent Starfleet!” She leaned into Jessica, and Jessica could see her eyes welling up from her own emotions. “Starfleet knew and they didn’t do a thing! Don’t pin your friend’s death on me!”
Jessica’s vision tunneled for a moment as the words left her friend’s mouth. When it cleared, Obruz was standing in front of her, a hand outstretched and holding her away from Sano. Oddly, her palm was stinging, and she could see the other woman staring wide-eyed back at her.
“Commander, step back.” Obruz pushed Jessica away for emphasis before he turned to the science officer. “Sano?”
“I’m ok.” She shook her head, taking a few unsteady breaths. “Her hand passed through…I’m ok.” She looked past him at Jessica, who was staring down at her stinging hand. “I’m sorry, Jess. That…wasn’t right.”
Jessica pushed Obruz’s hand away from her and pointed threateningly at Nizeri. “Pull that crap as my chief science officer and I’ll escort you to the airlock myself!” She smacked her hand on the table, closing the connection to the other two officers.
As Jessica’s holographic avatar faded from sight, Nizeri turned questioningly towards Dossu. “Chief science officer?”
Dossu shrugged and smiled slightly. “Congratulations?”
Jessica didn’t say anything as she ran into the house and up the stairs to her room, slamming doors behind her as she went. She threw herself onto her bed, sobbing.
They knew! The bastards knew and they didn’t do a damn thing!
She sobbed harder, punching her pillow, the mattress, the head board - anything within striking distance wasn’t safe from her pummeling as she sobbed, repeating in her head over and over again.
They knew. They knew.
Frustration and anger, mixed with surprise - no... shock - and a deep, bitter sadness.
So easily felt, almost tangible. Yes, even palpable. The emotions were all so very clear. It may well have been the most lucid Justine had felt in weeks.
It was a lie, of course. In a manner of speaking, anyway. She hadn't really felt anything clear since... since...
Well, for some time now. Her eyes closed, and she looked through the soupy haze of a prison that had her own headspace had become. It was like a hot, wet blanket, gently smothering her, daring her to care or move. It had been awful... probably. She wasn't really aware of how she felt. Everything was numb, deadened by the blanket that softly suffocated and insulated any real assessment of her state. She couldn't shake herself out of it. Not that she cared to try, though. It was easy, really. Just lie back and...
Well, lie back, anyway.
But now the more solid, crystalline feelings, so easy to process and understand, threatened all that. Others might have seen a sign of her getting better, but she felt it was more an intrusion on her blissful nothingness.
And yet, they were important. They belonged to Jessica. Oh, Jessiy. How do you put up with me?
It didn't take a pure Betazoid to know why Jessiy was feeling this; sadness and anger... Well, yes. She'd lost someone close. Someone important. But... no.
They were directed at someone or something. It would explain the shock. The bitterness.
She’d been betrayed and found out about it. Justine attempted to retreat back into numbness.
Of course. I don’t have to be telepathic to know. Justine bit her lip, doing her best to keep herself from crying. She'd done so well these past weeks. She'd avoided all those potential pitfalls into a confrontation with the reality of what had happened. I’m just one great big, stupid, failure of a doctor. Five years wasted at Starfleet Medical for what? I couldn’t stop internal bleeding, with all the technology and medicine I have at my disposal? I couldn’t even stabilize her.
No, that's stupid. You knew the moment she came in that it was over.
Of course not! We could have kept her going... Adrenaline or a synth-narcotic to keep her heart-
To keep it what? Beating? Her kidneys were ruptured. Every beat of her heart did more to ensure there wouldn't be another. Her blood was poisoning her.
And she was right back where she had been all those weeks ago. Sitting over her first love, denying up and down that it would be their last meeting. Except now, it wasn't denial. A great swell of sorrow, of pitiful despair, washed over her, drowning her in her own memories.
What good am I? And that was how I say goodbye? By screaming at her, and hitting her?
The tears rolled down her cheeks. She was careful not to make a sound, lest anyone come into the room. It was better for her to stew in her own misery, rather than burden anyone else with her shortcomings...again.
She fell asleep with the saline flowing freely over her, intermittently cursing herself and wishing that tomorrow would return her to the safety of apathy.
“For what it’s worth, I don’t think Lieutenant Sano is holding your…outburst the other day against you.”
Jessica sighed, not bothering to look up from her PADD. “She accepted the position, I guess?”
“She did. Apparently, whatever other job she was looking for didn’t work out.” Obruz looked at Jessica from his side of the monitor and frowned. “I still can’t believe you hit her.”
