- "One Answer"
by Dakabn & Poe
Nara followed Ruiz to the Ready Room numbly. She looked over to her
station with a concerned look. Something was terribly wrong about the
moment. She should be there, working. Then it hit her again. Her mind
fought itself between reality and denial. No. Her face held confusion
as she heard the doors swoosh behind her. She had enough sense, or
rather just being it second nature, she stood at attention before
Ruiz motioned to the soft sofa, rather than the chairs at his desk, as
he sat down. "Nara, I don't know what to say except that I am so
very, very sorry."
She stared at the couch a moment before sitting. She was still
fighting against the fact. She shook her head, "Why are you sorry?"
She looked up at him, "You did your job. The ship is safe."
Ruiz seemed to hesitate for a moment, then reached over and lay a hand
on her arm as he said quietly, "Do you want me to bring Stonecipher in
here? We can do it discreetly, if you prefer. If you'd like to talk
to someone ... or, you can just talk to me."
"What?" Then, as if she had forgotten again, her mind slowly coming to
realization, "Oh." She looked away, at the floor, vaguely aware of his
arm, even his presence as she gulped. "Permission to ..." She took a
deep breath as she looked at him again, "Not be strong?"
Ruiz smiled gently at her. "Permission granted, lieutenant. But this
incident will not be discussed to those without level 9 clearance or
"What will we tell his family?"
Ruiz frowned as he shook his head. "I'll ... tell them the truth.
I'll tell them what they already know about Jake: he was a hero, and a
good man, and a great officer and friend to the people on this ship."
She nodded and whispered, "He was." Her eyes closed as memories
flashed through her mind.
"You know, I have some pull with the fleet captain. Am I correct in
assuming that ... Jake would have wanted to--" The captain of Pegasus
paused, as if he didn't want to say what it was, not with the exact
words. Instead, he said, "Do you think we should set course for Earth?"
She swallowed and opened her eyes, blinking at the wetness forming.
"Have we completed our mission?"
"For now, yes." Ruiz patted Nara on the arm gently. "You worry about
the task that's ahead of you. Grieving is a long process, Nara. I
want you to take some leave time, and talk to the counselor."
Nara shook her head, "The ship needs me."
Ruiz leaned forward, his tone brooking no argument. "YOU need you.
And this ship needs you to be duty-ready. The longer you fight facing
the loss you've suffered, the longer that will take to happen."
She gave him a look a moment that would had made Dr. Raven proud. Only
for a moment and then she blinked and her face dropped. She said the
only thing a dutiful officer could. "Aye sir. For how long?"
Ruiz shrugged as he stood up. "For as long as the shrink says you
need one. He's probably filing the paperwork for your psychiatric
leave as we speak."
She put a hand to her face as she sighed. "Do I have to leave the ship?"
Ruiz pondered it. "Wouldn't you want to visit your family? Or Jake's?"
She slumped at the idea. She would have to visit his family. It was
just depressing that the circumstances changed. She'd really rather
not, but she knew she needed to. She knew she would be glad she did.
She slowly nodded.
Ruiz stood up, urging Nara to stand as well by tugging on her hand,
slowly supporting her weight up off the sofa, but not forcefully. "If
you want to talk to me, I'm just a subspace call away, once you leave.
Or a commbadge chirp away, while you're still here." He smiled at
her again, but his eyes showed how badly he felt for her.
Nara nodded and stood. "I'll pack up his things so they're ready to
deliver to his family." She stood there. In the back of her mind, she
knew he was doing everything but officially saying she was dismissed,
but she found it hard to move.
Ruiz guided Nara out of his office as he walked out alongside her,
saying, "You shouldn't do that by yourself. Why don't you have some
of his fellow officers assist you? I'm sure they'd appreciate the
chance to say goodbye to him in their own way, too." He got quiet for
a moment, then said, "I'll take the first help shift, if ... you're
okay with that."
Her eyes were blank. She was staring at a blank spot, hoping he would
beam back. She muttered, "He's really not returning."
Ruiz considered the responses that various people would have given:
his mother, the nurturer, would have made soft, comforting noises and
given Nara a hug at this point; his father, the philosopher, would
have pointed out that nothing was for certain. Poe Dalin, the vedek,
would have realized that there could only BE one answer, and that is
the answer Carlos Ruiz gave now, because it was the truth. Captains
could not afford to lie to their crew.
And so, he said, "No."