Stay With Me Tonight
Episode 1: Face to Face B - Temporal Crew
Location: Temporary Shelters
Timeline: Day 2 - Following the Crash
Liselle Qwyyn sat up quickly in the small cot that had been setup for her in the overcrowded sleeping shelter.
Screaming. Who was screaming!?
No. Not screaming. Just breathing. Just heavy breathing. She had been dreaming. A nightmare.
She placed the heel of her hand against her forehead and was surprised to find a sheen of cold sweat there. Just a nightmare. Qwyyn threw the blankets from her legs and swung herself out of bed. Quietly, she walked to the shelter's door. Once outside, she began moving among the assembled shelters and survival tents, looking for one in particular.
When she finally saw the one she needed, she slipped inside and tiptoed her way to a cot in the far corner. She dropped to her knees and reached out to gently shake the Grral that lay there. "Matias," she whispered to him. "Are you awake?"
Matias stretched and yawned. "I am now," he said. "What can I do for you, Liselle my love?"
Taking his hand into hers, she tugged urgently for him to follow her. "I need to talk. Please. Outside. It can't wait."
Matias got up and went with her. "I am here for you, Liselle," he said.
Without another word she took him from the shelter and began walking with him, leading them on a direct path away from the main campsite and towards the surrounding woods. "I think I'm having a panic attack or something," she said to him, her breath shaking as it left her lungs. "I'm -- I'm -- I did something. I did something I shouldn't have done."
"Can you tell me about it?" said Matias. "You know I'm here for you, and I'm all ears."
"I - I - I - I - I" She couldn't stop stammering the word. It kept repeating. Again and again until only her lips were moving without sound. Qwyyn covered her face with her hands and fell down to her knees. Her back heaved with the sobs that racked her body.
Matias got down on his knees and held her tight. He let her cry on his shoulder. "That's it, let it out." he said.
Collapsing into his arms, Liselle allowed herself to succumb to the overpowering grief she had held so tightly bottled until this very moment. When she was finally able to choke the worst of the sobs down, she spoke into the warm fur of his chest. "I think I killed Lia," she said, her voice a muffled whisper. She couldn't even be certain that he heard her. "When Feyth's baby was born. There was a cadet running to save Lia. And I stopped him. I stopped him from saving her."
"Now you don't know that," said Matias. "You stopped the cadet, but how do you know the cadet could have saved her?. We've all made some serious mistakes since we were marooned here. Some quite fatal. And we'll make more. It's all chaos here. I wish we could have saved the ship and we wouldn't be here. I gave up too soon, and allowed myself to be pushed into an escape pod. How many have died because of that?"
Her fingers clutched his fur so tightly now that she half suspected that she might be hurting him, but she couldn't let go, her grip on him would not relent even as she commanded her hands to release him. Miraculously she felt her breathing slowing to a steadier rhythm. There was more to Lia's death, more that Qwyyn wanted to say -- thought she might be able to say to him -- but the intense sensation of peace and calm that his presence had draped over her was too much to fight, and she only now realized how utterly exhausted she was. "How do I tell everyone else? How do I tell Commander Taylor?"
If she was hurting him, he wouldn't say so. She needed him and his comfort. "As humans say, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Fear often paints a grimmer picture than reality." He could easily have taken advantage of her in this condition, but he was exercising immense restraint. No, only when they both wanted to, not when they needed to. "It's all right," he whispered. "It's all right."
Hearing those words, those simple words, until now she didn't realize how desperately she needed them. The edge of the panic continued to dull in his embrace. Perhaps she could stay there forever. She knew, however, that no amount of reassurances would completely absolve her of the guilt. Because there was more to the story. A secret that she had never told anyone before. After the crash, after all the people lost, she could hardly reason why she should even care to hold on to secrets any longer.
No. People would never treat her the same again if they knew. But maybe Matias...
"I want to tell you something," she said carefully. "But I need you to promise me that you will never, ever tell anyone. No matter what. Not if tortured. Not if ordered." She knew she was exaggerating the importance of her secret, but she needed to convey to him how serious, how personal this was to her.
"You have my word," said Matias. "The word of a Grral, which is his bond."
"Okay," she breathed. Despite the obvious relief in that one spoken word, it still took her several moments to press on. But she had to. This story had eaten away at her for too long. Now, after Lia, it was absolutely devouring her. Whether she was safely locked away in a private room, or out here in the woods in the middle of the night, it was time. "Did you know I used to be a surgeon before joining?" she asked him cautiously. "It's true. The family profession. But then Qwyyn came along. I never wanted to be joined. Never. But my sister and I were deemed the best psychological and genetic matches. A last chance to save the symbiont." She fell silent again.
"It sounds to me like it was not something wrong you did, but a noble and heroic sacrifice, to save the symbiont within you," said Matias. "You didn't want to be joined, but did what was necessary, and so saved Qwyyn. It makes me adore you even more."
She loosened the embrace between them so that she could look up into his eyes. She was quiet. A part of her wondered if her worst fears might be confirmed: that he might never look at her the same way again when he heard the rest. Finally, with a deep breath, she continued. "They warned me that the joining could be devastating. Most Trill go through years of training. My sister and I were much older than any standard initiate, we only had the crash course," she said. "When I woke up. After the joining. I wasn't me anymore. In the worst way possible. I didn't want my new host's old life. I wanted none of it. What I wanted -- needed -- craved -- was...was to kill. I had this absolutely overpowering desire to kill." She breathed a shaking sigh. Finally allowing those words to escape her lips was completely unlike what she had always imagined it would be. She didn't feel sad, or disgusted, or even angry. She felt free. "That's why I had to give up on being a doctor. That's why I'm so short-circuited over the moment when I was asked to choose between Feyth and Lia. Because the last time I was a healer, given a body and a scalpel....there was only one thing I wanted to do. Rip. And tear flesh."
Tears were in his eyes to hear the rest of the story. "I am so sorry," he said. "You have suffered much. Do you think I would desert you in your greatest need? Nay. It is a burden you bear, to be joined with the symbiont, one only you would know. I am here for you." He did something curious. He laid both his furry hands on her stomach where the symbiont was and looked deep into her eyes. "I have heard from Liselle. What do you say, Qwyyn? She pays a great price to bear you, and you are noble in your many incarnations. Do you support her as she supports you?"
Without hesitation she reached her hands up to his muzzle, and she rose up so that she could pressed her forehead against his. She knew it was a sensation that he enjoyed, and she wanted him to feel her affection for him. She wanted to be close to him. "Yes," she said, answering his question. Her fingers ran the length of his jaw, starting again at the top whenever they fell away from him. "Matias..." she whispered, his name a question.
He felt more than heard the question. He was overcome with love for her. "Yes, Liselle?" he said.
"You're too good to me," she said. And she meant it. The unbelievable amount of patience he had shown her, had always shown, was more than she ever thought herself worthy. She felt a chill run down her spine as she considered a terrible thought. Could she possibly be falling in -- no. Not so fast. "Matias?" she asked again.
"If I go and find us a tent. Will you...stay with me tonight?" She ran her fingers through his fur again, in a manner she suspected would leave no ambiguity in what she was really asking of him.
"Of course I will," said Matias, as he kissed her forehead. He knew it was time. He had made a vow that he would never make any advances to her until she was ready. She had a lot of issues to resolve before that, and it looked like they were resolved.
Lt. Commander Matias Grronkil
Commander Liselle Qwyyn
Chief Flight Control Officer