On the twenty-ninth day of his sentence, she appears in front of his cell, dismissing the guards before she deactivates the containment field.
He hadn't expected to come here. Or at least, he hadn't expected her to appear at the end of his sentence, having given up hope when she didn't come down the first few weeks.
He has troubling looking at her, and it becomes clear after a few moments that he meets her gaze only by sheer force of will.
She, on the other hand, can't seem to look anywhere but his eyes. And the intensity with which her searching stare examines him only makes it more difficult for him not to look away.
"I never would have believed you could disappoint me, Tom."
Her voice is quiet as she sits down next to him, but the words will echo in his ears as though she's shouted them in an even smaller space. The sound, faint and haunting, finding him again, long after he thinks it's faded.
"I'm not sure what to say," he breathes, giving in to the impulse to shut his eyes.
He, of course, has many thoughts on what to say, chief among them being an apology. But he still thinks an apology is unfitting.
And in other ways, woefully inadequate.
"Do you still feel that you can be Chief Conn Officer?"
She's asking if their mutual trust has been broken beyond repair. If he no longer desires to sit across from her meetings. To have her hand placed reassuringly on his shoulder when things get tough.
But she can't allow herself to ask this, and so her concern comes out in this vague way. His understandable interpretation being the threat of further consequences; a more profound demonstration of her disappointment.
"I still feel up to it, Captain. . . But if you feel that I'm not, I suppose there's really nothing more I can say."
His voice comes out cold and detached, but he can't keep the flash of panic from his eyes. Or the anger.
She examines him once more before dropping her head and nodding.
They sit next to each other for several minutes. Side by side in the cell that was meant to be one's penalty, but that over the last four weeks, has come to be a punishment for both.
When she rises, she doesn't look at him, merely pausing outside his cell before raising the force field again.
"I'll see you on the bridge in two days, Ensign."
It isn't the first time someone has used his new rank. But it is the first time the title makes him recoil as though being struck.
He consciously wills away the pain, not realizing the woman in front of him is doing the same. Her throat burning from the words she's uttered; the title she's condemned herself to use for the foreseeable future.
"Aye, ma'am," he manages, his voice somehow even.
She simply nods before exiting.