The Room Was Silent
by Jessie

Summary: Trance finally gets a chance to experience guilt and loss, while the rest of the crew suffer in their own way.

Disclaimer: Andromeda and its characters do not belong to me. No harm is meant by this story.

Archive: As with all of my other stories, if you already have one archived, you may take this one as well. If you don't, then just ask, and I'll happily grant you permission.

Author's Note: This story, despite being focused on Trance, is about all of the crew. So read with that in mind. Also, it jumps around in time quite often, so remember that as you read too. I think I made it fairly clear when a scene changed from past to present or back, but I'm not entirely certain. So pay attention to that.

Second Author's Note: Just wanted to apologize, in advance, for the angst-fest that takes place here. And to remind you all, yet again, that I absolutely love feedback (especially the good kind). And also, to let you know that I am working on "Pretty Things" and I promise that it'll be done soon. It's just that other story ideas (like this one) often get in the way.

***

She raised her head. She didn't want to, but did anyway. Then wished she hadn't.

The room looked the same as it had two days ago. Like nothing had ever changed and nothing ever could. 'How was it able to do that?' She wondered. How was it able to retain every last color, every last detail, when so much had happened that surely must have been enough to make it falter?

If she were it, she would have faltered.

She wouldn't have been able to hold the light like it did. As though light were still light, and not something more dastardly.

If she were it, things might have been easier. Because then- maybe- she wouldn't have felt obligated to do something. If she were as inanimate as this room, then there would have been nothing she *could* do.

But then, there would have still been the moaning. All night long she would have been forced to listen to that moaning- that tossing and turning- from across the room. As it was, she had still forced herself to listen. Forced herself to stay.

She should have forced herself to do more.

There should have been more that she could have done.

There should have been more than just the one outcome that she could see.

She raised her hand a little and touched her brow lightly, before pushing back that single loose strand of hair that had refused to behave- like many other things- all through the night.

All through the night.

That moaning.

She closed her eyes tightly, wishing she could go back to before it had all happened. Before the chaos. The pain. The good-byes.

She remembered the planet where it had all begun, and desperately wanted the ability to go back, knowing what she now knew.

But she couldn't.

She opened her eyes and tried not to let the tears come. She had cried only once that night. And she had promised herself that it would be the last time.

But that planet still gave her nightmares- or would, if she could sleep. The whole experience had been too surreal. The sweet smell in the air that reminded her of her own world. The people who had been so eager to sign the Commonwealth charter.

But Dylan had gone down with good intent, and brought his crew with him to celebrate. Even Rommie had come, though Tyr insisted on staying behind.

Harper had teased him about it. Had joked that the Nietzschean couldn't hold his liquor and probably couldn't dance either, and just didn't want any one to know. Tyr had grunted in response, but the others had laughed.

She closed her eyes against the memory.

It was that night, at the ceremony that she had felt the shift. Felt it before anything had actually happened, but she hadn't understood. Why did it feel so close? And why had it come on so suddenly when usually it was slower? Gradual, yet stirring.

The abruptness of the change in the timeline had made her stop suddenly, in the middle of the conversation. Had forced her to be so still, as the shock set in. It was almost painful.

It had never been painful before.

"Trance?" Dylan had questioned, pausing in the middle of his retelling of one of their latest 'adventures'. Rommie and Beka turned their heads to look at her, as did their hosts who frowned curiously at the strange girl who had interrupted their festivities.

Trance looked at Dylan with wide eyes, not knowing what she was experiencing, but knowing it wasn't good. How could it be good when it twisted in her like this? When it sank down, deep into her gut and gripped her senses fiercely. She hadn't felt anything like it before.

Harper, who had been drinking and laughing with the rest of them, stopped as he noticed that something was wrong, and turned to see what it was.

And Trance knew.

She knew like she knew that her intentions would always be good. She didn't understand why she hadn't seen it before or what had caused the shift, but that didn't matter now.

She stared at Harper with wide, knowing eyes and he gave her a curious raise of his eyebrow in response. Then his eyes had widened too, in fearful understanding, and he let out a soft "no," barely heard by those not closest to him.

And then he had collapsed to the floor.

Trance blinked back tears.

Why hadn't she known sooner? Why had the shift- the flash- only occurred after it was too late?

Why was the room still quiet and normal, when the events of the last night and day had been anything but?

They had raced back to the Andromeda. Even Dylan, though the natives seemed to think that it was in bad taste for him to miss the end of the celebration.

