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Lena looked up at the chime on the door. “Enter,” she said unthinkingly, regretting it instantly when Jim came into the room.

He opened his mouth to say something and she stopped him by raising a single hand. “Look, it’s okay, I get it,” she said.

“You get what?” he asked.

“You’re upset. I can’t say I blame you; if you’d gone away for three years and then thought you could just come waltzing back into my life I’d probably be mad too--”

“It’s not that you disappeared, not really,” Jim said quietly. “And it’s not that you came back, either.”

“Then what is it?” she demanded softly, hating that she already sounded on the verge of tears. She wasn’t going to cry. Not now. Not in front of him. Not in front of him and because of him. Especially not at the same time.

Jim’s face hardened. “I let myself into your room while you were missing.”

“And?” Lena had no idea what was going through his head.

“You’re the neatest person I’ve ever met, and the room was a wreck. That says absolutely fucking nothing about the absurd amount of empty hypospray vials that were everywhere. And there wasn’t any sign at all of a struggle, anywhere. You just... up and left.”

Lena looked away. “I did leave, and I apologize for that, even though it doesn’t really mean anything to say that now.”

“And what about the rest of it?” Jim demanded. “You were fucking falling apart, and you couldn’t--”

“I couldn’t what?” Lena asked, voice every bit as hard as his was. “Couldn’t run to you like a child, begging you to make everything go away? Couldn’t trust myself to make the right decisions when it came to you or anyone else anymore? What couldn’t I do?”

“You wouldn’t talk, dammit!” Jim exclaimed. “I understand the rest, but the fact that you couldn’t even tell me--” He cut off with a gusty sigh. “I thought you trusted me.”

“Of course I trusted you,” Lena said quietly, a hand running through her hair. “It was me I didn’t trust.”

“What do you mean? What didn’t you trust yourself with?” Jim looked confused.

“I didn’t trust myself not to do this,” she replied, stepping closer to him and wrapping her arms around his waist, face burying in his shoulder.

“And why is this such a bad thing?” Jim asked, fingers tangling in her hair and catching on the tangles and knots that had formed. Fuck, she needed to take care of that; it hurt like a bitch.

Taking a deep breath, Lena answered, “Because it doesn’t stop there.”

Before he could say anything Lena kissed him, hand wrapping around the back of his neck to pull him close. He froze for a second, and Lena couldn’t help thinking this was the worst decision she had ever made. Then, though, he took a step closer, kissing her back, and it was instantly the best decision and she couldn’t believe she hadn’t let herself do this before.

His lips were soft and warm against hers, and she gasped as he gently sucked her lower lip between them. Fuck, they hadn’t even done that much of anything and her knees were already going weak, arms wrapping around his neck and trusting him to be able to hold her up with the arm that wrapped around her waist.

Finally, though, she pulled back, panting softly as she looked up at a pleasantly confused Jim. “Why...?” he started, then paused as if he wasn’t sure which question to ask.

“Why what?” Lena wasn’t sure she wanted to hear it, but she had to know.

“Why a million things,” he responded. “Why did you stop? Why did you think it was a bad idea in the first place? Why couldn’t we have done this three years ago instead of--?” he cut off, seemingly unwilling to bring up her disappearance yet again.

She sighed. “I stopped because it is a bad idea. Because you don’t want me like this, not really. It’s just the thrill of finally having me back. In a week’s time you’ll just be my friend again and you’ll regret that this ever happened.”

“And if I don’t?” Jim asked.

“You will,” she replied, certain of it. “And I don’t want to be a regret.” She was sure he had enough of those without adding herself to the list.

~*~

Jim was stunned speechless as Lena made as if she was going to pull away, then seemingly decided against it and collapsed into his arms. Confused, he simply wrapped his arms around her, fingers once more tangling in her hair. He couldn’t help but notice her wince when his fingers caught on a particularly large tangle of hair at the nape of her neck; maybe later she’d let him help with that.

Now wasn’t the time to be thinking of hair of all things, though, and he held Lena closer as he felt her start to tremble. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I... you... it shouldn’t be like this,” she managed, voice high and strained. Was she...?

Yes, she was crying, he discovered when he felt the first hints of damp warmth hit his shoulder. “Hey, now,” he murmured. “It shouldn’t be like this. You shouldn’t have been gone for three years. We should’ve talked all that time ago instead of building up to this by not talking. All kinds of things should’ve happened. But this is what happened, and we can only make the best of what we’re given. I’d have to say, right now it’s not looking so bad.”

“How is it not looking bad?” she demanded, the sound muffled by his shoulder. “How the fuck is this in any way good?”

“You’re here,” he said simply, and it was the perfect truth. “You’re here with me now. I can’t say for sure, but I can’t help but feel like it’s going to be all right now.”

Lena looked up at him, managing to look completely skeptical even as tears continued to roll down her face.

He smiled softly, kissing them away and murmuring between each press of his lips to her face. “Sure, it’s far from perfect right now. All kinds of things went wrong. But you know what? You’re here now, and we can finally have a chance to work this out. That has to be better than nothing, right?”

Lena finally nodded, sighing. “Can... can we sit down?” she asked quietly.

“One better. I can take you to my quarters and we can sleep. It’s been a long day.”

Lena nodded and he gently guided them there, kissing the top of her head as he opened the door.

He rummaged through a drawer, tossing a shirt and pair of boxers at her. “Here,” he said. “I know I can never sleep in those hospital gowns.”

Lena chuckled weakly, slipping out of the gown and Jim instantly busied himself in finding pajamas for himself. By the time he had grabbed boxers for himself, she had changed completely and he could walk to the fresher without having to risk glimpsing her bare skin.

Soon enough, he was back out in the main room, smiling when he saw she had already curled on top of the sheets. “Lena?” he said quietly, not surprised in the least when she mumbled incoherently and curled tighter, already mostly asleep.

Smile softening, he gently tugged the sheets down around her, lifting her so he could tuck her in more comfortably.

Lena sighed happily and curled around his pillow with a soft smile, and Jim gently stroked her hair one last time before pulling back.

Looking back at her one last time, he sat at his desk, working on the report he would have to file until he fell asleep on top of his PADD.

~*~

Three Years Ago

Ever since then, Lena had grown quieter and quieter, doing even less outside of work and not-sleep. Food no longer seemed to hold its appeal, and her conversation had long since run dry.

A few people in the clinic occasionally threw concerned glances her way, but she paid them no mind. She was doing the work that was required of her; wasn’t that enough?

Before she knew it, Lena had gone an entire week without speaking at all outside of seeing patients. That was fine with her. It was pointless anyway.

Everything seemed more and more pointless these days.


On to part 11

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November 2011

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