You Were There
Posted on July 20th, 2021 by Emilaina Acacia and Kathryn Harper
Doctor Acacia was doing rounds in Sickbay, her feet aching and her eyes tired. She still managed her signature smile for her patients, but that smile faded when she made it to the surgical recovery ward. She entered quietly, approaching the Captain’s bedside to check her vitals.
Kate’s surgery had gone well, all things considered. Emily was still amazed, if morbidly grateful, that someone would use a gun with bullets as opposed to a phaser. It meant that her Captain was still alive, though there had been a few moments where she wasn’t, and the surgery had been especially gruesome. Emily’s gaze lingered on Kate’s heartbeat on the monitor.
Her green eyes slowly opened as awareness of the room made its way into her consciousness; this was clearly a sickbay, probably the one on Atlantis. Why was she here? She remembered touring the Free Fleets facility, and there had been a balcony with a view of the war-torn forested valley containing the shipyard. Then, someone had attacked her… she had fallen, and beyond that… death?
She licked her lips, but her mouth was too dry for that to have been effective. Her breathing deepened a bit as more memories of what had happened to her started to flood into her mind, but at least she was here; as she fell, she recalled being afraid of never seeing Lexy’s face again, but mercifully, that fear would not be realized. Where was her wife, though? Where was anyone? “Doctor?” Kate rasped.
Emily jumped, looking down at Kate with brief surprise which quickly morphed into relief. She took Kate’s hand and gave it a squeeze, “Welcome back. You’ve sure had a rough day.”
Instinctively returning the squeeze and weakly smiling when she found Emily’s familiar face, Kate paused for a moment before speaking again, still trying to process what had happened to her. Finally, she looked back up at Emily and quietly said, “I died.”
Emily nodded, quietly and calmly recounting the details of the surgery as she recalled them, “We removed a bullet from your heart, another from your lung, and two more from your lower abdomen. Your heart did stop for a while, but Doctor Tailor repaired it and brought you back.”
After gratefully accepting an offered drink of water to ease the awful dryness in her throat, Kate’s brow furrowed as she thought aloud in a more normal voice, “No… well, yes, but I mean…” It started to become clearer as the fog of time and trauma began to dissipate, revealing a truth that her mind had suppressed. Kate met Emily’s eyes and calmly stated, “I died at the reactor.”
Emily froze, and her face turned white as paper. She felt a tingling in her curling fingers and toes and a ringing in her ears, the room seeming to warp around her as she fully remembered something that a part of her had been trying to forget. She opened her mouth, lacking for a long moment on what to say before finally managing a few choked words, “Oh… that. Yeah. You, uh… you did,” unsure what else to do she once again recounted the details as she recalled them, “Someone had to go in, and… you told me no. We’re all… well, lucky you paid attention in quantum mechanics, I suppose.”
The memory of how their year stranded on that planet in the distant past ended had eluded her, as it seemed her mind was trying to protect itself from reliving it, but now, she could remember the entire traumatic scene—from leaving everyone behind to rush into the radiation-saturated chamber, through successfully powering down the malfunctioning Gencodian temporal reactor, to collapsing against the controls, blind and in excruciating pain while waiting for a death that was unmercifully slow in arriving. “I died alone,” she began, her voice unsteady as she endured the memory of her consciousness extinguishing after one final thought of her wife. No, that wasn’t true; she felt someone else’s familiar comforting presence through it all, and it quickly became obvious who that beacon of emotion and succor had been. “No… you were there, Emily,” Kate continued as the revelation dawned on her. “You were in my mind. You took some of my pain on yourself and made dying easier.”
Emily’s gaze flitted from Kate to her hands before settling firmly on her own tapping fingers in her lap. Her eyes welled up with tears as she again struggled with what to say. She took a long moment and a deep breath before beginning with an attempt at the explanation she felt she owed, “My older sister and I have the same brain tissue donor, we always assumed that was why…” she shook her head, “Averi and I were always able to… help out, on Tori’s bad days. Take on some of her pain, and relieve her of it. I wasn’t… sure I could do it with someone I’m not related to. But when I saw you…” Emily whined out a note and began to cry, wiping her eyes on the sleeves of her long white coat.
With some effort, Kate lifted her head off the pillow and turned her shoulders toward Emily, hoping to be able to provide some support with her words. “What you did for me was incredible, and it is difficult to describe what that means to me. Making those last awful moments bearable…” She smiled even as her shining eyes released a tear down her cheek. “Thank you so much, Emily. I feel so incredibly fortunate that you are such a wonderful friend to me.”