But something was wrong with a member of his crew, he had told them. And he had to be there for him.

Back on the ship, she had examined and re-examined a pale and sick-looking Harper, that awful feeling in her gut never leaving. In fact, even growing deeper, as all the evidence she could find told her that she had been right.

She knew she had been right, but didn't want to except it. Still didn't.

Harper had woken with a fitful moan and tired eyes glancing at her, and then to Dylan and Beka who stood nearby, then back to her.

He looked as close to tears as she had ever seen him.

"You know, don't you?" He had asked, his voice rough.

She could only nod her head.

"Know what?" Dylan took a step forward and gave them both confused and apprehensive looks. Beka, too, was curious, yet fearful of the answer.

Harper closed his eyes. "How long?" He was ignoring Dylan's questions, and Trance had neither the heart nor courage to answer for him. Instead, she stared at his weakened figure, swallowing back the emotions that would not leave her be.

"A few hours. Maybe . . . maybe the night." He had nodded so softly at her words. Nodded like he knew just what they meant and what they *could* mean. But how could he?

"How long until what?" Dylan spoke again, but the others ignored him. "Trance?" He looked to her, and she lowered her head.

"It's a strain of the Vedran Plague." Her words solemnly filled the distance between them.

Dylan cleared his throat, and glanced back at Beka, whose face was a mask to hide her fear. "So . . . I should assume he wasn't vaccinated against them as a child." It was more of a statement than a question, but Trance nodded her head anyway.

"What . . . " Beka faltered, shaking her head in disbelief. "How? When?" She desperately tried to convince herself that Trance was wrong as Dylan squinted his eyes at them in an expression of grim hope that there had been a mistake, yet realization that Trance rarely used that tone of voice unless she was serious.

They ignored Beka's questions as well.

Neither wanted to speak.

"And he has until . . ." he couldn't finish the thought. "There aren't any cures?" Dylan seemed to straighten his posture slightly, as though if he were to pretend he were back in the days of the Commonwealth- the days of duty and honor- he would be able to distance himself from the situation enough not to be impacted by it.

"No." Harper replied, before Trance could, his voice still hoarse.

No one wanted to look at him. Too afraid. Too upset.

Beka bent her head down.

"You knew?" Dylan questioned him, still attempting his soldier routine, but letting it slowly crack and fade.

"Yeah." Harper replied simply.

"Why didn't you tell us?" There was a hint of anger in his voice, but no one was certain whether it was there because he had been lied to, or because he didn't want this to be happening.

Harper began to shrug, then stopped. "Why make you guys worry, right?" He tried to sound casual, but it was a sad attempt. "There's nothing you guys could've done, so why add to the . . ."

"You should have told us." Beka finally spoke up with enough emotion to gain their attention. She took a small step forward, but was quiet, waiting for this newest disaster to be over. She didn't know how many more she could handle. Not when they involved her crew. Her family. She couldn't do it.

The four had been silent for moments that seemed like decades.

Trance tried to forget it all, but couldn't. And knew it would be wrong to anyway. She couldn't forget. She owed him that much.

There had been nothing she could do.

There should have been something, but there wasn't.

There should have been more than one possible outcome. There should have been that one perfect one. But she hadn't been able to find it.

It had been strange, sitting in that room with him. Watching him breathe in and out as the seconds went by. Watching each of the other crew members come to say their good-byes.

It was Rev who came first.

There had been an eternity of quiet that was really only an hour, but should have been an eternity for all the hell that managed to fit into it. Trance had examined Harper once more, him staring at her the whole time, knowing it would do no good, but letting her anyway.

And then she had sat, waiting for the eventual end, unable to say anything to him for fear of what words might bring.

Rev had entered with a somber sound to his soft steps. 'Had the crew organized this?' She wondered. Had they talked it over in command- decided that each would get a turn to say something to the man who would be leaving them shortly- and adopted some twisted schedule like the one used for shifts on command?

The Wayist stood in the doorway, looking at Trance, who just stared back. He seemed to be seeking a kind of permission from her. Or, perhaps, just taking notice of his surroundings, before fully entering and walking to the bed where Harper lay.

As the Magog came to a stop beside him, Harper's eyes fluttered open, and he smiled a little in recognition of his unlikely friend.

"Is it just me, or are you feeling a little deja-vu too?" Harper joked, and Rev smiled a little.

