“Sir, are you okay?” Aria asked Picard once they had some distance from the war bird that had held them captured for almost two weeks. He did not respond and had slumped in his chair. Picard had begun to go into shock from the phaser hit he had taken in the shoulder. She turned on the computer navigation system and got Jean Luc to the aft section of the shuttle where she could lay him down on one of the bunks. She then got out a tricorder and scanned his injuries. She was able to stabilize him and covered him with a blanket so he could sleep off the medications she administered. She looked at him for a minute, admired how strong he had been during their ordeal. He stirred in his sleep and she stoked his face, which calmed him down. Aria gave him a gentle kiss and rose from his bedside.
With the Captain out of any immediate danger and resting, Aria turned her attention to the shuttlecraft. There were so many buttons; this was the one area she did not do as well at the Academy. With the computer’s help she was able to get them on a course to get back to the Enterprise. It was a day’s travel before they could get there, if the Enterprise stayed on its course. They were hours away from being within communication range, so she set the computer to send a continuous message, stating their status and to have the computer alert them if someone responded. She also rechecked their course so they would get close to where the Enterprise was supposed to be.
With all of that taken care of, Aria checked on Picard again. He was fine and seemed to be sleeping well. She saw that most of their bags were still in the storage compartments. Knowing that her physical memories were still with her made her fell a bit better although Malrata now felt like a lifetime ago. Aria went over to the sink and looked at herself in the mirror for the first time since she had left the hotel. She was a complete mess with a cut over one eye, the other black, her lips were split and there were streaks of dried blood all over her face and neck. She gently tried to clean herself up, but everything hurt. She hurt all over, especially her ribs and mid-section. She was sure that she had at least one broken rib. Throwing up in the sink made her ribs hurt more than ever and she was cramping in her midsection. She rinsed the sink out to remove the last of her vomit and tried to wash her face and neck some more. It hurt her to do this and gave up after a few wipes from a wet towel. After looking at herself in the mirror and how red the water in the basin was, all she could do is to begin to cry and shake. Slowly she sat down on the floor and curled up into a ball, putting her head down on her knees and quietly sobbed. The adrenalin had finally worn off and the events of the past weeks had finally taken its toll on her. She finally was able to let go and did not have to be so strong.
She stayed that way for quite a long time until she felt a pair of warm and familiar arms wrap around her and hold her tight. Aria lifted her head a bit to see that Jean Luc right there comforting her.
“It’s okay. We have been through a lot,” he whispered in her ear. She wrapped her arms around him and they held onto each other for what felt like forever.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t fall apart like this,” she finally said as the tears began to subside and stopped shaking as much.
“Aria, darling, it is okay. It is natural,” he whispered.
She lifted her head so that their eyes met. “I’m sorry, it’s just…”
“Aria, it is okay. You surprised me with how strong you were with all the abuse you took for so long. I am very proud of you. Not many Starfleet officers would of held up as well as you did.” He leaned down and kissed her gently on her lips. She melted into his arms and his touch. Even with his injury, Jean Luc was able to lift her onto the bunk, kissing her all over her face and neck. All of her pain began to melt away with every kiss they shared.
“I wish I could of done this the whole time we were in that cell,” he told her while he nuzzled her neck, but realized that she was much lighter than he remembered.
“We both know that would have been very dangerous. I don’t even want to think of how bad things would of gotten if they had known about us,” she said amazed that they had finally made it out of that hellish experience.
He kissed her again and gently touched her matted black hair. Even though she was very bruised and bloodied, Jean Luc still thought she was very beautiful. They had stopped kissing and he held her tightly on the small bunk stoking her arms or gently kissing the top of her head. She soon fell asleep in the strong protective arms of her Captain, her lover. Picard felt so guilty that he was unable to protect her from the evil things that had harmed her. He had wanted to hold her and comfort her every time she returned to their cell bloody and bruised or attack any Romulan that came to hurt her, but knew he had a job to do, to get both of them out of there alive. Jean Luc was really very impressed with how well she had held up under the conditions. She had been beaten up a lot more than he had been and didn’t complain once. It broke his heart to think of all the pain and torture she had gone through virtually alone.