“You heard what she said.”
“Sure, and it was pretty low. I still can’t believe you hit her while you were offering her a job.”
“Dammit, Obruz. Not now.” Jessica set the PADD down on her lap in frustration, glancing up at the Bajoran’s image on the screen. “I feel terrible enough about it. I still can’t believe what she told me.”
“You really can’t fault her for it. She had no information. Do you know how many false readings…”
“Yes, I do. I’m a science officer, remember?” Jessica ran a hand through her hair, sighing. “What killed me most was what she said about the other ships. Starfleet Command knew what we were fighting out there, but even they did nothing about it.”
“A long dead enemy suddenly return from the grave? Sounds like bad science fiction. It doesn’t surprise me that they disregarded it all.”
“But isn’t that just it? Haven’t we seen enough of the Borg to know not to discount them so readily?” Jessica shook her head. “It was just…such a stupid thing to do, not warning anyone.”
“Would it have made a difference?” Obruz sat back in his chair, looking distant as he searched his own memories of that day. “We were in orbit of Vega when that rift opened and the ships spilled through. Even if we had known that the Borg were harrying ships in the region, there was no way to know they’d attack there, and in that number.”
“But we could have done something!” Jessica hit her hand on the PADD, causing the device to beep angrily back at her. “The reinforcements that came, us - we had no idea what we were up against until we warped in to a starship graveyard!” She shook her head in frustration. “If we had known, we would have been better prepared. Hell, Rafale probably wouldn’t have been caught alone in that debris field.” She sighed. “So much could have been done differently.”
”People wouldn’t have died?”
“Yes!” Jessica took in an unsteady breath, feeling her eyes begin to water. “I mean…some people might have still…but that’s beside the point. Hundreds of people is better than thousands!”
The two officers sat in silence for a while, both unable to speak as they considered what Jessica had said.
“I lost a lot of friends there. Fires, I had a close call myself.” Dossu idly touched the still-healing scars on his face. “I don’t know that anything else could have been done for them.”
“I could have saved her.”
Obruz looked up sadly at St. Peter. “There was nothing that could have been done, Commander.”
“Bullshit! Bridget was hurt because Rafale didn’t intervene in time. Seurer made the decision to run away, dammit!”
“Yes!” Jessica wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, then her nose which had started to run. “We had no command crew, no shields, and barely any power at all. She wanted to turn tail and run back to the planet.”
Obruz furrowed his brow in confusion. “Then how…?”
“We detected the Merveille; she was about to be destroyed. We all told her what was at stake; there were thousands of people on your ship alone from all the survivors you had picked up. We had to do something. And she just…” She covered her mouth, swallowing the lump in her throat to keep from sobbing again. “She froze, Dossu. She didn’t know what to do.”
Obruz was silent again, looking off to the side of his screen. “And that’s when you stepped up?”
“What was I supposed to do? Justine and…and…” she nearly choked on the name, “Bridget were both there. I couldn’t just sit back and watch…”
“So you did what you had to do to save your friends.” Jessica nodded, wiping her face. Dossu shrugged. “So why the second guessing?”
“I should have reacted quicker.”
“Jess, there is such a thing as a ‘chain of command’ for a reason. You couldn’t just go over Commander Seurer’s head like that, not that quickly.”
“Why the hell not?” Jessica smacked the PADD on her lap again, causing the computer to beep at her again. “I went over her head in the end! I could have done it earlier, we could have been back in action quicker, we could have taken fire off of you sooner.” She tossed the PADD to her left, where it bounced off the bed and clattered to the ground. “I could have saved her, Dossu!”
Obruz was silent for a few seconds. “Could you have?”
Obruz shook his head. “Jess…listen to me.”
“Shut up, Dossu.”
“Jessica, you go and take over. You’d be facing a court martial now instead of in command. And, that’s assuming you didn’t get yourself killed trying to protect us.”
The tears she had been fighting started to flow freely. “It’d be better than seeing Justine like this and living without Bridget!”
“But you don’t know that! Anything could have happened there, Jessica! For all you know, Bridget would still be dead, no matter how long you think it took you to take charge.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Maybe not. But you don’t know, either. There’s no way to know.” Obruz sighed, leaning forward again. “I can’t tell you what you want to hear. You saved Justine. You saved me. You saved thousands of people.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt more abandoned by the Prophets than I did that day. All the friends I - we - lost, it shouldn’t have been. But I am so very thankful for you, and the Rafale, and what you did. We all knew the risks for this job, Bridget chief among them as a security officer.” He shook his head, his voice conveying concern. “She paid the ultimate price, manning her station on the bridge to the very end. The medics had to pull her away by force to get her to the triage to try and treat her.”
