"We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love." - Madame de Stael

The moment she sees him she's able to identify the feeling that's been swelling in her since the moment the Commander told her Tony was "sick, very sick". It's hope draining away, replaced by a cold finality of imminent loss, of raw fear.

She touches his cheek, trailing fingers to his jaw to turn his face to her, and he's cold, so cold, ice against her skin. His eyelids quiver open as he whispers her name in a tone more breath than voice.

She tries to smile at him, bravely, as if to reassure him that everything will be fine. But it won't be, she knows, she can see it in the dullness of his eyes, the frail whisper of her name.

The human body is so fragile, so easily broken and crushed. He's pale, so still. Massive shock, brain swelling. There's no damage, not yet, but he's dying as assuredly as if a laser blast has struck his heart.

The will to live is gone, snuffed out by a force beyond their understanding, out of the reach of communication. The creature - being - out there has stripped that will from him, leaving him a hollow shell, slowly withering away like flowers at the end of summer.

She can't fathom it, can't curl her mind around the concept of Tony dying. No matter how many times he falls, no matter how often she thinks he's lost, he always comes through, back on his feet with only a few cuts and scrapes to show the damage. He has luck that would be the envy of gamblers across the galaxies.

She's known him only a short time, really, but in empty space days are meaningless, hours shifting seamlessly into years, making the time seem forever.

For all her teasing, her flirting, he's the only person she loves with all her heart and soul, a human so different from her own kind, and yet more precious than anyone on her planet was to her.

His is the name she whispers in dreams, the arms she reaches for in delirium. And for all his light-hearted dancing around his feelings she doesn't doubt his love for her. It's written in his eyes, in his smile, in the hand that touches her, the arms that hold her when she cries, the gentle way he speaks her name. She doesn't need words.

To watch him die is unthinkable.

Because for all her abilities, the countless forms she can take, the unique molecular structure that allows her to understand and become almost every creature to aid in almost any situation, she can't save him.

And for all her logistical skills, the computer-like workings of her mind that can calculate a probability to within a millimetre of accuracy, she can't comprehend a life without him.