until our last moment
Summary: La’an dreams of dying, even when she wants to live.
Characters: La'an, Una
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Strange New Worlds universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
You held on to me like I was a crucifix,
as we went kneeling through the dark.
- So Long, Marianne
Una says, “Sit down and drink this.”
La’an’s mouth curves wryly. She should be taking care of Una after her injuries on Kiley, settling her in a chair and bringing her Illyrian brandy. All these years, and it seems Una is still the one looking after her.
She sips from the smoked-glass goblet and sighs as the spirit warms her from gullet to gut.
“Now,” says Una, “tell me everything.”
It’s been a long time since La’an last saw Una, in the station office during a brief layover on Starbase 21; longer still since they did more than just cross paths.
A long time since Una drew La’an’s stories from her – La’an’s words halting and stumbling, Una with that patient half-smile, with that look in her beryl-blue eyes. The same way she drew out La’an’s shiver, with the barest touch of fingertips on a shoulder blade.
La’an looks away from that unhurried blue smile now. She has years of stories crammed in her throat, and no desire to free them.
She shrugs, “What is there to tell? My tour on the Jenolan ended, Starfleet assigned me to the Enterprise, and so here I am.”
Una stretches her legs out, crossed at the ankle. “I heard you served on the Buran during the war.”
La’an gives her a sharp look. It’s not hearsay; if Una brings it up, she has a reason. “I did. I transferred to the Jenolan a few days before the Buran was destroyed.”
“So you were the last of Captain Lorca’s crew to survive.”
“I suppose so.”
“Not the first time that’s happened to you.”
Una says it so mildly that it takes a beat to sink in. When it does, La’an turns away and puts the brandy glass to her lips, ignoring the catch in her chest.
She would rather not believe that Una wants to strip away her protective layers for the sport of it, or because she can. Una keeps telling her to stop being brave, but bravery is all La’an has.
She should probably leave; but where would she go? Back to her quarters, where she won’t sleep? Or she will, and sleep will be worse?
La’an looks up in surprise, finds her glass is empty and Una is holding up the bottle. Maybe there’s sympathy in Una’s blue eyes, or maybe La’an just wants to see it, but La’an nods and holds out her glass.
What the hell; maybe if she drinks tonight the dreams won’t be so bad.
Una settles back into her chair. “So,” she says, “I assume Starfleet made you go to counselling.”
“After the Buran,” Una clarifies. “Bet they had a field day with you. Though at least this time you were reassigned, not …”
“…left adrift in space after watching my family get eviscerated?” The cruelty of it takes La’an’s breath away. “Yeah, you’re right. Finding out the Buran was destroyed with all hands was a walk in the park compared to that.”
Her dreams since the Buran have been a soup of hellish images – the hazy confusion of a red alert, burning bodies evacuated into the bleak void of space – mingled with half-buried memories of her brother screaming, her mother’s entrails spilling to the ground. Since the Buran, she keeps a bucket beside her bed and sleeps with a light on.
A real walk in the park.
And the Starfleet counsellors got her to talk about it, slit her open and spilled out her secrets onto the carpet, and it didn’t make anything better. It didn’t save her. There’s only one person who’s ever saved her.
“La’an.” Una’s hand is on her knee, shadowed eyes fixed on hers. “I’m sorry.”
Una never apologises. She’s never had to. La’an would forgive her anything.
“It doesn’t matter,” La’an says. She gets to her feet, tips the last of her drink down her throat, hands the glass to Una. “Permission to return to my quarters, Commander?”
“La’an,” Una’s voice is quiet, “you could stay.”
And it’s tempting, so very tempting, to imagine herself laid out in Una’s bed, to spend a night without dreaming, but what’s the point? She never should have believed anyone could save her.
Loneliness is as inevitable as dying. La’an has always known that.
She sees in Una’s eyes that she knows it, too.
“Dismissed,” Una says.
La’an nods, and slips into the corridor. She tells herself she’s relieved to be out of there, to be alone again.
She almost believes it.