"Paula!'

"Steven!"

He had shouted her a warning and she had called back. He knew what she wanted but he just hadn't known what to do. Her scream had sounded as a plea, had echoed in the chamber before it was abruptly cut off. She had been begging him to do something, and all he could was stand wide-eyed as the box crushed her. Who was he kidding?... while he crushed her. It made him feel all the more guilty.

Worse was his reaction. He found himself racing forward to shove the container off of her, all his training forgotten as he reached desperate hands through the clouds of blood - so much of it, and all hers - between them. He grabbed her roughly and pulled her up, her name dying on his lips at the sight of her hand.

"Your thumb!"

Her frantic, darting stare focused on her maimed hand and her eyes rolled right up into her head. She collapsed backward and he was thankful for their difference in size; he easily lowered her onto to the deck as opposed to dropping her in surprise. The door burst open behind him and suddenly Donner and Nadia were there, taking charge and shoving him aside. He let them, unable to take his eyes off Paula's hand, following Nadia's orders to apply pressure. What's she going to do without her thumb for fuck's sake? He does his best to answer their questions, panic still fueling his actions before he is corralled by the others - how are they so calm? - into picking up a handle on the stretcher they've gotten Paula onto at some point. He's sure to pick one near her head.

--

"What, what about her thumb?"

"Forget the thumb. Priorities."

"Kay, well, it's important to her!"

"We can re-grow it."

"Not in a week; she can't pilot a Venus Lander without her thumb!"

"Step out, Wass."

Wass certainly didn't understand everything that was Paula Morales, but he did know some things without a doubt. She was not 'Paula Puke' but 'Paula Morales,' and 'Paula Morales does not get g-sickness; Paula Morales will pilot the Venus Lander!' He had heard as much through the thin wall that separated her bunk compartment from the kitchen area. He'd chuckled to himself then and gone on with his teasing, but he recalled her words now and had to swallow the rising bile in his own throat.

Steve skidded into the pod bay and shot past Nadia to the hatchway, scrambling to find the missing digit. He'd screwed Paula over last time she was sick and all she'd wanted then was some lousy water. Her thumb was way more important and he was going to see to it that she got it back. That she got something from him for once other than crude jokes and teasing words.

He jumped at the sound of Nadia behind him; he'd forgotten for a moment she was even there in his rush. He recalled Nadia's reaction the last time he'd hurt Paula and couldn't quell the slight nervousness in his gut. He swallowed hard before turning to look at her, meeting her eyes squarely; if she's going to kill him she can do it later, and he'll tell her that. He's busy right now.

But she doesn't want to lecture; she's got to clean up all the blood before it gets into the air system and really makes a mess. She just wants to know why he's so adamant that he find something so easily replaced.

He doesn't voice it aloud but the answer's clear as day to him: because Paula Morales is going to pilot the Venus Lander.

--

"Wait! Wait - waitwaitwaitwaitwait! Don't touch it; don't touch her! I found it! I-I, I found it! Don't touch that nub! I found it!"

Steve handed Evram the bloody baggy proudly and watched some of the others work on Paula for a time. There was a tension in the air and Wass found he couldn't stand it. Clearly something had happened but he couldn't deal with anything else for the moment. He spun impulsively and left the bay, unable to watch any longer; he needed to do something.

He ended up in her quarters; the ship automatically unlocked all the internal doors in case of a code three incident. He knew he shouldn't be doing so but he was ruffling through her personal belongings, all of them neatly tucked in at the side of the bed, not quite sure of what he was looking for. He paused a moment when he picked up her cross, playing it between his fingers to watch the overhead light dancing on the silver. He put it aside after a moment, reaching further into the drawer to pull out a well-worn leather dog collar. He flipped the red, heart-shaped nametag over: Hector. Steve looked up at the pictures over her bed, picking out the dog among various shots of smiling people. He stretched out one finger to touch the photograph, running it along edge of the dog's face. In his other hand he squeezed the tag so tightly it hurt.