Jessica covered her face, crying freely now, and whispered “I know…”
“I miss her so much, Dossu.” St. Peter wiped her face, her cheeks slick from tears and her eyes bloodshot. “She was so beautiful, and such an incredible friend. It could be the worst day in the galaxy and she would just smile and…everything would be ok.” She sniffled loudly and, reaching down, brought up the sheet of the bed to wipe her nose with. “She had this way to know exactly what to say, for better or worse.” Jessica laughed at that, remembering her friend. “She convinced me to play volleyball at the Academy with her. I didn’t want to, I didn’t have the time.” She shook her head. “I can’t even remember what she said, but I wound up signing up for it as if it were my idea.”
“I always did think she could talk the robes off a Vedek.” Obruz laughed. “She was something else.”
“She was incredible…” Jessica shook her head, frowning again. “I should have saved her.”
Dossu frowned sadly. “Jess...”
“I wish I could have done more. If I was just a little faster!”
“You did everything you could, and more. We all did.” Obruz bit his lip for a second, pausing. “So did Bridget. Don’t take that away from her.”
“I just want her back, Dossu. For me, for Justine…” She took in a deep breath, trying to regain her composure. “For you.”
“Jessica…answer me this. If the earring was on the other ear…”
Jessica laughed. “Wait, what?”
Obruz looked confused for a moment. “’If the earring was on the other ear.’ If your roles were reversed.”
“’If the shoe were on the other foot?’”
“If that’s how you say it, then sure. Either way: if you were the one dead, and Bridget was grieving for you?”
Jessica shook her head and sighed. “I wouldn’t want her to blame herself.” She laughed then. “That doesn’t mean it has to make sense like that for me.”
“Jessica, you know Bridget wouldn’t want this, for either of you. You need to be strong for each other, and you need to grieve, but you can’t blame yourself. If you want someone to blame, blame the Borg. Blame Command. If it makes you feel better, blame the Prophets or whoever you want. There was nothing more you could have done, Jessica.”
God I’m so cold.
Jessica shivered again, pulling the comforter closer around her. She was already curled in a tight ball in the center of her bed, with a second comforter weighing heavily on top of the first that she desperately worked to bury herself deeper into.
Outside, the wind howled, blowing the tree branch outside her window so that it scratched across like in a cheap horror holo-novel. The weather had taken a turn for the worst, starting with a thunderstorm the previous night. Freezing rain pelted the glass like handfuls of tossed rocks now as the wind continued to howl.
No fair. I feel like crap enough without the weather feeling that way, too.
How perfect is this, though? Middle of winter, in the North. A perfectly dreary and depressing day to match the ongoing theme of the past month and a half.
There was a low howl outside.
Oh, shut up.
As if in reply, the wind howled even louder, and the rain pelted harder against the window.
Jessica rolled her eyes. “What do you have to be angry about? Or, I guess, sad. It’s not like you’re thundering out there. Ok, so you’re not angry anymore, or at least pissed off. What’s wrong with you?” She rolled over to stare out the window. The sky was grey as the first signs of daybreak did their best to cut through the thick layers of clouds that were raining over the house. The window pane was almost completely iced over, save for where the tree branch outside continued to scrape across and clear the ice from it.
The wind died down for a moment, so that there was only a soft whistle. Jessica shook her head. “Sorry, I’m a little rusty when it comes to speaking wind.” She paused for a moment, then shook her head and laughed. “Am I really doing this? Am I so desperate for interaction that I’m talking to a storm?”
The sound of raindrops faded for a moment before the low rumble of thunder shook the glass of the window. A second rumble followed soon after as Jessica frowned and turned back onto her back, staring up at the ceiling.
There was nothing more you could do.
There had to have been more. Couldn’t there?
The storm rumbled outside again, and Jessica rolled her eyes.
I’ve been here for, what, two months now? Longer? Jessica frowned. Everything seems to just blur together now. God, I can’t remember the last time I actually smiled, or laughed. I can barely remember what Justine sounds like, she’s been so quiet except for her screaming. I haven’t been able to help her. Nothing I’ve said, nothing I’ve done, nothing is bringing her back.
She was my friend, too. The thought came back, strong and angry. Justine is grieving, I know that. But I lost her, too. I loved her, too! But God help me if I shut down like Justine did; no, I’m not allowed to do that. I have to be the strong one.
She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. She could feel the cork exploding off her bottle, unleashing all the pent up emotions she had been trying to keep contained.
