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"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.

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.


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