Staring out into the inky darkness from her window was oddly comforting. Knowing the emptiness of space would barley notice if she stepped outside the ship; she would be welcomed with open arms to the party of the dead.
A knock on the door interrupted her quiet thoughts. She stood and walked wordlessly to the door. As it slid open, she stared into the blue eyes of her commanding officer. He sheepishly grinned and swayed on his feet. "Hey, Taz." He mumbled, his gaze wandering around the room.
"Go away, Up." She did not yell at him, or even speak with her usual biting malice. She sounded tired. She returned to her window seat, gazing into the dark with melancholy.
Since the door was left open, Up stepped inside and stood beside her. He stayed quiet for a few moments, but the silence proved to be unbearable. "What are you looking at?"
Taz wanted to roll her eyes, or spin around and slap him for the stupid question. But she did not move an inch.
Up chewed his lip for a moment. Instinctively, he let the back of his hand stroke her upper arm; she seemed cold.
With the sudden contact, Taz yelped and fell to the floor. She stared up at Up in alarm. His hands were out, trying to calm her, but she felt adrenaline coursing through her entire body.
"Taz," His voice was horse. "Taz, you're okay. You're alright." She looked so frail, like a little China doll, but with a wild glint in her dark eyes. He had never seen her so startled. She stood slowly, avoiding his gaze. She began walking towards the door. Up's heart beat in his chest. "It wasn't your fault, you know."
Her feet stopped. Her face became hot. Her brain felt like it was gummed with molasses as she tried to think of a retort. It was her fault. It had to be her fault.
"That was your first real mission," Up stepped a little closer. "You had no way of knowing there was life on the planet."
She could feel heavy tears rolling down her cheeks. She trembled involuntarily, hoping Up had not noticed.
"Johnston knew the risks. He had the same training. There was-"
"It should have been me."
Her voice was so faint, he could have imagined it. He took another step. "What did you say?"
Taz suddenly wheeled around. "It should have been me!" She shouted. Her face was red and glistening from tears. She forced a few shaking breaths. "I should have gone first off that shuttle. I should have been the one torn apart by those beasts." She finally met his eyes. "He had a wife and a newborn daughter. My family's all dead. No one would miss me."
Up caught her jaw in his warm hands. "Now, you listen, I would miss you, Taz. You have family: I'm right here. You have two options. You can lock yourself in these quarters and feel guilty and sorry for yourself, or you can get back up."
She fell into Up's arms. He calmly sat down, with her curled on his lap, and brushed her hair with his fingertips. After crying for nearly an hour, she fell asleep. She looked more like a child than the toughest ranger on the fleet. He smiled. Cradling her, he laid her in her bed. Up knew the next few weeks would be hard for her, but she would cope, he would make sure of that. He silently pulled the blankets around her and left her room. Tomorrow was another mission, another day. She will find away to get back up.