"Yes- it does seem that we've found ourselves in this position before." Rev agreed, his voice serious, despite the casual attitude his words seemed to suggest.

"You wanna go first or should I?" Rev looked at him curiously, not understanding. Harper grinned slightly. "My pain belongs to the divine . . ."

". . . It is like air. It is like water." Rev finished for him, his eyes closed as though he were simultaneously praying and remembering that moment from only a few short months ago.

They were both quiet for a moment, as Rev opened his eyes and looked down at the young man, sadly. "Harper, I . . ."

"Are you gonna tell me about the afterlife?" Harper interrupted, before he could get very far.

"I . . ." Rev didn't know what to say to this.

"Ya gonna tell me what'll happen once I . . . I mean, I haven't exactly been a good little Wayist or anything- but . . . ya think I might still manage to make it past those pearly gates? Or whatever it is that comes next?"

Rev smiled again. A small smile, that resonated understanding and admiration.

"If there is a way, I have no doubt that you will be the one to find it." Harper smiled back, those same emotions apparent on his face as well.

There was another long pause that was neither uncomfortable, nor unwanted.

"You're a good friend Rev."

"And you, Master Harper, are, I think, a better man than most could ever hope to be."

Trance blinked back tears as she recalled the exchange between the Magog and the Human.

She would not cry again.

She couldn't.

Rommie had been next.

The beginnings of the scene had been much the same as before. Rev had left, and, after sitting in morbid silence for yet another eternity of time, the door had opened and Rommie had stood there, glancing, quickly, at Harper, then staring at Trance as if the girl had all the answers.

Oh, how she wished she did.

"Harper . . ." At his name he had opened his eyes, though the lids weighed down, heavily. Rommie stood at his side, in the same position as Rev, wondering what she was supposed to do.

She wanted to be angry with him. Surely this had to be his fault. It was always his fault, wasn't it?

And even if it wasn't, there had to be some one to blame. She needed some one to feel anger towards, so that she wouldn't have to deal with this newest emotion. Sadness. Loss. Heartbreak.

Anger she could handle.

"Hey there Rommie." His casual greeting was marred by the choked quality to his voice. Andromeda frowned.

A long silence passed, somewhat more awkward than those shared with Rev.

"Harper, I . . ." She trailed off, and looked ready to either cry or hit something, he couldn't tell which.

"Listen," he began instead. "I know I'm a real jerk sometimes . . ." She smiled anxiously. "But you know I don't mean it, right? You know . . . " She nodded her head, a sheen of tears beginning to form over her eyes.

"I know." He looked relieved. "I know you mean well. And . . . and thank you." He raised his eyebrows in surprise, so she elaborated. "Thank you for being there. For making me. Not just for that- for making me human. For helping me to be more than what every one else thought I was."

A tear streaked down her cheek.

"Hey. None of this tearful goodbye crap." He smiled, winning one from her as well. "It's just me. Annoying Harper. Nothing to get all mopey over." She laughed, though the tears kept falling.

"Thank you, Harper." She said again, and he nodded a little, the expression on his face emanating an understanding of what she was really trying to communicate.

There was a short pause, in which she wiped away the tear stains and he just watched her. She almost hated herself for crying. She was a warship- this wasn't the emotion that should be surfacing.

She looked at him, tried to smile warmly, then leaned over and pressed her lips- lightly- against his.

It must have lasted only a millisecond. But that was all that it was meant to last. He looked up at her as she pulled away, and his eyes told her that he knew that that millisecond had been a declaration of friendship. Camaraderie. Respect. Hope.

Trance glanced around the room dully. The memory of the avatar's visit was enough to send shivers down her spine. There had been such devotion and love in her words and actions that Trance had wanted to sob. Wanted to keep the whole thing from happening, so that those emotions- that bond- could continue for years to come.

But she couldn't.

Oddly, Tyr had been the next.

For another hour, Trance had sat and watched him, standing only once to check the computer that monitored him. During this short period of activity, she had noticed that his eyes were open, and watched her move, never leaving her figure until she had taken her seat again.

She had pretended not to notice, though she knew that he saw her glance at him furtively as she worked. She had wanted to say something, but didn't know where to start, or whether she would be able to do so in the face of so much sadness.

And then Tyr, surprisingly quiet, had made his entrance, the doors opening and shutting as though they knew that he was stronger than them. Stronger than the whole ship.

But not stronger than this.