Emily wiped at her eyes and took another deep breath, trying to stave off the flow of tears. She finally met Kate’s eyes again and let out another rough sob before reeling it in. She started a few blubbering sentences before finally managing to finish one, “I… I just… couldn’t let you suffer like that alone. I don’t know. I’m…” she reached out and squeezed Kate’s hand again, “I’m just glad you’re alright, now. That we all made it out of there, thanks to you.”
“My mind tried to protect itself by keeping me from remembering this,” Kate began, once more returning the squeeze of her hand and not letting go, “and even though it was the most painful thing I have ever felt, I want that memory. Throughout that entire terrible experience, there you were, making me more comfortable at the cost of having to feel that pain yourself in addition to that of seeing me die.” With her free hand, she swabbed at her eyes using the bed sheet before continuing, “What I did was the duty of a captain to her crew; what you did was exceptional, and something that I want to remember, just to know that I have a friend who would do such a thing for me.”
Emily was speechless for a long moment, tearfully staring into Kate’s eyes and holding her hand tightly. She finally let out a ragged breath, once again wiping her eyes on the sleeve of her long white coat, “I didn’t want to remind you of it. I did my best not to,” she shook her head, “It may have been something I did out of instinct, but I’d do it again. You were so brave and I… I just held your hand while you died. You deserve that much and more,” she breathed in slowly, “Some of it is a blur, but the moment when your soul… passed through me, intertwined with mine before passing on, that memory is so vivid. It’s an awful, wonderful, bizarre feeling.”
She was not a religious person and held no belief in the idea of a soul, but Kate still found Emily’s claim about that experience to be fascinating and beautiful. Perhaps it even explained some of the shared feelings they had experienced in the time shortly after their return to Atlantis, and Kate found herself actually missing those, as strange and inexplicable as they had been. Their hands still clasped, the two women shared a silence for several long moments, smiling at each other through freely-flowing tears. It still felt inadequate, but Kate eventually managed, “Thank you, Emily. You are as incredible a friend as anyone could hope to have.”
Emily let the comfortable silence pass, finally freeing a hand to dab tears off her cheeks and chin. She nodded, knowing an understanding had passed between them in those silent tearful smiles. Emily eventually managed, attempting something like professionalism, “Your wife will want to see you. And for what it’s worth, in regards to…” she gestured widely, meaning, you know, “…she doesn’t know, I don’t think. She wasn’t there. I don’t remember why, but I know that much.”
“Good,” Kate sighed, relieved. “I do not want her to have to deal with that.” She wiped at her reddened face and smirked as she added, “I would probably be in trouble with her for getting myself killed.”
Emily half-smirked back and wagged her eyebrows. “I think you’re in trouble for that right now,” she chuckled, noting down a few of the readouts from the bedside panel into Kate’s chart, “But I can call her whenever you’re ready.”
“That is probably true.” Kate scooted herself up as the biobed inclined to allow her to sit, grimacing in pain from various areas of her upper body. “I must be a mess, though… can I at least get a hairbrush before she comes?” She self-consciously raised a hand to pat at her hair and flinched at another sharp twinge from her chest, then peeked down the front of her gown and winced at the sight of her bruised and swollen torso. “And is it too early to treat the bruising? I can deal with it if not, but even moving my arms hurts.”
Emily nodded and got up, bringing back a hairbrush and a dermal regenerator, then started working on some of the bruising while Kate was brushing her hair. “I can work on the surface bruises; it’s the deeper ones that will be harder to get. You’ll be sore for a few days, but let’s clean you up a bit before Lexy sees.”
As Emily worked with the dermal regenerator, Kate was able to brush her hair without as much discomfort, and once they were both done with their respective tasks, Kate could say that she felt much more like herself, even though the remaining deep bruising still caused her pain. Kate closed her gown and habitually tried to smooth it as she would have her uniform tunic, but found that to be impossible. Regardless, she sat up straighter in the bed and sipped from a nearby glass of water as she met Emily’s eyes, then offered a smile and said, “There. The better I look when Lexy sees me, the less she will worry, or so I hope. Words are not enough to truly express my gratitude, but thank you again, Emily… for everything.”
Emily returned the smile, nodding and patting at her swollen face, now the last fading evidence of the doctor having cried. She exhaled sharply and pointedly replied, “Any time,” before tapping her combadge to contact Commander Wright.