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This Day

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He presses into her and it’s goodbye. Last and forever. Her body knows this like it knows how to breathe.

They’ve survived so much. So many impossible decisions, so much uncertainty. Threats beyond imagination. Weighed right against wrong, life against death. Fought themselves, fought each other.

But this: his leaving her, this should be unsurvivable.

Nothing to say. Nothing more to do but move together, this one last time.

Nothing.

Just the shadows, slow lapping, waiting.

For her, for this ship, he is going to his death.

Just another no-win situation. One dies or they all die. When later she completes her log, she wonders what she will say. The details don’t matter. Nothing may ever matter again.

When she gave in to him, months ago now, she’d felt the weight of this day even then. She knew she would have to make this choice: him or the ship. The present was always the wrong place for her to inhabit — she should have stayed ahead, in the stars, at the prow.

But these past months with him, these precious, beautiful few months ... and she was so close ... so close ...

Well, it’s come back to bite her now, hasn’t it? Shred her, scrape her skin off, crack her bones. Tear her apart and watch her bleed out. Turn her into what she always thought she’d become, a uniform and four metal pips. No win. As if she’d expected there ever to be.

She does not have to say, “I knew this day would come.”

He does not have to reply, “It may not have.”

Ever himself, he says then, “Be here with me. Give me this. Give yourself this.”

“I don’t know how.” A knife dragging at her throat.

He thrusts into her. Deeper. Deeper. Dark eyes fixed to hers. “Feel this, Kathryn. It’s been worth it. I would make the same choice again. And again. I would choose to every time.”

But I shouldn’t have.

“I wouldn’t.”

So many lies, and this is just another. She’s not sure she knows what truth looks like any more.

But he does. He always has. And he’s angry now. His hands cease being gentle and grasp her wrists, pushing them above her head. Fucking her. Animal, primal desperation. To bond, to create, to live forever. Never averting his eyes from hers. His mouth, his perfect mouth, set like stone.

He is going to his death. For her, for this ship.

And she cannot give to him, even now.

I never should have ...

He finishes. The time has been spent, the final cost paid. He slides out of her.

She wishes she could be someone unlike herself, take him into her arms. Say sorry, speak of love, kneel and slice her chest open, place her heart at his feet, where it has lived anyway for all these years.

But she does none of these things.

The moment is already vapour.

He leaves.

She survives.