None of this is fair. I have been sitting here, trying my hardest to help and all I do is screw up. I’m not helping her; I’m barely in charge of my own ship right now; I’m barely even in control of myself now! Dammit, Bridget, why you?
“It could have been anyone else. Why’d they call you back up to the bridge, dammit?” She wiped her eyes as she felt the tears start to well up. “You’d have been down where it was safer, with Obruz and his team. You could still be here, with her, with me.”
What would she think, seeing you like this?
“She’d be disappointed in me. That I’m not helping Justine for her. She told me to take care of her and all I’ve managed to do is push her further away,” Jessica sobbed, covering her face with the comforter.
How the hell am I supposed to be in charge of a ship of hundreds when I can’t take care of my best friend and me? I’m going to fail. I’m going to fail, and someone is going to die again because of what I do or don’t do.
Of course that’s going to happen. You know that. You knew that when you entered the Academy, Jess.
There was a very low rumble of thunder as the sky darkened slightly outside. The rain blew against the window, the wind picking up once again.
Jessica shrugged, not sure how to answer the wind’s silent question for her. “I don’t know why there were so many. I’ve been asking myself that since it happened.”
The wind blew again, whistling quickly outside her window, the pitch gradually lowering until it was a low howl, and the rain beat against her window in large drops.
“What do you mean why am I still doing this?”
The wind whipped up and gradually fell again. More large droplets of rain smacked her window, and thunder rumbled again, closer now.
Jessica shrugged again. The storm had a point; if she was afraid of the death, she could just leave. “I could. But what else would I do? I have nowhere else to go.”
The rain died down for a moment, prompting Jessica to roll her eyes. “Sure, there are plenty of labs and civilian outposts, but it wouldn’t be Starfleet. I grew up wanting to be in Starfleet like my dad. I couldn’t turn my back on it.”
The thunder crashed again, even closer now so that the window glass shook in its frame.
“It is sort of a hopeless cause, isn’t it? Wanting to do this so bad, and yet knowing I’ll lose my friends in time. Is that all there is in Starfleet? Death, sorrow?”
The thunder rumbled again, but softer now. Rain softly pattered against the roof and side of the house.
Heh…yeah. They did find me. In the middle of a devastated city that had been wiped off the face of whatever little planet that was. Death. Sorrow.
The rain fell harder for a moment, blown by a quick breeze that howled past her window.
“No, but for the millions of people that did live there? Sure, Dad and I came out on top, but at that cost? It still isn’t right. Or fair.”
The wind softened for a moment as it continued blowing outside.
“Now? Sure, I’m safe. Justine is alive. Thousands of colonists and other ship crews are ok. But Bridget? My captain?”
The thunder rolled again, and the wind picked up. Rain beat hard against the house again, and the tree branch outside Jessica’s window scratched menacingly at the glass.
A waste? Jessica shook her head in disbelief. “No…God, no, not a waste. Bridget wasn’t a waste!”
The tree branch continued to scratch and claw at her window as the wind took on a deeper, mournful tone.
A tragic waste…of so many lives. And all I or JD can do…is sit here. Jessica hung her head in shame.
Again the thunder sounded as the wind blew faster outside, angrily.
Jessica brought her head up quickly and glared at the window incredulously. “I am not a waste!”
The thunder boomed outside in response. The wind flung the tree branch into her window so that it beat it almost rhythmically, as if in laughter.
“What else am I supposed to do?! I’m not a captain, I never asked for this! I’m a scientist!”
Scientist? Ok. Then look at this logically.
“Logic?” Jessica laughed. “Logic be damned! Nothing of what happened makes any sense! It shouldn’t have happened! What am I supposed to do now? What are any of us supposed to do now?” She brought the blanket tighter around her as she shivered. “God, I feel so alone. So hopeless. So cold.”
Jessica grew quiet, silently shivering on the bed as the rain fell soothingly outside. She stared at the ceiling, wishing she could get away from everything - the sadness, the pain, the responsibility. The rain crashed down harder for a moment, and the wind blew the tree branch so that it rapped hard against the glass.
Jessica turned on her side and looked out the iced window, sighing. No. I really can’t leave. I just have to keep going forward. If I just knew how to.
Because Bridget wants you to keep going.
Jessica rolled her eyes, a faint smile forming on her lips. You think so?
The wind whistled softly outside. The sound of rainfall died down for a moment, and the outside sky brightened as the sun managed to peek through the thick cloud cover.
The next moment the sky darkened again. The rain fell harder and a faint roll of thunder could be heard.
