Lazy Summer Days
It was a beautiful sunset, Mairghread thought to herself. If only it weren't quite so warm and her chest didn't hurt quite so much.
Dr. Beckett had removed the stitches that morning, just two days after the attack. He had seemed please with the way she was healing.
Her hand unconsciously went to rest over the bandages as she remembered what had confronted her in the mirror after the stitches were gone. The long, jagged wound, the smaller tears branching off, like a macabre imitation of frost, from when Gotobed had twisted the knife. The dozens of 'railroad tracks' from the stitches. Black congealed blood against pale blue skin, surrounded by the thin line of new white skin.
"Still hurts, huh?"
Mairghread looked up to see Dr. Keller standing a few feet away, as though she weren't sure if she were welcome.
"Mmm," she looked back out to sea before looking back at the young doctor. "Would you like to join me?"
"May I?" she asked, taking a step closer. "I'm not interrupting something?"
"Not at all," Mairghread assured her as the young woman sat beside her, leaning against the wall like she was. "I was just resting."
"Code word for thinking and dozing off?"
Mairghread studied her face for a moment. "Keller. Dr. Jennifer Keller, right?"
"Yeah," she said with surprise. "I didn't think you'd remember me."
"Chicken soup and chocolate milk, second day of physical therapy. Called Dr. Beckett when I woke up after the surgery," Mairghread smiled. "It was much nicer to wake up seeing you check my IV than Lt. Gotobed twisting a knife in my chest."
Jennifer winced. "Sorry to bring that up."
Mairghread shook her head. "It is all right." She tilted her head and gaze inquiringly at the doctor. "How did you find me?"
"You're the only one who still has to prop the balcony doors open," Keller reminded her. "Wanted to make sure you were okay. How's it feel this evening? You never really answered my question."
"It's f—" she stopped herself in time from giving the standard answer/lie. "It is still very sore."
"I'll bet," Jennifer sympathized while shifting around to sit in front of Mairghread. "How are you doing?"
"I think I just answered that question, Dr. Keller."
Dr. Keller laughed. "Please, call me Jennifer. And it's not the same question. The first one was a about a specific part of you; the second was directed at the general or whole of you."
Mairghread sighed heavily, resting her head against the wall and closed her eyes. She was tired; a deep, penetrating exhaustion that reached every fibre of her being had taken hold of her.
"I am…weary, Jennifer," she answered at last.
Keller studied her companion for a moment. "I can imagine. Which leads me to the question of, what are you doing out of the infirmary?"
Her eyes still closed, Mairghread smiled at the face she knew the doctor must be making. She was still dressed in pale blue scrubs and a borrowed, bulky sweater of Dr. Beckett's. Under normal circumstances, she would find the sweater in this weather suffocating. But her healing body wasn't wasting energy to keep her warm—it had more important things to do, like repairing her lung, ribs, and replacing her lost blood.
"I asked Dr. Beckett if I could walk down to the mess hall to stretch my legs and get something to eat," she explained. "Then I thought I'd head to my own room to rest in my own, more comfortable bed for a while, but…," she chuckled, "this is as far as I got before I felt too tired to go further. So I stopped here to rest a bit." She opened her eyes briefly. "I was going to go back. Eventually." She closed her eyes again.
"Let me call for a wheelchair and I'll take you back. You should have your bandages changed anyway," she reached to tap her comm.
"No." Mairghread opened her eyes and reached out her hand to stop the doctor. "Please, not yet. And I can walk," she protested.
Jennifer laughed and dug in her pocket for her compact mirror. "I doubt it," she told the wraith. "Take a look at yourself. The last time I saw someone so pale was in a ghost movie."
Mairghread took the proffered mirror, somewhat shocked at the face that stared back at her. She was pale—er than usual, almost white, and it was exaggerated by the dark circles under her eyes.
"All right," she conceded, handing the compact back. "But, just wait a few minutes, please? I want to wait for the stars to come out. Please," she begged when the physician opened her mouth to protest. "It will only be a few more minutes."
"Okay." Jennifer scooted back to sit next to Mairghread, who had closed her eyes again and tilted her head back to rest on the wall.
"So, why did you really come out here?" Mairghread asked abruptly.
