Jessica opened her eyes and took a deep breath. The air stung in her lungs from the smoke that was still dissipating. She looked around her and saw the others who had been in engineering with her lying on a transporter pad, starting to look around in confusion.
There was a shadow over her, and a hand rested on her back. "It's ok, you're safe now. Don't move too much till we can check your injuries."
Jessica tilted her head to the left to see the Bolian who was taking a scan of her, his blue lab coat stained with dark blood and soot. Satisfied, he nodded to her before moving on to the other Rafale officers.
"The Merveille, and I have to say, you jumped in just in time." Jessica turned back to the transporter control, where a Bajoran in a yellow uniform stood, carrying a phaser rifle. His face bore fresh scars on his upper lip and back across his cheek, and the top of his uniform was similarly discolored with blood. He stepped forward and offered Jessica a hand up. "Thank you. Lieutenant Obruz Dossu, ship security."
Jessica accepted his hand and let him pull her up. "Lieutenant Jessica St. Peter."
"St. Peter?" He looked surprised. "I guess you're in charge then?"
"Well..." She paused, turning around to look behind her. Seurer wasn't moving, and the Bolian doctor was frowning at his scans. She turned back to the security officer. "I guess so, yes."
"I was ordered to coordinate with you, get your less injured into bunks for the ride home and triage your wounded." He looked behind her. "I guess that's one person going to triage now."
Jessica turned back again to see medics loading Seurer's unconscious body onto a stretcher. A large gash had split her forehead open, and blood had covered most of her face. The woman's chest slowly rose and fell, for which Jessica was grateful.
There was a soft beep as the guard's commbadge alerted him. He tapped his chest. "Obruz here, go ahead."
"Is she here yet?!"
Jessica's eyes went wide and her heart started racing; it was Justine. "Justine! Are you ok?"
"Oh my God, Jessiy! Get to the triage, now!" Justine choked on the last word and let out a deep breath.
"What is it? JD, what's wrong?!" Jessica grabbed Dossu's arm, pulling him closer as if to help her hear what was happening on the other end of the channel.
The channel closed. Jessica's stomach was doing somersaults as she looked up at the Bajoran. "Take me to the triage."
He nodded solemnly, then led her out of the transporter room as the pad came to life again and more survivors beamed over.
Shock had taken its toll on Jessica. Not even the stench of blood, as it soaked the carpet in the crew lounge, registered in her mind. She was faintly aware of the muted voices around her, moaning in pain and fear, but even those didn't faze her.
Her eyes flitted across the dim room, searching. A few cots here and there were covered by blood-stained sheets, hiding the fallen from sight as medical officers moved around the cramped space to other patients they could save.
They had stopped, and Jessica shuddered, bringing herself out of her stupor. She gave the shoulder of the man standing next to her a squeeze, looking up at him and offering a small smile of gratitude. "I think I can find them. Thank you, Lieutenant Obruz." She slowly worked up her courage before looking out over the sea of bodies, searching for them. Her eyes caught a flash of purple, and she moved forward.
Only Justine had talked to her the few minutes earlier in the transporter room. The panic in her friend's voice wasn't lost on her - it had registered as clear as a damn gong in the middle of a cello recital. As she moved toward the purple locks of hair, the knot in Jessica's stomach twisted tighter and tighter with each step.
She came up next to Justine, who was sitting on a stool next to an occupied cot, an open med kit on the ground next to her; most of its contents had been spilled out and used. Jessica gasped when she looked down, choking on a sob.
Bridget was lying on the cot, her face contorted in a painful grimace as she coughed. Her beautiful blonde hair had been scorched and burnt short, and half of her angelic face was red and black with burns and blood. She coughed again, bringing a shaky hand up to her lips to cover her mouth before she opened her eyes. She smiled weakly as she locked eyes with Jessica.
"Stormy...you made it."
Jessica swallowed, searching for something to say to her friend. She knelt down, taking Bridget's other hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. "Of course I did." She tried smiling as she felt tears roll down her face, unable to think of anything else to say.
Bridget's eyes closed, and Justine reached out and shook the woman with a frustrated sob. "No, dammit! Stay awake." She took Bridget's other hand and squeezed it. When Bridget still didn't answer, she gave the unburned cheek of her friend a light smack with her hand. "Bridget, stay with me!"
Bridget's eyes opened again as she began coughing. Small flecks of blood rained down on the sheet covering her, and she glared at her lover. "Cadeau..." she whispered. "Please..."
Justine shook her head as she sobbed more. "No. You can't do this to me!" She spoke as though the words had been crammed into her throat, each one making it harder to breathe or speak. She leaned forward, resting her head on their clasped hands.
Bridget pulled her hand gently away from Jessica and placed it on top of Justine's head. She looked down at Justine, then back up at Jessica. She smiled wider, her eyes fluttering again. Her mouth opened and moved, but no sound came out.
Jessica leaned in closer, shaking her head. "No..." she pleaded along with Justine, the tears flowing more freely down her face. "No, don't do this."
Bridget laughed a little, causing her to go into another fit of coughing. Her head rolled backward as her eyes closed again. "Not...my choice." She reached blindly with her hand, eventually finding Jessica's again and gave it a weak squeeze. "Take...good care...of both..." Her voice trailed off.
Justine looked up again, smacking Bridget's face again. She yelled something at Bridget in her native French, hitting her again; Jessica didn't understand what she had said. Bridget's eyes opened again and she coughed, grimacing in pain and frustration.
"Justine...I love you...please..."
The purple haired woman sobbed harder and kept speaking in French. Jessica recognized one phrase as she repeated it over and over.
"Je t'aime." I love you.
Bridget smiled, then looked up at Jessica. She tugged with her hand, prompting Jessica to lean closer as she opened her mouth to speak again. "I...lo-" She coughed, gasping for air before she tried again. "I..."
Jessica gave her hand a squeeze. "I love you, too." She tried to smile.
Bridget smiled back as her head rolled back onto the pillow. She closed her eyes again.
Jessica felt Bridget's grasp on her hand loosen. Justine screamed, her sobs echoing above the noise in the lounge. Jessica cried with her, putting her arm around Justine and holding her as close as she could.