Jessica blinked, confused for a moment. For me? Your argument was better saying I should stay in for Bridget’s sake. I can’t do this for me. I don’t want to do this anymore.
The thunder boomed louder now as the wind whipped past her window and large drops of rain pelted the glass.
Jessica looked out the window again and narrowed her eyes. “Is it a lie?”
Thunder crashed again. Jessica nodded; it was a lie. She wanted this more than she cared to admit. The thought of her not just being another officer, but being in command, thrilled her and terrified her. What if she failed, and even more people paid that price?
No one else matters? Jessica shrugged. If I’m going to keep doing this, I need to enjoy it. I need to get fulfillment out of it. I have to make it mine. I can’t be worried about what other people are going to think of me. All that matters is that we do our best. Right?
“But can I look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and be proud of who I am? Of what I’ve done? Even if it means people die?” The wind blew harder for a moment, and it whistled past the glass. “I…I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
There was one last, light splatter of rain against her window and low whistle of wind. It struck the window quickly, as if willing Jessica to her feet: she knew what she had to do.
What I have to do…
Jessica knocked softly on the heavy wooden door. She turned the doorknob, not bothering to wait for a voice on the other side to invite her in. It had been two months now. In that time, there had never been an invitation to come in.
Today was no different. Jessica entered the dark room silently, the soft padding of her feet barely audible over the heavy breathing from under the covers.
She paused for a moment at the foot of the bed, looking at Justine as she lay curled up. Her hair was dirty blonde now, with only the faintest hint of its former purple glory left at the ends. She found it sad, that her friend’s normally vibrant, abnormal color was fading now. Purple had been the norm ever since she and Bridget had started dating. Purple had been the woman’s favorite color.
Jessica sighed, the familiar pain in her chest stabbing at her heart as she thought about her late friend. It was tragic but somewhat fitting that Justine’s hair, the last holdout of a reminder of Bridget, would now succumb. It reminded her for a second of a Romulan ritual for mourning.
When the ink fades, our mourning is over.
She sat down on the foot of the bed and reached out, gently placing her hand on Justine’s leg. The other woman shuddered slightly, and drew in a sharp breath. “It’s me, sweetie. Sorry to wake you.”
Justine poked her head out of her covers long enough to recognize Jessica. She took in a breath and moaned a little, shuffling ever so slightly under the covers.
“Your dad has breakfast ready, sweetie.” The other girl made no more movement, and Jessica sighed. Same crap, different day. “Alright, I’ll be back then.” She stood back up, rubbing her forehead in exasperation. She kept walking out the door, not expecting any response as she asked, “Do you want orange juice again? Or milk?” Muttering under her breath she added, “Or both, I can do that again, too.”
Jessica nodded, acknowledging the whimper of a request as the door closed behind her. She headed down to the kitchen, where the familiar tray was waiting for her. Mr. Dubois was still bent over the stove-top, finishing his own breakfast. He looked up when Jessica opened the refrigerator and began to pull out the pitcher of juice.
“How is she today?”
Jessica shrugged. “Same old, I guess. Did you wake up last night?” The elder Dubois shook his head, catching Jessica by surprise. “I guess she didn’t wake up then?”
“I suppose not. It’s a start, perhaps?” He reached next to him and picked up the pitcher of milk, offering it to Jessica. “Milk?”
Jessica shook her head. “Just juice today. At least that’s…” Jessica trailed off, her eyes widening. She gasped, finally realizing what she had heard. “That’s what she asked for.” She looked up at Justine’s father in disbelief. “She asked for juice.”
“Are you certain?”
“Yes!” Jessica grabbed the tray and lifted it up, doing her best not to sprint up the steps. She paused outside the door, doing her best to collect herself before opening the door again. I can’t scare her; I need to be calm. She turned the handle and opened the door, stepping in. “Jussy? Got breakfast for us…” She walked back over and sat down at the foot of the bed again, watching her friend intently.
Very slowly, Justine sat up and scooted backwards so that she could lean on the headboard. She wiggled over, giving Jessica room next to her to sit down.
The gesture caught Jessica completely by surprise. She blinked a few times, still not believing any of it had even happened. Slowly, she crawled up and twisted, so that she was sitting next to the smaller woman with her back against the headboard and set the tray with their meal between the two of them. “Hungry today?” Justine barely nodded, but it still thrilled Jessica; it was the most conversation the two had had in months. She offered a fork to Justine, who slowly took it and began to pick at the eggs on her plate.