Jennifer smiled and imitated Mairghread by leaning against the wall with her head tilted back to catch the last golden rays of the sun. How did she always know?
"I thought you could use a friend."
Mairghread was somewhat startled by this. The thought had crossed her mind, that she would like someone to speak with as an equal, someone other than her adoptive family in whom to confide. However, she had assumed that it was an impossibility on Atlantis.
"Thank you," she said after a long pause. "I could."
They sat in companionable silence for a few more moments, Jennifer watching the beautiful, morphing colors of the sunset, Mairghread simply enjoying the sounds of the ocean and the breeze that played with her hair, before she spoke again.
"For a moment, I wanted to feed on him," she confessed softly. "I was afraid that if no one came soon, I wouldn't be able to resist any longer."
Jennifer leaned forward and looked at Mairghread. "I'm sure that you would have been strong enough."
"You are very kind," Mairghread voice was made deeper by the unshed tears. "But it is not true." She paused and wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand and laughed mirthlessly. "I don't even know why I'm telling you this."
"What are strangers for, if not to tell your secrets to?" countered Jennifer comfortingly.
This made Mairghread smile. "This is true, I suppose."
"Of course it is," affirmed Jennifer. "Although I'm sure no one would blame you. I know I would want to kill the man who had just stabbed me in the chest and by mere chance missed carving my heart like a thanksgiving turkey."
Mairghread snorted at the simile before sobering quickly. "No. But there is a great deal of difference between killing your attacker and feeding off him."
"If there is, surely feeding is the less morally reprehensible of the two," argued Dr. Keller, leaning forward and looking Mairghread in the face even though her eyes were still closed, tears seeping out between closed lids. "Suppose it had been me that Lt. Gotobed stabbed—you had to be taken back into surgery and I had lain down in your bed and he mistook me for you in the dark—and I grab a scalpel or other sharp instrument off the table and kill him out of self defense. No one would blame me—it was clearly self-defense, fight back, kill or be killed—but it would effectively gain me nothing."
"Except time and safety," Mairghread pointed out.
"True," allowed Jennifer, "But take your case. Same circumstances as me, Gotobed stabs you in the dark in the middle of the night. If you reach out and kill him by feeding on him, it's no less painful or quick than if I stab him in the throat, but it would give you a tangible benefit—you're saved from bleeding to death while the medical personnel arrive. It's still self-defense; it's only the means and end amount of good that's done that's different."
"Hmm." When Jennifer put it like that, it made logical sense. However, Mairghread couldn't help but feel that emotionally, there was still a huge gap between the two, particularly for the humans.
She opened her eyes, and was greeted by the soft light of the stars and a crescent moon. She found comfort in them, in the fact that somewhere, they were watching over her athair as well. Some of them may even have known her màthair and her siblings. The soft song they sang brought her hope, while their light brought healing.
Dr. Keller watched as Mairghread's eyes gradually fluttered shut, her head lilting forward as her hands slid off her knees into her lap. The poor girl, she probably should have been asleep hours ago.
Keller tapped her earpiece. "Dr. Beckett? I found her. Yes, the balcony about 300 feet south of the mess hall."
"Is she alright?"
"Yes, I think so. But could you send a gurney? She's fallen asleep, and I don't think I should wake her up."
"Of course not!" the Scottish doctor's ire at the mere thought was clear even through the crackle of the radio. "One's on its way now."
"You know," mused Jennifer when she and Beckett had successfully settled Mairghread into the infirmary for the night, "I just realized that she's been here only about 8 months?"
"Ah ken," Carson's Scottish burr was thicker for the late hour. "Sech a lot o' tradgedy fer a wee bairn wi' less than a year o' living under her baelt."
A/N: Is that a lame ending or what? Yes it is. But it is not really the end! Oh no. Go to my bio page and click on "Vengeance is Mine" for the first chapter of the next installation in this saga. The events of "Submersion" with a twist (of course!). Mairghread goes down with the others to view the drilling platform on Atlantis's ocean, but the Queen is not just another ancient wraith who fought the Ancients. When Mairghread has to face her past and her mother's murderer up close, will anyone be able to stop her taking her revenge?