The Nietzschean had only glanced at Trance, unlike the others, before clearing his throat and turning purposefully to Harper.

The young man opened his eyes in surprise, perhaps not expecting another visitor just then. Perhaps not expecting *that* visitor.

He raised his eyebrows questioningly at Tyr's presence, but let the confusion pass quickly so as not to disturb the scene.

The Nietzschean pursed his lips and nodded his head, his eyes seeming to size the human up.

After a long moment in which Harper couldn't discern what to think or say, Tyr finally rested his eyes on the young man's face and stared at him with something close to respect; something more than the mutual disregard Harper had been expecting.

"You did good, boy." Tyr's voice was contemplative, which only added to the effect of his words.

Harper stared at him.

"You are a vital member of this crew. You have made a name for yourself on this ship." He paused and leaned in, ever so slightly. "You *survived*, boy. And that is no small feat."

Tyr straightened up again, his face still expressionless, but serious, as though he meant what he were saying. "Your life will be remembered."

And with that, he had turned, glanced at Trance once more, and walked out of the room, Harper's gaze traveling with him in astonishment.

The memory still made the girl smile.

She had known there was good in him. Had known all along. She just hadn't realized the he had formed such strong bonds with the rest of the crew. With Harper. It made her smile, even now, to think of it.

She stared straight ahead and wondered if there really had been a system- an order- to the crew's visits. Had they really discussed it before hand? It seemed only an hour passed between each exit and entrance. Between each closing and opening of the door. And it made her wonder.

Of course, Beka had come next.

Of course.

The woman had hesitantly entered with trepidation written so clearly across her face, Trance wondered if she was the same person she had been only a few hours before.

Nervously, Beka had glanced back and forth between Trance and Harper, as though she didn't know where to start. Didn't know who she should be more worried about.

Finally reaching a decision, she walked towards Harper, and stopped at his side. He did not open his eyes, but rather, moaned in pain.

Trance shuddered.

"Can't you give him something for the pain?" Beka had asked, her voice emerging, suddenly.

"I've tried. There's nothing . . . It's only going to get worse." Beka stared at the girl for a long moment, wishing she could take her pain from her along with Harper's. The young one seemed so lost, and Beka couldn't stand for any of her crew to experience that.

But right now- Harper came first.

Beka turned her head back to face the member of her crew that was in the most immediate danger, only to realize- all over again- that there was nothing she could do about it.

"Hey boss." Harper looked up at her with all of his usual zeal, and she smiled back grimly.

"Harper . . ."

"Oh, not you too." He teased, though his heart didn't seem to be in it. "Every one else has been by, crying and talking like it's the end of the universe. Not you too. You've got better things to do than cry over my sorry ass." He tried to grin and she chuckled sadly, biting back tears.

"You always were a piece of work, Seamus."

"And don't you forget it."

"I . . ."

"No good-byes. Not your style."

"Right." They stared at each other for a moment in silence, before she nodded her head and looked him up and down. "You're a good kid."

"Boss . . ."

"No. You are. And you're one hell of an engineer. I couldn't have gotten this far with out you. None of us could."

"What's this? The impervious Beka Valentine actually admitting to needing my genius?" If not for the small cough at the end of his question, his words would have sounded almost normal. But it was a forced normal. And it was obvious to both Trance and Beka that he was in a lot of pain.

"Listen to me for a minute, would ya?" He closed his eyes against some unseen tremor of pain, but listened intently.

Beka took in a breath and wished she were better with this whole 'empathy' thing.

"I need you to be all right- you got that? Whatever happens in these next few hours- whatever the universe is like in the morning- wherever you are- I need you to take care of yourself. And I know you can, cause I've seen you do it. You're better at it than any ten people I know. Hell- you even got one up on Tyr in the self-preservation department as far as I'm concerned. So I need you to promise me that you're gonna keep that up. That you're gonna be all right. Okay?"

He nodded his head, the gesture a silent oath.

"Okay." She said, nodding her head in acceptance of his reply. Then stopped. Then pursed her lips thoughtfully. "You really are a good kid. Everything you've been through- everything you've . . . and still, you're a good kid. A good friend." She hesitated, then leaned over him and kissed his forehead gently, pulling away quickly as she wondered if it had been a good idea or not, so unfamiliar with this sort of situation.

Harper managed a smile and she managed to return it, staring at him for awhile longer until he was forced to close his eyes again at whatever pain was coursing through his body.