Jessica let the silence hang, starting in on the short stack of pancakes that were on the tray. The two of them ate in peace for a few minutes until Jessica was satisfied that her friend was definitely feeling better.
“Did…um…you sleep well?”
Justine shrugged in response, and Jessica’s hope for more conversation deflated slightly.
“That’s…that’s good.” There was another moment of awkward silence, Jessica deciding what the best way to finish tearing down the wall would be.
“It’s…gonna be a nice day today. Did you want…to go outside later? Maybe?”
Justine started to shrug as she brought a forkful of pancake to her mouth, then stopped. Her lip quivered for a moment and her eyes widened as she dropped the fork.
“What? What is it?” Jessica put a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“Sh-she…she loved the sun…” Justine covered her mouth, tears freely flowing down her cheeks. “Oh god…I miss her so much!” Justine sobbed harder, covering her face with her hands.
Jessica moved the tray off the bed before pulling Justine closer to her, putting her arms around the smaller woman as she sobbed. “I’m sorry hon…”
Justine turned and threw her arms around Jessica, burying her face into the blue woman’s shoulder as she cried. “It’s not fair! She was supposed to be a captain! She was gonna be great! And now…” Justine sniffled, preparing herself. “And now she’s gone!” She sobbed harder, pressing closer against Jessica as the other woman sat silently, just holding her. “I can’t take it anymore. Everything just hurts…I want it to stop. I want it all to go away!”
Jessica put her hand on Justine’s head and gently ran her fingers through the girl’s knotted hair. “Shh…I know. I’m here, hon…”
“My heart hurts so much…Everything I think about or do just makes it worse! Everything reminds me of her…” She sobbed harder, her small body shaking from the outpouring of emotion.
Jessica rubbed her friend’s back and arm, holding her as protectively as she could. She heard the words in her mind and hated herself for repeating them.
Maybe Obruz was right.
Jessica swallowed and kissed the top of her friend’s head. “JD…I know it hurts, hon. I know…I’m so sorry. But…I mean…would you want Bridget to do this if you were in opposite places?”
“I wish we were…”
Jessica shook her head a little. “Justine, I…”
“She was so…so…” Justine sighed, her sobbing finally subsiding, even if only temporarily. “She was everything. I just want her back…so bad…” She pulled away from Jessica enough to wipe her face.
“I do too…” Jessica wiped a tear from her own face.
The two friends sat in silence again, and Jessica couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief, knowing she was finally able to comfort her friend the way she had wanted two months prior. Better late than never, I guess.
Justine hiccupped and sat back so that she had her back on the headboard again, frowning in thought. “And you…” She shook her head. “You’ve been so perfect and sweet and I…I’ve been so cold to you, to Dad. You both dropped everything just to take care of me. I should have been grateful.” She sniffled and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “I’ve been so terrible to both of you.”
Jessica shook her head quickly, fearful her friend was talking herself into a depression. “No! No no no, of course not! We…we knew we needed to help.” She put her arm back around Justine and pulled her close again. “You’re my best friend. Sunshine and Stormy, remember?”
Justine sniffled, a small smile coming to her face. “The way it’s been, someone would think we got the names wrong…” She laughed lightly and shook her head, and Jessica couldn’t help but smile too. “I…merci…thank you, Jessiy.” Justine took a deep breath, leaning back into Jessica. “I really needed you here.”
“It’s ok…besides, I understand. This was…rough. For everyone.”
Justine sighed, falling back against her pillow. She shook her head, staring at the wall on the far side of the room. “What am I supposed to do? Why did she have to go... When will it stop hurting? Will it ever stop at all?” She bit her lip, still staring off into space, lost in her thoughts.
Jessica looked down at her hands and shook her head. “I...I don't know that it'll ever stop hurting...maybe it won't.” She tugged with her arm, giving Justine a small squeeze. “We have to keep strong. I know Bridget wouldn't want to see you - us - like this.”
“But what if I can't do it? What if I'm not good enough?”
Jessica frowned. She hated using the same arguments against Justine that she had brought against herself. It felt so heartless to do. “ JD...you're a Starfleet officer...and a doctor to boot...”
“And I couldn't even save her.”
Jessica looked over at her friend and sighed. “Hon...it was...it was too late...”
Justine sat quiet for a moment before nodding. “I know,” she said quietly, and Jessica could see her eyes begin to well up with tears again.
“I'm so sorry, hon.”
Justine brought her knees up and wrapped her arms around her legs, leaning forward to rest her chin on the tops of her knees. “I am too…”
Jessica rubbed Justine’s back a little as the faintest hint of a smile lifted the corner of her mouth. “I'm glad...I mean...” She sighed. “It was good we got to say...goodbye at least.”
