Log Entry 151031.156

As promised, Beastie was waiting for me in my quarters. She knew something was up as she'd been living with Luke during my absence. That he had deposited her back home that morning tipped her off that I was returning. There was no other reason why she would be sitting smack bang in the centre of the room, staring at the door. Not lying down, but sitting with her eyes narrowed in disapproval as she waited. In fact, if she'd had fingers on her paws, she would have been quietly drumming them on the carpet and declaring, "And where do you think you've been?"
As it was, she held her post as we fell through the door with my stuff. I cried out her name and in response, she stood up and turned her back on me, pushing her nose into the air in disgust before she sauntered off with displeasure oozing from her every pore. I wasn't having it though. I swooped down and scooped her up into my arms before she could escape. She yowled loudly in protest, but having flipped her onto her back so that I could rub her belly while cradling her in my arms, it wasn't long before the first purrs began to escape.
Bless, she tried so hard not to oblige. Her first purr was very quiet and cut short, but soon, as I cooed and wooed her, she succumbed and was purring like a little steam engine rhythmically pumping its pistons as her tummy rose and fell with her breathing.
"You and that cat, Jen! It's quite sickening the way you mollycoddle her!" Al laughed, screwing her face up in feigned disgust, but as I tipped Beastie into her arms, she too proceeded to rock her like a baby.
I laughed to myself as I ordered up a cup of builder's tea from the replicator. It was a special blend I had programmed in which had proven popular with a number of the other crew members too. Never mind the delicate nuances of Earl Gray or the subtle aromas of your lapsang souchong. Give me a cup of good, strong, mixed blend tea with a dash of milk—not stewed, but toffee-coloured—and never mind your fancy cups. Nothing less than a mug full, but china, not pottery. Tea goes cold in pottery mugs too quickly, but china acts as an insulator helping to keep the tea hot.
With mug in hand, I settled on the sofa and let out a long, deep sigh of satisfaction. Al settled herself on a chair opposite me, spreading Beastie out along her lap so that she lay sprawled, her paws dangling limply in the air. Al cradled her head in her hands and spoke softly to her, rubbing her face against Beastie's.
"Of course, you're not soft with her at all, are you?" I teased.
Al looked up just long enough to stick her tongue out at me and then returned to her feline fussing.
It was lovely to be home and I could have sat there for hours. Sadly, it was not to be. My communicator chimed, as did Al's. It was the captain.
"Cadets Terran and Johnson, please report to my ready room."
Her voice was harsh and officious. We both looked at each other, wondering what we could possibly have done wrong now.

Log Entry 151010.155

As the Earhart came into view, my spirits soared. It was completely unexpected, which only served to double the elation. The huge weight of the last few months was lifted from my shoulders. All of the stress, the turmoil and the loneliness—it all just slipped away amidst the great joy of being home again. I know that one day I will have to leave the Earhart. I will be posted to another ship probably, but I simply cannot envisage serving aboard any other vessel.
Once docked and walking the corridors of my ship again, those feelings of happiness became euphoric. I hadn't realised just how unhappy I had been until now. The compulsion to run and hug everybody I met was so strong—almost overwhelming, but I held back (thinking it wisest) but the large, daft grin plastered across my face along with my constant humming, told all those I passed how thrilled I was to be back.
"Jen!" a voice screamed from behind. I knew instantly who it was and turned, dropping my bags as I did so.
Behind me was Al, that crazy, lovable gal with a thread of Klingon blood running through her veins. No longer could I resist. I ran and gave her the biggest hug ever; it was so good to see her.
"My! You have missed me!"
"Oh, you have no idea!" I beamed.
"You look awful. Was it that bad?"
"Bad enough."
"Oh cripes! You didn't fail did you?"
Her face fell and fleetingly, I wondered if she was asking for her own interests. It had long ago been made clear to the three of us: me, Rutter and Al, that if one of us failed our Academy training, we would all fail. It was the outcome of a dispute that we had once harboured against Rutter. But that was so long ago and the bonds we had formed since then were so strong that the thought was instantly dismissed.
"Nah. I'm just a bit worn down. Looking forward to a good night's sleep in my own bed and getting back to my job."
"Worn down?"
"Yeah, the Academy this time around was ..." I paused. "Let's just say that there was another issue going on. I'll tell you all about it later, but first I want to find Beastie. Is she with Luke?"
I had missed that big hairball of a moggie. I had missed Luke too. It was another treasured friendship I had formed since joining Starfleet.
"No. Luke had to go on shift, so he dropped Beastie off in your quarters earlier."
With that, Al linked her arm through mine, twirled me around, sweeping up my luggage with her free hand at the same time, and we headed off towards my quarters.
I still marvelled at how strong she was. Only a tad over five feet in height and such a slender, fragile looking thing, but she was as strong as an ox. The last time I saw her, her hair was peroxide blonde, but now the chestnut brown of her natural hair colouring was growing through unchecked. I wondered if she would be touching in her roots again as she had done so meticulously for many years, and resolved to ask her later, but not now. Now, I wanted to hear her tales from her Academy stint at Marseille.