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.