Justine nodded. “She... She was so brave. She didn't look scared or anything.”
Jessica thought back to that moment, seeing Bridget on her death bed. “Yeah.” She hadn’t been scared. She’d been more concerned about Justine and Jessica than herself.
Her friend hiccupped again and wiped her nose. “I loved her so much... I still love her.”
“I know...and she loved you.” Jessica frowned a little and shrugged. “I'm sure she still does.”
Justine looked over at Jessica, her expression one of concern. “Hey, she loved you too... You were really important to her.”
Jessica allowed herself a small laugh at her psychic friend: she had managed to catch what had gone unsaid. “I know...but the two of you, I mean...she really did love you. A lot more than me. I was just the friend. Nothing more.” She smiled more. “I didn’t mind. Y’all were perfect.”
“It was gonna be our anniversary in a couple months...” Justine suddenly looked distant again and her lip quivered. “I was going to... We were...” She sighed and sniffled, wiping her face dry once again. “I shouldn't have waited so long.”
Jessica nodded and leaned over so that she could put her arms around her friend again. “I’m sorry.”
“We... Never mind...” Justine wiped her eyes again before leaning back against the headboard. “It's not important.”
They sat in silence, Justine’s head on Jessica’s shoulder. Jessica closed her eyes and smiled a little more. Despite everything and the long road ahead before life would return to some semblance of normalcy, she was incredibly happy and thankful her friend was back. Already the tragedy seemed more bearable, knowing she still had Justine.
“Do you... do you really want to go outside?”
Jessica shrugged, giving her friend a quick squeeze. “It could be nice. Besides...you've been in here for almost two months...you could use the fresh air.”
“Ok...Can we just stay in the yard today though?”
Jessica smiled a little more. “Sure hon. Either way, you need to get outside...need your sunshine.”
She could feel Justine’s cheek on her shoulder tighten as the smaller girl grinned. She laughed a little. “You're almost too sweet sometimes, Stormy.” She brought her arms up and put them around her blue friend, hugging her tightly. “Ok. I'll do it. For you and Dad.”
“Good, cause your dad really wants to change those sheets.”
Justine laughed more. She hugged Jessica tighter as her friend laughed along with her.
Alright Bridget. I think we can do this.
Jessica ran her hand through her tangled mess of hair, looking over the items laid out on the bed. She sized each of them up, comparing them thoroughly and looking at the small duffel bag that was off to the side of it all.
How the hell did I fit all of this in here?
There was a small knock on her bedroom door. She shrugged and called out "come on in" as she continued to mentally attempt to pack her bag. The door opened slowly, and Jessica glanced up to see Justine walk in slowly, gripping anything within reach to keep her steady. Jessica smiled at her. "Stretching out?"
Justine nodded. "I can't believe how sore and weak I feel." She managed to cross the short distance to the bed and hopped on top of it, causing a small stack of folded shirts to fall over. "When are you leaving?"
Jessica decided to start packing the smaller articles of clothing, rolling up her underwear and stuffing it into the bag. "Not until tomorrow morning. I'm catching a shuttle to the space dock and then..." She trailed off, looking up at Justine. "And then back out there."
Justine nodded, looking down at her hands. She looked back up and nodded again. "It's what we signed up for."
"It doesn't make it easier."
"No." The girl leaned back on the bed, slowly kicking her legs up and down. "But we can always talk still."
Jessica smirked. "Yeah, I guess so." Finished with the small pile of underwear, she moved to her socks and began packing them. "What are you going to do?"
"I figure I have another month of leave saved up. After that I'll be out there with you."
"Have you checked in with your captain yet?"
Justine paused, then shook her head. "No, not yet. I guess this is me checking in now."
Jessica finished balling up a pair of socks before she stopped in surprise. She looked at Justine, speechless for a moment.
Justine blushed and looked down. "I...put in a transfer request."
"Yesterday. It was approved. I'll be on the Rafale in a month and a half."
Jessica dropped the ball of socks in the bag, her mouth open in excited surprise as she began to understand what her friend had done. "You're...you're going to be on Rafale. With me."
Justine nodded, smiling bashfully. "Merveille is in dock indefinitely, and short of being on a starbase on the Klingon front, I won't be much good. I can actually do something on the Rafale. And," she paused, looking up at Jessica. "And we wouldn't have to just call each other."
Jessica clapped her hands together, laughing as she jumped on the bed and tackled Justine. The girls laughed together for the first time in what seemed like forever, and Jessica kissed her friend's forehead. "Welcome aboard, sweetie."
