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They say there's nothing left to try, that we have done everything we can.
I refuse to believe that.
There are always options, always possibilities. We just need to look harder.
I can tell the Captain feels as anxious as I do. Her face clearly shows the turmoil brewing within. Unlike me, however, she can hold those emotions in and make the decision.
I suppose the ability to coolly and efficiently note in the personnel logs "missing in action" or "died in the line of duty" is part of the burden of command; a well-practiced duty but all the same, never easy.
We have said good-bye to crewmembers before. Farewells have never been easy since they are almost always unexpected and the funerals, despite our familiarity with Starfleet protocol, always feel unrehearsed.
But until today, until this briefing, I have never had to come to grips with losing two of those closest to me.
That is not to say I felt nothing for those others we have eulogized; it was more of a superficial type of grief, shallow and in so many ways, bearable.
This loss Harry and B'Elanna is different.
I imagine, somewhere in the back of mind, I have always known it could happen. That somewhere in the abyss that is the Delta Quadrant I could lose B'Elanna, lose Harry, lose them all. But it is not possible to imagine what the reality will feel like.
Mostly it feels like nothing. I cannot think without that thought touching B'Elanna or Harry in some way. Hardening myself to my new reality one without my best friend and my lover is the only way to cope.
There have been moments, since we first learned that the Delta Flyer had strayed off course, when I felt I was watching myself go through the actions. There were times when I would become suddenly aware of my position at the helm, of Janeway's voice in my ear.
They all talk to me or rather around me, exploring options and placing enormous faith in sensor readings. There is passivity among my colleagues and the captain, not an attitude I've ever expected from any of them. I wonder if they have given up hope of ever finding B'Elanna and Harry.
I know I haven't, but I cannot make them see that, understand that.
I cannot sit still; my fingers itch, my muscles ache. Inaction is the worst possible action in this circumstance. I tried so desperately to control myself, to act as the responsible senior officer I should be, to put my own feelings aside.
It was only when Janeway said, "Dismissed," that the nervous energy propelled me to my feet.
I barely remember the conversation, brief as it was, that ensued. As memory is often prone to do, I remember fragments: Seven's cool blue eyes as the word "inefficient" fell from her tongue, Janeway's hand on my shoulder, Tuvok's sympathetic tone yet stone-faced expression.
Alone in the conference room, time stood still. I cannot say how long I sat there, only that in my mind, I replayed moments spent with Harry and B'Elanna both.
You can break years into months and then further down into weeks. Weeks disintegrate into days and days turn to hours. Hours become minutes and suddenly, you have arrived at the last possible second.
Each second leads up to the last embrace, the last touch, the last kiss At the time, I did not think that any of these moments could possibly be the last.
How could they be?
Everywhere on Voyager, there are tangible reminders of what I have lost. In the holosuite, the quiet country life of Fairhaven plays out; I venture in only for a moment before I have to leave. Fairhaven, without Harry, does not feel right. And I know, without Harry, I cannot return to the monochrome world of Captain Proton.
In my quarters, I find traces of B'Elanna everywhere; from the hairbrush carelessly left behind to the engineering PADD filled with schematics I can barely begin to decipher. Even the slight trace of perfume lingers in the air, tantalizing and seductive, its wearer out of my reach.
I slump into my chair, letting my legs sprawl out, my head tilted at an angle so it rests awkwardly on the back of the chair. My eyes gazed up at the ceiling, unfocused and blurred, because if I look anywhere else, I remember what I have lost.
I dread Voyager without them.
No matter what you know, what you have been prepared for, the moment of letting go is taut with desperation. In my mind, there are a million things I should have done, should have said.
I should have appreciated Harry more, should have told him what his friendship meant to me.
I should have cherished B'Elanna more, should have let her know more often how much I love her.
These sentiments don't change; they remain to wound me, to trip my guilty conscience.
You cannot predict what each day will bring. I'm learning, too late, to live each moment as it happens, to appreciate what I have been given.
When all is said and done, only one fact remains: Harry and B'Elanna are missing.
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