Beka turned to go, but paused to look at Trance, still sitting and looking so lost and alone.

"Your best friend's leaving you." Beka stated, as though she finally understood something, her voice only barely above a whisper.

Trance looked at her with large eyes, not knowing what to say or if she was supposed to say anything.

"It'll be okay, Trance." Beka tried to be comforting, but knew she was unsuccessful. When the girl didn't respond, she nodded her head at her own words and began walking away once again.

The door had seemed to shut too quickly after her.

The room felt strange to the girl as she recalled Beka's words. This was the room where those words had come true. Where she had lost . . . so much.

There had been only one other visitor. Which wasn't a surprise, she supposed, looking back on it. There had been only one more crew member left.

An hour had passed after Beka's leaving before those doors opened once again. And in that time Harper had grown rapidly worse.

During those first few hours, during Rev's and Rommie's and Tyr's visits, it had only been little things. Subtle hints that he was not as healthy as he seemed to think. The roughness of his voice. An occasional cough. A slight tremor of pain or chills. The light sheen of sweat when he was forced to keep his eyes open for long periods of time.

But during that hour, the tremors were becoming more frequent, and the cough harsher. More apparent. He would moan fitfully, that sheen of sweat returning though he had not opened his eyes for some time.

It was to this, that Dylan Hunt had come.

The Captain of the starship that they currently occupied had entered with a military air about him, as though this could some how save the story. Could, somehow, bring back order to this chaos that had claimed his ship's crew.

"Trance." He greeted her quietly- solemnly- as he stepped into the room. She could do nothing in response, but it didn't matter. "Is he . . ." He was going to say 'all right', but it didn't seem appropriate. "May I talk to him?"

She nodded her head. He walked to the bed where Harper lay and watched him toss and turn, evidence of his pain in the way his muscles tensed and his eyes darted around behind closed lids.

"Can you give him anything for the . . ."

She shook her head before he could finish. And he nodded sadly.

There was a long silence in which they both merely watched him.

"I don't want to wake him." Dylan spoke as though he were speaking to himself, and Trance wondered if he was.

"It's all right." She said to comfort him and convince him of the need for this last goodbye. Even if it meant waking the young man.

"Is it?" Dylan, again, seemed to be talking to himself, still staring down at the young man before him. "Is it really?" He swallowed. "There's so much that needs to be done. So much that we have to overcome . . . And then there's this . . . Is this really my reward? Is this what I get for trying . . ." he took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "This can't be all there is. This can't be . . . what I'm left with."

Another eternity passed.

"Mr. Harper." Dylan finally spoke, loud enough to wake his acting engineer.

Harper opened his eyes slowly, glancing around, almost fearfully, before his pupils focused and he caught sight of Dylan standing there beside him.

Captain Hunt smiled encouragingly.

"How are you feeling?" Dylan's words were soft, and his expression was kind, as though he were talking to a child. His child. And Trance marveled at the pure emotion of it, and at the idea that he was the first to really ask how Harper was feeling.

"Oh, you know me. I . . ." Harper was interrupted by a fit of coughing that he couldn't contain, after which he grinned ruefully and started over. "I feel like crap- how 'bout you?"

Dylan's smile widened, as if to try and convince, not only Harper, but himself that everything was still normal.

None of it felt real. Maybe it was normal. Maybe this was all a dream. It had just happened so fast, so . . . he wished he could turn back the clock. Fix things, somehow.

"I'm all right." He lied. "Though I am a bit distressed. Seems a member of my crew's been lying to me for the past month." Dylan's none-too-subtle remarks about Harper keeping secrets was desperate yet playful, rather then accusatory.

Harper, his face wet with sweat and his muscles tensed against whatever pain he was facing, played along despite this. "He meant well. He just wanted to save all you guys some trouble."

"It wouldn't have been any trouble."

"He didn't want any one to worry about him."

"He should have told me when he found out."

"Yeah. Well . . ." Harper tried to shrug, but coughed instead. "Every one was so busy then."

"It didn't matter. We would have helped you."

"There wasn't anything you guys could have done."

"We would have tried." Dylan stared at him seriously, his eyes conveying everything that even his years as Captain had not prepared him for. "The most important thing in life- is that you tried." The young man swallowed and stared back at his Captain.

Trance held back tears.

"I suppose every one else has been by already." Dylan spoke into the grave quiet, receiving a nod of confirmation from Harper, though he didn't need it.