They lay on the bed for a while, giggling together and talking about life on the Rafale when the small console on her nightstand beeped, alerting Jessica to an incoming transmission. She sighed before sitting up, and Justine sat up. "Duty calls?"
Jessica nodded to her friend. "Welcome to being friends with the captain."
Justine shrugged before struggling for a moment to hop off the bed. "I think I can get used to it," she said over her shoulder as she walked out and closed the door.
Jessica was still smiling wide as she pressed the button on her console. The image of the Bajoran lieutenant appeared, and he smiled back in surprise. "Well, you look much happier today."
"A lot's happened in the past few days."
Obruz nodded. "Good. I'll have to call Justine later." He glanced off to the side for a moment and then back. "I was just calling to make sure you remembered your shuttle tomorrow and to just say..." He paused for a moment, then shook his head. "Well, I wanted to say good luck. I wish you the best."
Jessica nodded. "Thank you, Dossu."
"Your crew will be on board and ready to go, minus a few key positions. You, uh...never did get back to me about a few. Starfleet is going to just assign you someone in the next few days if you still don't make a decision."
Jessica's smile wavered, and she sighed. "To be honest, I hadn't given it much thought. I had a lot else on my mind the past few weeks."
Obruz nodded, smiling a little more. "I know."
"Dossu, really; thank you. You did a lot for me the past month when I really had no business expecting you to." Jessica looked up at him. "You were...an incredible help."
Obruz waved her off. "It was the least I could do. For Bridget."
"Well, from all three of us, thank you." Jessica smiled, and she hoped the man understood just how much help he had been to her. He had been an incredible confidant, an amazing XO, and a true friend in the aftermath of Vega, from the moment she had beamed over to the Merveille. His volunteering to help, even months after, was a blessing for her.
"Well, I'll let you finish packing, Commander. Be safe out there. Maybe, Prophets willing, we'll cross paths again."
Jessica looked away for a moment as an epiphany struck her. "Wait," she said, turning back in time to see him reach in front of him to close the channel. "Dossu. I still need a first officer."
Obruz nodded. "Aye. First Officer, an Operations Officer, maybe a couple other dedicated department heads. I forwarded the list to you a few weeks ago. Do you need it again?"
Jessica shook her head. "No. I need you to contact command."
Dossu smirked and nodded, picking up his PADD to take notes. "Whatever you need."
"I need you to put in a transfer request to the Rafale, Dossu."
Obruz stopped, looking up at Jessica in confusion. "Ma'am?"
"I need a first officer, Obruz." Jessica leaned forward, grinning at the still confused Bajoran. "You better get on that transfer request before Starfleet sticks me with someone else."
He had to keep moving.
Tosek stole a quick glance behind him, his eyes searching for the unseen presence he could feel behind him, his keen senses in conflict with what his eyes were telling him - that there was nothing there.
He normally would have dismissed the feelings as nerves, since logically there was nothing he could see or hear around him. He was alive, just like anyone else on the Warwick, and subject to the same stresses and woes as his crewmates. He was simply fortunate enough to not need to show his anxieties outwardly.
This was different, however. The occasional flash of blue lights throughout the old ship had caught the attention of the engineers, and they had started going through the ship trying to isolate the cause of the lighting malfunctions. A few crewmembers had fallen ill, but it had been ignored - humans seemed to always be ill.
Tosek tapped the control pad next to the cargo bay door, instructing the computer to let him in. The hairs on the back of his neck raised, and he jumped inside impatiently once the doors were just wide enough for him to enter.
He felt a slight shift in the air as the lighting flickered to deep blue around him again. He frowned.
The lighting problem had never been fixed. More crewmembers became ill, until finally people began to die, their bodies simply shutting down. The captain gave the order to leave the Rift so that they could establish communications with Starfleet. No sooner had the order been given than he had been lifted into the air, struggling as if to breathe. In a moment it had ended; he was dropped to the ground, dead. The doctor had reported all neural activity had ceased instantly. More reports of similar incidents occurred around the ship, and with alarming speed.
And then, the ship had stopped.
Tosek felt as if something was breathing down his neck. He turned quickly, raising his phaser and pointing it at the empty air behind him.
Despite everything his senses were telling him, the facts were all there to be seen; logically, something was killing the crew.
The air shifted again with the lights, and Tosek came face to face with a gaping mouth. He shouted in surprise as he felt himself lift off the deck. As he kicked and swung to free himself, he felt time seem to stretch as his body felt distant and his mind slipped away.
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