The desert sand was wet when it hit her cheek. She didn't flinch when she saw the mass of blood and bone and pain that was once a member of her unit. Screams rang in her ears.
"Medic! We need a medic over here!"
Bullets whizzed past her ears as she knelt by another body. Fingers went straight to the neck – no pulse. She checked his breathing – nothing. Blood was pooling on the sand around them. The entry wounds were bright and leaking from their chest. Nothing could be done. She checked their tags – Private Christian Evans. Eve pulled him back into cover and returned to the fray.
More screaming. More mines, more mutilated bodies. Check the pulse, check the breathing, triage assessment. Almost everyone was black. Some were blue. Those she dragged into cover, isolated the most serious wounds, administered what care she could. But it still wasn't enough.
Too many people were dead. The names ran through her head. Private Elijah White. Private Amy Jackson. Sergeant Joe Stevens. Eve kept searching, kept ducking under bullets and snapping away a sot of her own when she had a clear line of sight. Check the pulse, check the breathing, triage. Pulse, breathing, triage. Pulse, breathing, triage. Pulse breathing triage. Pulse breathing triage. Pulse breathing triage pulse breathing triage pulse breathingtriagepulsebreathingtriagepulsebreathing
A hand touched her shoulder.
Before she'd even opened her eyes, Eve had already pulled her gun out from under the headboard, grasped her assailants' shoulder, and flipped them onto the bed stomach down. Her head hurt from all the screaming and the gunshots and the blood rushing through her head. Her eyes stung from the sand and the blood and tears streaming down her face and she came back to herself with a knee on either side of Cassandra's thighs, one hand holding hers to the small of her back, and her gun buried in orange locks.
"—Baird, Colonel Baird it's Cassandra, it's – please, it's okay, let go, please –"
Eve threw the gun over the other side of the bed. She pushed herself backwards off the bed, instinctively rolling over her shoulder, gasping for breath (the shock of the fall the shock of awakening of holding a gun to Cassandra's head) Her back collided with the opposite wall. Sand and blood and sun and fire flickered across her vision. She could still hear the call for medics.
Then Cassandra was crouched before her. "Colonel Baird, are you okay?" She reached out a hand, and Eve pushed herself further into the wall.
"No! No!" Her voice cracked, "Stay – stay back!" She could see blood dripping off her own hands, off Cassandra's hands, she could see the entry wounds leaking from Cassandra's chest and then her voice wasn't her voice but theirs –
Then it wasn't Cassandra before her but Stone, and dimly she could hear him calling for Jenkins, for Flynn, for help.
And then the sand was flying in her face, there was another mine, how many of these fuckers do they have? A living body, her hands covered in his blood but at least more blood is being kept in than leaking out. "Hold on soldier, I'm bringing you home, you ain't leaving us yet, you've got people waiting –"
A ball smacked into her chest and she caught it in cold but the blood was warm the blood was scorching on her hands. She squeezed. It was foam. Yellow. A smiley face. She squeezed it again.
"Colonel Baird, are you back with us?" Jenkins was standing in the doorway. Stone's concerned face peered over one shoulder. More legs were visible – Cassandra and Jones.
"Yeah," She croaked before clearing her throat, "Yeah, I'm back"
(But I never left)
He nodded. "Good." Turning to the LITs crowding behind him, Jenkins sent them away. "Go and do… whatever it is you do in your free time. The Colonel will be just fine."
Stone began to grumble, but Jones pulled him away. "Fell better colonel!" He called over his shoulder. Further down the hall, she could already hear them arguing. Cassandra dithered for a moment.
"Would you," she stopped, opened her mouth, closed it. "I'm gonna make some hot chocolate. I'll bring you some in a little while." And then she was gone too.
Jenkins stepped further into the room and sat at Eve's side, groaning lightly. He left space between them, enough for another body or two. There was silence. Them, "Where were you?"
"What?" Eve started, "I was – I was here, I never left."
"No, where were you." Jenkins turned his thousands of years old, I am your elder and you will listen, stare on her.
