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((Stardate 238609.27, O'Leary's Pub - San Fransisco)) ::Drinks all around had been the first order of business. For Liam it had been seven hours since he'd received the news. For Sidney, it had been two. Upon confirmation of Brian Deacon's death, a memo had been sent out along with the official cause of death: systems malfunction. His brother Edgar had been notified on duty and their parents had been called. Their class all liked Brian, and quite a few of the students were taking advantage of the available grief counseling. Pierce felt a growing sense of concern regarding Frost. He was staring off somewhere, his eyes blank and his jaw set. He slid his drink closer to him.:: Frost: You guys don't get it. That was supposed to be my slot. I switched with Brian so I could go home for Liz's birthday. *I* should have been the one on that shuttle. Pierce: It was all scheduling. Timing. Someone should have been more careful monitoring the repair schedules, too. It had nothing to do with you. Frost: I'm here, and Brian's not. And it's my fault. ::Oliver Weston leaned back into his chair and stared at the ceiling. He hadn't said a word since they arrived. Sidney watched Liam, brow furrowed. They had known each other for nearing three years, and in all their time together she'd never seen him this upset. The guilt he was feeling was taking him over, taking all of the care and concern for his well-being and throwing it into the trash. At times like this, she wished she had the empathy that her upbringing on Betazed would have brought her, had she been of the namesake race. As it stood, she couldn't read minds and had only her Terran power of communication to help make a dent on the situation.:: Pierce: What are you thinking? :: Liam looked into his glass for a long time.:: Frost: I just... I can't stay here. I'm going to see the Commandant tomorrow. ::Pierce slammed her glass down on the table with such force that Liam jumped. She was several drinks in; too far in to keep her calm. Whiskey sloshed everywhere, coating her hand. She shook it off and gave her counterpart a hard stare.:: Pierce: What! What the hell is wrong with you? That's career suicide. It's bad enough that Brian's gone, but now you want to go and throw all your hard work away? And for what, your misplaced feelings of guilt because you wanted time off to see Liz? That's garbage, and you know it. Weston: Sid's right, man. You know Brian wouldn't want this. Frost: How do I deal with this? How do I just keep going like this just didn't happen? Pierce: You get through today, and then you go to sleep. You wake up, thank whatever you believe in that you're alive, keep up with your training and get cracking on your work. You do that day after day, one day at a time, until you can accept that you are still alive and should be thankful for that. Brian can't be here to see his dreams out, so it's your duty to honour him. ::It occurred to Sidney then that she had been crying for a few moments.:: Pierce: You fill those days with your experiences like each one a god-[...]ed prayer wheel to Brian until you've worked out your issues and can understand that we are all grieving, but if it were you, we would be so far in our cups that we would never come out. ::Her chair flew backwards across the room in her haste to escape. She tore away from the bar, out into the courtyard, and threw herself down in a dark corner where she couldn't be seen. It had started to rain while they were inside, because of course it had. That was the way things were slipping today. Head in her hands, Sidney let out a few alcohol-scented sobs before combing her soggy hair back from her face. Her Counseling professor would be asking her to write down a word for this feeling. The only words that formed themselves in Pierce's mind were all profanity; half-scrawled guttural noises made for a lack of effective expression. She was furious with Brian Deacon, furious that he had stepped onto that shuttlecraft without triple-checking the engines before takeoff, furious that he'd let himself be killed, and furious that he could wreck their group so selfishly while doing so.:: ::Something splashed over her leggings and lace-up boots. She looked up to see Liam standing over her, breath fogging in the cold rain. He held out a hand to help her up, and after a moment of silent contemplation, she spat at his feet. Liam jumped back.:: Pierce: Get the hell away from me. Frost: What did I do? Pierce: I'm sorry, aren't you too busy throwing your career away? ::Her friend looked at her, his own brow knit. Sidney could see the flush on his cheeks. He wasn't just red from the effort of finding her. He was angry.:: Frost: Is that what this is about? Wanting to make things right? Listen, Sid, I know how you feel, but - ::Pierce scrambled to her feet and threw her arms out, palms connecting with Frost's chest and shoving him backwards. He stumbled and looked for a moment like he was going to throw a punch. None of that mattered to Sidney. This was happening. She had spent too long keeping her calm and being the level head.:: Pierce: You don't ever deem to tell me how I feel, Frost. You don't get to command those feelings, or me, like everyone else. I'm not part of your schooling, or part