"And you're probably tired of hearing a bunch of teary good-byes." Harper chuckled a little, though it was rather pitiful amongst the seriousness of the scene. "But I'm going to say a few things anyway. So you're just gonna have to bear with me for a minute and listen." Dylan smiled half-heartedly. "This won't take long."

The room was silent for a moment, as if preparing for the speech its Captain would soon be giving. As if actually knowing that this was a moment which required silence.

"If there's one area of study that I seem to be an expert on . . . it's death. So many people- so many people who were under my care- have taken their last breath on this ship. In my arms. At my hands. It seems wrong, somehow, to think of this one- yours- as any different." He paused. "But the truth is . . . it is."

Trance wrapped her arms around herself as she listened to the carefully constructed words.

"This ship used to be filled with noise. With people. With life. And then, in one instant- one moment of weakness- that was all taken away. I've learned to forgive myself, over time, for my mistakes. I've learned to let go. And to say goodbye to all of those people. My crew. But I think . . . I think that you, and Beka, and Tyr, and Trance, and Rev- you all are more my crew than any of the others ever were. You are my home. My strength. My family."

He paused for the smallest of seconds, and looked away with what might have been tears in his eyes, though they were never shed in the boy's presence.

"I regret not knowing you better. But, at the same time, I feel as though I know more about you than I ever did about any one on my previous crew. You all are the life force of this ship. Of this entire cause. And you, Mr. Harper . . . Seamus . . . are . . ." He took in a deep breath and met Harper's eyes once again, conviction shining in their depths. "You are the center. The one who has grown so much. Has changed and become . . . more than what I had ever thought possible."

Perhaps it was the pain, or perhaps- as Trance suspected- it was Dylan's words that caused a glisten of unshed tears to appear in Harper's eyes. They did not fall, however. Even in his final hours he would not let any one see him cry.

Dylan had departed like the sun might leave before the longest night of the year, his military facade abandoned.

And then she had been left alone, to watch over him. To be there for him. To listen to him suffer.

Looking back, she wished, again, that there had been more she could have done. At the very least, she wished she could have done something to relieve his pain. But that strain of the virus was too advanced. Not even the Andromeda's exceptional medical facilities were enough to counter it. To even buy them some time- give Harper a few more months. Or even days.

And pain killers would not work.

If only she had known sooner. If only the vision- the flash- had come a month earlier, before Harper had caught the disease at all.

Even if she had, some how, found out about it the day after it had been introduced into his system- she might have been able to do something about it. The Vedran Plague was easy enough to treat in its beginning stages. And easily vaccinated against as well. The trick was catching it in those early stages.

And how was any one supposed to know that it was in them, when there were no signs? Not until it was too late. Not until a few days later and the headaches would start, would any one even suspect. Just as Harper had.

Only he hadn't gone to Trance. With suspicions like these, how could he? He had gone to some drifter on one of their latest supply runs who claimed to be a doctor. Found out from a stranger that he was going to die in three weeks. Four- if he was lucky.

Trance took in a deep, shaky breath as she tried to push away all the memories of the night before. Still, in the back of her head, she heard that moaning. And she knew it would haunt her for the rest of her life. Knew that she would never be able to sleep through a night without nightmares of that sound, his face, and the sense of helplessness she had felt.

She looked straight ahead, at the wall and its light fixture.

Something was wrong. Everything felt so different, yet nothing, outwardly, had changed. Nothing, save the absence of a life.

She closed her eyes tightly, and made herself remember every second and every detail of the past few hours. She deserved this. Even though, in the back of her mind, she knew it had not been her fault that the flash had not come in time, or that there was no way for her to help Harper, she felt as though it were her fault none the less. It had to be.

So she forced herself to relive the night, over and over again.

That tense silence- and then- painful moaning.

All night.

Pain.

Tears.

She hated herself even more for seeing him cry.

After so many hours of tossing and turning- exhaustion just a memory of what would have been setting in if not for these changed circumstances- he had broken down. Let a tear slip by. She looked away out of respect- or some other forgotten emotion- but it didn't matter. She had seen it.

More pain. More noise from across the room.

She had trouble making herself get up to tend to him. She knew there was nothing she could do, and seeing him up close in such a state was like nothing she had ever experienced. Sharper than any other pain. Deeper than any other emotion.

So she restricted herself to the seat a few feet away from him, coming closer only to check his vitals and deliberate over whether or not she should wake him. Talk to him. Say good-bye.

