DISCLAIMER: Everything StarTrek belongs to Paramount/Viacom, I cannot even claim the plot for there is none. Oh well. Poor me...
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

A Smile, Never More
By KyaniteD

A smile, and the disembodied voice of the computer. Time to get up.

Dim lights come on - a weak attempt to imitate morning twilight.

A look to the side, tentative, dreading, confirms the dream. The place is empty. Nothing new. But still something to yet get used to.

Bare feet shuffle over to the replicator getting coffee. Not for the taste. Nor the immediate effect on the body. But to drown the smile. Still it's too painfully real.

The quarter's living room is lit on command. To call it living room is sheer mockery. No one is living here.

The plush targ on the sofa is staring at the round socket of a miniature holo projector. Longingly, like every morning.

A few deep breaths help break through the hesitation. For a few seconds light and warmth seem to spread throughout the room. A smile like the sun in childhood memories. Even Toby appears happier.

With one touch the phantom is gone.

The Batleth on the wall joins the dull mood, refusing to sparkle. The last time it had is feigned forgotten.

Breakfast is essential for survival. As plain as possible. Taste is an unwelcome comfort.

Leaving the quarters, and Toby, behind, alpha shift starts. Sucked into the rush hour flow of personnel, auto pilot steers the way to main engineering.




Crewman. Crewman.




Another nod. Another smile.

At the end of it, eventually, the turbo lift.

More crewmen. Silence. It's engineering staff already, heading the same way. Their chief's mood has not changed, so an acknowledging nod is the greeting. No one is surprised, but secretly one dares to hope for better days. The treatment is good enough, just sometimes... they worry.

More silence until the hustle and bustle of engineering hits. Resources are low these days. So everything decides to break, die or give out.

Work is good. More work is better.

Except that it wasn't her work.

Kathryn keeps calling. But lunch break is no option.

They adore their chief. Their silent approaches and offers to help have been raised to an art form, making day shifts bearable, for everyone.

Even overstaffed there is always one missing. The irreplaceable left a gaping hole the ship seems to make sure everyone is aware of, every single day.

Kathryn keeps calling. But what does she know.

There is no desire for food. There is no desire at all. There is a fire, burning in the dark, feeding on itself, and darkness, and some cold.

The eyes are empty, glassy, tired. Weary?

"I miss the sparkle, you know. I haven't seen it in such a long time. Sometimes I wish for nothing more. "

What does she know?

"I need to talk to you. Well, I guess that's what I'm doing now... I'm sorry, but you have to move out of your quarters."

"I know what these quarters mean to you but I can no longer justify that you live in family quarters when our crew is constantly growing. I need those quarters..."

"You are still officially married, I know that. That and the fact that you belong to the senior staff were the only reasons I could allow you to stay there for this long. But it's been three years now, and, like I said, the crew is growing."

"You're still married, but, she is gone. I haven't enough evidence to declare her dead, but she won't be back."

"We've discussed this more than once. She won't be back. She might not be dead, but she still won't be back, either."

"I care about you, Ann- Seven, I *love* you. You have to go on, eventually. You have to face that she is gone for good."

"I know that sounds like she walked away. But we don't know, maybe she did. Maybe she drowned, it was an ocean after all. Maybe she is trapped on an island. Maybe we... We searched for two months, Seven. You know that. You were there. She won't be back."

"I need those quarters. Take your time. But by the end of the week would be nice."

Toby is still staring at the holo-projector. A hint of sadness and yearning in his glassy eyes probably mirrors some baby blues.

But what does he know?

Never is a long time.

The End

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