"I was… I was in Iraq. I was part of a convoy, we were bringing supplies but – the insurgents they-they knew we were coming, somehow – there were mines and-and when the first truck went up we knew – and we tried to move but they – they came out of nowhere, it was an ambush, they were waiting and it was so loud and there were gunshots and explosions and it was all red and black there was so much black—"
"Colonel Baird, I need you to breathe." Hands were holding hers. They were warm and calloused and so much larger than her own. "You are in the Library. You are in your room. You are safe."
Eve's chest hurt. She could hear her own breathing rasping in her chest. She was still breathing.
"Colonel Baird, I need you to open your eyes."
Her eyes were closed? She blinked open heavy lids, looking wildly around the room. Her bed, ruffled with one pillow about to fall off. The books that the Library itself had suggested (the Art of War, the Direction of War, a Complete Encyclopedia of Renaissance Art, an assortment of books surrounding Greek history) were piled on and beside her beside table. Jenkins, holding her hands in his, frowning in that I-don't-want-you-to-notice-I-care-but-I -do way of his.
The words came out before she could stop them. "I thought I had this under control," She whispered, "Its been months since I last had a-had a ni – dream this bad."
Jenkins let go of her hands, and something in Eve mourned the loss of such an anchor. "But before now, you had no one to lose." He moved to lean back against the wall again. "You've not mentioned any friends who might worry about your sudden change in career, any family you may need to visit or even any acquaintances who may be curious about your absence from your usual haunts. Cassandra told me of your apartment, when she went with you to get extra clothes. She said that your house looked like no one lived there. Before you came to the Library, you didn't have anyone to lose. But now you have Flynn. Now you have Cassandra, and Jacob, and Ezekiel. And you don't want to lose them."
"I don't want to lose them," Eve echoed. Her face began to crumble. "They have no training, no protection, no weapons, nothing. They could be killed so easily. I almost killed Cassandra!" The fact hit her like a freight train. Oh my god I almost killed Cassandra I had my gun against her head and I almost shot her like a fucking execution I almost killed her I almost killed her I almost –
"But you didn't." Jenkins' voice cut through her growing panic, "You saw her and you stopped yourself."
"But what if I didn't?!" Anger filled her voice, "What happens next time, when Cassandra decides to wake me up again, or Jacob, or Ezekiel, and I almost shoot them?! What then Jenkins'!"
"You won't." He sounded absolutely certain. "You aren't a mindless killer, Colonel Baird."
"I'm a soldier," She whispered. "Or at least, I was." She wasn't a soldier anymore, she wasn't even NATO agent anymore, not after…
Jenkins' raised an eyebrow. "Being a soldier doesn't make you a mindless killer Colonel. And I believe that you were more than just a soldier anyway. You still hold your medical license, do you not."
Now that threw Eve for a loop. "How did you know?"
The older man had the decency to look sheepish. "I may or may not have looked into the service records Charlene had when the Library chose you to be a Guardian."
"The Library has my service records?" Eve glanced up at the ceiling. She liked to think that she was used to strange happenings by now, but a Library that could hack into government systems… She gave Jenkins' a sharp look. "Did you see my entire service record?"
"Just everything that wasn't censored. But we're getting off topic." Jenkins' cleared his throat. "You were a soldier. A very good one, from the little your record told me. And you were also a very good doctor. But you are still only human. You don't need to be okay all the time."
"But…" She trailed off. The others, she wanted to say. What about Cassandra and Stone and Jones. What about Flynn?
"But nothing Colonel Baird. You are only human." The man settled himself more comfortably against the wall. "Cassandra should be here with some hot chocolate soon."
Eve carefully leaned sideways till her head was cushioned on Jenkins' arm. She'd apologise for the tear stains later. For now, she just wanted to know that someone was there. That she wasn't alone.
From the careful hand that patted hers, Eve was pretty sure that Jenkins' understood.
Eve is more than just Flynn's guardian. She was a solider for years, she was a military brat... My first though was 'what if Eve was like John Watson? An army doctor who, for whatever reason, was discharged from the army and went to NATO, and then all of the Library stuff happened?' So this is the result. Enjoy!
Crossposted to AO3 as Celebrimbor 1999