Each time she chose to let him sleep.

It was on one of those trips to check his vitals- the ones that were becoming fewer and further between because she could not stand to be reminded, again and again, how close to death he was- that she paused at his side.

How could things have gone so wrong? She wondered as she watched him tense.

What was the universe trying to tell her? And couldn't it have chosen a different method with which to do so? Couldn't it have simply told her to back away? To take another route. To abandon thoughts of him. Focus her energies on the ship and the Commonwealth instead of the young man who now lay in front of her.

The room seemed to close in around them.

She watched him struggle. Wanted to struggle for him. But couldn't.

Hesitantly, she raised a hand, and placed it gently on his brow.

His eyes opened briefly, and he smiled at her a little- or maybe she had just imagined it.

He flinched in pain. But his eyes glistened. Sparkled, as though the two of them were right back in that last battle, or party, or diplomatic meeting, and he was up to all kinds of mischief.

She opened her mouth to say something- anything- but no sound came. And he stopped her from going any further with a small half-smile.

Her own tear innocently fell down her cheek.

He flinched again, but not from some unseen, physical ache- rather, from the sight of her emotions made visible.

He raised his own hand, but with difficulty, to lightly wipe away the tear from her face before falling back down on the bed. She smiled a little, sadly, and traced a line down the side of his face with her fingers, then placed them on his hand.

Still, his eyes sparkled. And the two of them *were* back on that last diplomatic mission. They were laughing and talking and enjoying the company as well as the food. And he was giving her side-long glances, as if, by doing so, he could bring her closer to him. Could erase all boundaries they had established and simply be there together.

And she was smiling. And talking to Dylan. And glancing at him occasionally with only the best intentions.

The very best of intentions.

And then they were back on the Andromeda.

Harper took in a straggled breath, and closed his eyes.

Trance tried not to let any more tears fall.

After this, even the chair was too close. Or just too familiar. She moved to the other side of the room, leaned back against the wall, and slid to the floor in a heap of wanting to cry and wanting to run away, but knowing she couldn't do either.

The rest of the night dragged on, and she didn't move. Only hugged her knees to her chest and closed her eyes against the sight of his form and the sound of his moaning.

The sound of pain.

The sound of loss.

And then- suddenly- silence.

Trance opened her eyes again.

The night seemed so far away now. So distant from this surreal morning she was in.

She finally turned away from the wall and the light fixture, and looked, with trepidation and grief, at the elevated bed where Harper's form still lay.

No. The universe couldn't have just told her, she thought. Because she wouldn't have listened. Wouldn't have been able to give him up with just a warning. So it was taking him from her. Taking him because how else would it get such a message across?

How else would she be able to stop glancing back at him? Laughing with him. Causing trouble with him. How else would the universe have kept her from him?

But why? Why couldn't they be friends? Why couldn't they just stay the way they were? Together. Happy.

Preoccupied.

Perhaps that was why.

Or perhaps she just didn't deserve happiness.

Trance hugged her knees even closer to her, and was unable to take her eyes away from that bed now that they rested there. So, without looking away, she reached a hand up and pressed a button on the panel just above her head.

"Andromeda." Her voice was soft and somewhat rough from its lack of use. She swallowed as she listened to Rommie's emotionless tone in response.

"Yes, Trance?" The ship knew what was coming, but restrained herself from expressing anything other than normalcy, and allowed Trance to say the words.

The young girl, eyes still on that which she had lost. Just one man. One thing- yet it seemed like so much to lose in a single night.

She heard the moaning- the tossing and turning- in her head once again.

She didn't think she'd ever be able to escape it.

"It's over." She spoke into the stillness, wondering if the double meaning of her words was as clear to Rommie as it was to her.

The AI seemed to hesitate over the com., before clearing her throat in that awkward way reserved for war ships and androids. The way that was not completely human, yet communicative of all the emotions that were.

"I will inform the others."

Trance nodded her head, though she knew Andromeda couldn't see it. Or could, in fact, if she wanted to. But didn't.

Perhaps out of respect.

Or fear.

Trance stared at her best friend.

There should have been more she could have done.

She should have known sooner. Should have noticed that something was wrong with him. That something was off. That his jokes had been slower in coming. His radiant smile lacking in some of that radiance.

She pleaded with the universe to take it back. To find a different way of showing her that she was not worthy.

Pleaded and listened to the echoes of the previous night.


The End.