Chapter Thirty-Four

The entire world was white. Clear and pure and pristine and clean. The whiteness was flawless enough to make even the dark yield before it. Her head felt like a fuzzy battleground where even the blood and pain was white, rather than green and red. Her tounge felt thick and dry, as if it took over her mouth entirely. It might as well have.

"Doc, she's waking up." A voice too distant to distinguish from the next called.

"Good." There was a sharp click and soft hissing sound. A hypospray preparing to administer the next dosage. Footsteps thumped closer. A wet bit of cloth traced the length of her jawline slowly, carefully. The gentle touch still sent rakes of pain and something else into her neck and shoulders, up to the base of her skull.

"Unhrhgngnnnn…." Setask's lips uttered a small moan of grogginess and confusion.

"Shhh." A set of strong fingers gripped her wrist gently but firmly. "Don't speak yet."

Something small and cold pressed against the bottom edge of her jawbone, and whispered some cold, rather bitter liquid into her body. Immediately, colors became distinguished, and with them shapes and the names to those shapes and the things that they were. Spatial awareness still hadn't returned. Large, brown eyes framed by blue skin loomed imminently close, while gray skin and gray eyes flew thousands of miles away.

In that moment, Thiri looked so painfully handsome. Setask could feel the heartbeat thudding in each of her limbs, and the places where his heartbeat met hers were extra special. "Hey, Thiri?"

"Mmm?"

"We should…"

Her words were broken off by the faint hiss of another hypospray against her neck. The world seemed to zoom slightly in more focus,

"Commander, if you could wait in the hallway, I need to have a… private conversation with the captain."

Thiri nodded and stood, glanced down at his captain, and reluctantly stepped into the hallway, closing the door gently behind him.

"Where am I? And why is everything so distant."

"The hospital. And neural trauma, long standing. Even as we talk, your vision will slowly focus back, but won't be totally normal until tomorrow morning, which is one reason why I am holding you here."

"One reason?" Setask asked drunkenly, as she struggled to sit up in her topsy world.

Avery sighed and put a hand on her back, and directed her to the upright position she so craved. The touch sent off alarms.

"I have many reasons. One of them is definitely the biology that is going to hit sometime in the night. One of them is a court-martial I could have drawn up, referring to recent behavior. One not so thoroughly schooled on the Vulcan mind and its tendencies would have called you suicidal. I call you stupid, reckless, and irresponsible."

He grabbed a padd and wheeled his chair over to the med bed, adjusting the height to be nearly level with his patient.

"I get the biology thing. I know, it sucks. But that is no reason to not talk to me. I have never met a Vulcan as shameful as you are. Why did you avoid me, skip the appointment?"

"I honestly didn't mean to skip the appointment, it kind of just happened. And I wasn't going to come to you later because I knew you'd ask questions. Like the ones you're about to ask."

Avery sighed. "When was the last time you ate a proper meal?" Silence. "Slept a full eight hours?" More silence. "Meditated? Showered?" An unending silence. "Really?"

"The day I ditched, I ate a full meal. I guess."

"You guess?"

"If you consider a bowl of soup and a breadstick or two a full meal."

"I consider it a sustainable meal, for one of your kind." Avery nodded. "Have you ever felt uncomfortable with your body, to the point you wish you could change it, in any way?"

"This is because I'm skinny, isn't it? No, I don't not eat because I feel fat. I don't eat because I am a big ball of stress, and anything I take, I throw back up. Not by my own will. I just do. Some people eat when they get stressed out, I don't. When I do eat, I get so physically nauseous, my brain can't take it, and I just eject everything."

"Why are you so stressed?"

"Oh, I don't know! Spin the wheel and take a guess! I am given a command, which clearly shouldn't belong to me, and told to go kill all the Borg. The unstoppable enemy must be stopped, and by me!

"Or maybe it's because I got hundreds of kids killed. Maybe it's because every night from now until my crew is restored, I get a list of names, and I have to make 100 new coffins. The nails are my sanity, and we are quickly running out.

"Maybe it's because I have dozens of meetings to go to in the next few days, and my age is catching up with me, but these meetings are mandatory to relaunch the ship that might as well be known as the U.S.S. Doomed, or perhaps the Helpless.

"Maybe it's because my mother led the entire bridge crew into my room and told them I'm Bisexual. Maybe it's because she didn't see anything wrong with that, but all I see is Lillian's face, and Nem's face. And THIRI'S FACE.

"Maybe it's because my time is coming up and I'm so scared and alone. All I've got are thousands of faces all over the galaxy looking up at me and relying on me to win this battle. I'm some figure, not even a person. I can feel it and hunger for it all I want, they don't care. As soon as I don't show up to a single meeting, as soon as I misstep, I no longer deserve their faith. As soon as that happens, everybody is dead.

"Maybe it's because i am saving thousands of families, and I can't even dream of having one. I'm saving the ideal of something I can never have, and as I watch everybody here, landside, and everybody on my old ship, that fact hits me like an arrow.

"I'm lonely and scared but I can't tell anybody and I don't have anyone to hold me close and tell me it's going to be okay and rub my back as I cry into their shoulder because I'm a VULCAN dammit! I'm a Vulcan and a captain. I am those things first, and a young women second, hell, even third or fourth.

"So yeah, I'm a little stressed. I'm scared sick and there is no cure, and I have to just keep chugging along because that's what captains do. The only thing that matters is the mission. But the mission scares me shitless to the point where I can't stand at the end of the day because I tremble so much, and I cry myself to sleep but I can't sleep because the Borg stalk me in my sleep. My mind is no longer a safe haven, and I can't even begin to meditate before they invade." Setask was crying now, and had curled up. Hot tears wet her knees and lower thighs. Her back shook uncontrollably, and her arms circled protectively around her folded form.

Avery said nothing. Tapped on his padd a few times, stood, and walked away. Setask sat, hunched upon herself, crying, and no one told her it was going to be okay.