Steve sure as hell didn't know anything about her God, but he'd had a dog once as a kid. Wass wasn't sure if Paula's God cared for her, and he knew without a doubt that He wouldn't answer the bumbling prayers of an atheist like himself. He knew for a fact, however, that Paula's dog had loved her. As far as Wass figured, having someone who appreciated you just for being yourself everyday was far better than someone you never saw and had to pray to all day. So Wass wouldn't be praying: he'd be hoping like poor Hector just to see Paula again, and that seemed like a far better plan. He left the room after a minute with a purpose in mind, dog tag in hand, and cross left on the bed.

--

Steve made his way to see her later that evening, breaking the quiet that had settled over the med bay. He watched her from beyond the clear plastic, tips of his fingers lightly pressed into it. A movement to his left caught his attention and he looked to see Evram. The doctor gave him a nod, gesturing that he was welcome to come in and see her. Steve glanced back to Paula again before nodding back, pushing aside the curtaining and pulling a stool up to her bedside.

"She'll be fine," Evram softly answered the unasked question, "If her thumb takes to the regeneration well she should be more than able to pilot the Venus Lander thanks to you."

Wass bobbed his head a little awkwardly, feeling the blush rise up on his cheeks. Mintz quirked up the corner of his mouth before turning his back and allowing the man as much privacy as he could in the confined area.

Steve shot the doctor's back a look before returning his attention to Paula. He didn't think he'd ever seen her so still, not even when she'd been g-sick. He raised a hand to stroke the bits of hair that had worked free of her braid back before changing course and grasping her good hand instead. He pushed the dog tag up into her palm with his fingers, wishing that she could feel it. Hell, he'd even be pleased if she snatched it from him , sat up, and gave him what-for after he'd gone through her stuff.

To his surprise her brows furrowed and her eyes did open, but she definitely didn't sit up. He gently distangled his hand from hers, "Paula?"

Evram turned around at the name, quickly moving to his patient. Her eyes squinted at the brightness of the lights before wandering slowly to the two men.

"Steven?" her voice was a rasp, questioning. Her gaze was unsure and glassy.

"I'll get you some water," Minzt headed away from the pair with purpose.

"Hey," Steve wasn't sure what more to say to her, settling instead on waiting for her response.

"My thumb?" the question was hesitant and unsteady.

"A-okay, my friend," he gave her a grin at this, stopping himself just short of a thumbs-up. With his luck she'd take it the wrong way.

"What happened exactly?" she'd limply raised her right hand and was giving the bandaging the fish-eye. Steve would have laughed at the sight had her question not brought the guilt he'd briefly traded for relief back tenfold.

Evram rejoined them and jumped in to save him, offering her water and an explanation, "One of the crates in the pod bay crushed you and caused some internal bleeding. The hatch door severed your thumb but thanks to Wassenfelder here we managed to reattach it. You should be able to pilot that Lander in twelve days without a problem barring any complications."

"Oh, that's nice," and she let her arm flop back onto her stomach. Her eyes, still glazed, began to roam the ceiling.

"Is she okay?" Wass directed at Evram when she began to mumble to herself in Spanish.

"Oh, fine. Just loopy from the drugs. The incident will probably come back clearer too, so you have some time to catch your tongue about it. Few hours at least," the doctor returned his attentions to his patient, "How about some more sleep, Paula? Wear off those meds a tad bit more, hmm?"

He tapped the touch pad he'd fastened around her upper arm before she could respond and she sighed, eyes drifting shut. Steve leaned forward to grab her hand again, not caring if Evram saw this time.

"Night Paula Puke."

"Morales. Paula Morales."

Her eyes stayed shut and her words were slurred but Wass grinned to himself none the less. She'd be just fine. Thank Hector.

If you love only those who love you what reward is there in that?

Woo, first Defying Gravity fic! And hopefully there are many more to come in this category! Let me know if you enjoyed this; I have another plan for one with some of Donner's thoughts during the flashbacks in that episode.

Take care, Moksgmol