of your job. Frost: ::voice raised:: God [...] it, that's not what I meant. I just can't sit by and watch this all happen. The services, his funeral, everyone going to the grief counselors... How do you think that makes me feel? It should have been me. I can't sit idly by and let this happen. ::Message begins: A memorandum for all staff and students of Starfleet Academy. Today marks the passing of a bright and promising young star, sadly taken from us all too soon. Liam Frost, twenty-two. Killed while on assignment. Cause of death is has been established as a shuttlecraft engine malfunction. Majors: Spacial Dynamics and Astrophysics. Leaving behind his parents, Trevor and Serena. Brother, Tyson. Sister, Elizabeth. Donations to be made to the Missing Man Foundation for the families of pilots killed while on duty. A service will be held on Stardate 238609.29. Message ends. :: ::She saw images of the memo, of the preparations for the funeral services, of his school record. Over every Brian Deacon, she saw Liam Frost. Over every mop of Brian's dark brown hair, Liam's face.:: Pierce: Death is going to happen! ::Her hands balled tightly, her feet wide apart. Jacket and skirt soaked in the rain.:: Pierce: You're going to go into active duty, and people in your crew are going to die. Some of them are going to die on missions, some of them are going to die of age or illness. And that is an absolute fact. ::pointing at him:: You can't cry every time someone on the same duty rotation bites it, because it 'could have been you'. You should be thanking God that it wasn't you. ::His hands thrown up in the air. Hair pressed against his face, in his eyes.:: Frost: With that attitude you'll make a great counselor. Pierce: And with that death wish I'm sure you'll make a great pilot. ::She turned on her heel and headed towards the dorms. Shoving her hands into the sleeves of her jacket, she hunched her shoulders against the rain. Her entire body was shaking with fear and with the cold. The new plan involved going back into the bottle of amaretto that was stashed between mattress and wall. It was full. She would remedy that. Footsteps came up behind her; she crouched and turned, taking a swing. Liam grabbed her by the fist and shoulder, sending a whipcrack of pain through her arm. She pushed him a second time, staggering back. Her chest heaved with the effort of keeping a steady breath in her lungs. The two of them looked at each other, fog in the air between them. His hair was sending water coursing down his face. Liam's hands were together, apart, fists, in pockets.:: Frost: I... don't have a death wish. ::Sidney said nothing. Sliding her cuffs over her palms, she dug her nails into the soaking fabric and looked at the ground.:: Frost: Are you listening to me? :: taking a step closer:: Because that's what this is really about, isn't it? I said I don't wish I was dead. ::Her eyes snapped up to meet his. She felt a tightening in her chest and for a moment struggled to find her voice. It came out in a cracked whisper.:: Pierce: ::quietly, aside:: … well, good. ::Rain on concrete drowned out the sound of his voice. Liam tilted his head towards her, leaning down.:: Frost: Sorry, what? ::Pierce looked up at him through rain-soaked hair and wrapped her arms around herself, shivering.:: Pierce: I said good. Good. Because you can't. You. ::biting her lip, anxiously:: You can't. Frost: Can't what? ::Something passed through both of them, and Sidney threw herself into Liam's chest, hands digging into his collar. You can't, you can't, you can't, she repeated over and over as she sobbed without mercy. Liam pressed his head against hers and said things to her, things she could barely hear, about being sorry. He wrapped his arms around her. The force knocked all of the remaining air out of her lungs and she struggled to breathe. I wouldn't, he told her, I couldn't. She pushed back away from him, still holding him by his jacket, and took a long look at him. Another number in the Starfleet book of the dead, but not his. Not today. The moment blurred. Sidney pulled him by his jacket. Liam moved his arms. The kiss took shape in a matter of seconds, before either of them had time to give it any consideration. It was not passionate, but it felt desperate. Pierce threw her arms around his neck and leapt; not to be disappointed, Liam picked her up. She held his face by his jaw and enjoyed every second; they couldn't stay like this forever. They had been friends for too long. After another long kiss, they broke for air and Frost put her down. :: ::They walked back to the dorms in silence, Liam with his hands in his pockets and Sidney with her arms around her shoulders. They went back to Liam's quarters in silence, both of them trailing clothing as they pressed towards the bed. It was a memory that didn't blur, that couldn't. That can't. And in the morning, when dull light came through the window, Sidney Pierce slid silently out of bed. She re-dressed herself into her damp clothes. A quick search of the room turned up a pen and a piece of paper on which she scribbled a note. She signed it. She wrote three x. She left.: ::Never bring this up. -S xxx:: LtJG Sidney Pierce Counselor USS Apollo with permission from, but apologies to LtCmdr Liam Frost First Officer USS Apollo