Just then, there was a knock at the door. Kristin and Lucas both looked towards the door to see Amber, one of the nurses. She gave them both a warm smile before speaking. "I hate to break up the party, but I need to take some blood; doctor's orders," she said to Kristin. Then she turned to Lucas. "I'm sorry, but we're going to need privacy here. I'll give you a few minutes to say goodbye."
Lucas nodded and turned back to Kristin. "It's okay; I promised Darwin I'd go play with him; we haven't been able to do that much lately."
Kristin held out her arms for one last hug, and Lucas obliged happily.
"You come back and see me later," Kristin told him. It wasn't a question but a gentle request.
"Of course, Doc. Love you," Lucas replied.
"Love you, too. Stay out of trouble now," she told him as he started towards the door.
Lucas turned back to her and flashed her one of his famous grins. "Don't I always?" And with that, he exited the room.
Once they were alone, Amber turned back to Kristin. "Doctor Levin just wants to check your white cell count because of your ribs," she explained, preparing Kristin's arm for the needle, tying a tourniquet it and feeling for her vein. "I'm also supposed to ask you if you're having any pain."
"Well, a little, but nothing-"
"A little pinch," Amber interrupted as she stuck the needle into Kristin's vein.
Kristin inhaled sharply. "I can't handle," she finished after a moment.
Amber quickly filled three vials of blood, labeled them, and removed the tourniquet and needle. She then placed a square of gauze on the puncture wound and instructed Kristin to hold it in place while she got a bandage. "Would you like anything for pain?"
Kristin thought for a moment. She hadn't accepted anything yet that day, but the dull ache in her side told her perhaps she should. "Will it make me sleepy?"
"I take it you don't like that side effect?"
"I just don't want to miss anything…now that I'm more coherent," Kristin explained.
"The doctor wanted me to remind you that you need your rest," Amber told her firmly.
"I know…and I intend to do so. I promise."
"Well, we can try some acetaminophen for pain now, and later, you take something stronger. Deal?" Amber asked.
Kristin smiled. "Deal."
"Okay; one of us will bring it in shortly. Get some rest," she ordered gently.
After the nurse brought in her painkillers and left again, Kristin looked toward her door expectantly. She was hoping that any moment, someone else would be visiting her. There were still so many crew members she wanted to see, and she knew they wanted to see her. But after several minutes of wishing and hoping, no one appeared.
She sighed and lay back. She was tired but wasn't quite ready to go back to sleep yet, although she seemed to become more enlightened in her sleep as of late. That was a frightening thought. It wasn't that her dream was frightening at all; quite the opposite actually. She remembered feeling at peace, just very confused.
Carol had told her that her soul had been on a journey. What in the world did that mean? Part of her was afraid to find out. And the part about her and Nathan being a couple? Well, she wasn't quite sure she was ready to even ask him what his thoughts were on that just yet. But then she'd had that other dream where she and Nathan had kissed. She sighed in frustration. She was hoping to make sense of these dreams, but she only felt more confused now.
But as though someone knew she needed a distraction, there was a gentle knock on the doorframe. Kristin looked up to see Katie's smiling face.
"Hi, the captain had told us we could visit, but that we couldn't bombard you. Is this a good time? I could always come back later…"
Kristin carefully sat up and gave Katie a smile. "Oh, no, dear, I was hoping I'd have visitors. It's been very quiet around here, and I've been quite bored."
Katie chuckled softly and walked towards the bed. "Well, Dr. Levin did remind us all you needed your rest as did the captain. I think everyone just wants to be careful."
Kristin sighed. "I do appreciate their thoughtfulness, but I've really missed all of you." She held out her arms.
Katie obliged and hugged her gently. "I've missed you, too."
Kristin tightened her grip on Katie, encouraging her to do the same. "You don't need to be quite so gentle."
Katie obliged and hugged her a little tighter. "You…you gave us quite a scare there," she said after a moment, her voice trembling. When she broke the hug, there were tears in her eyes. She took a tissue from the box on the bedside table and dabbed at her eyes.
Kristin felt her own tears creep up. "I think I scared myself," she replied quietly. She took a deep breath. "Katie, I…I'm so very sorry. I never meant-"
"Oh, Doc…no, please. I never meant for you to feel guilty," Katie replied, wrapping Kristin in a gentle hug again.
Kristin allowed a few tears to slip out. "I know that, dear, but I…" Her voice trailed off as another flash of memory came to her. She had been walking through the corridors; it was late, and she saw Katie looking upset, worried. She tried to speak with her, placed a hand on her shoulder…and it went through.
Concerned why Kristin had suddenly stopped mid-sentence, Katie pulled away to look at her. She noticed the color had drained from the doctor's face. "Doc? Are you feeling all right?" Every word was laced with concern. When Kristin didn't answer, Katie placed a hand on her shoulder and called her name again.
Kristin was suddenly brought back to reality. "W-what?" she asked her friend.
"I had asked if you were okay. You suddenly don't look very well. Should I get Doctor Levin?"
"Oh, no; I'm fine," Kristin assured her. "It's just that I keep having memories…it's a side effect with short term memory loss. I'm fine, really."
Katie nodded, but made a mental note to be extra observant of anymore changes in her, just in case. "If you want to talk about it, you know I'll listen."
Kristin offered her a weak smile. "It's no offense to you at all, but I'm still trying to sort things out myself. However, when the time comes that I am ready, I'll certainly consider you. I do appreciate it."
"Well, as long as you're sure," Katie replied. "As I said before, I wasn't trying to make you feel guilty, so please don't. I'm just glad everything turned out the way it did."
"Me, too," Kristin agreed. "And to save you the trouble, you don't need to lecture. I wasn't planning on arguing over a mission with the captain anytime soon. I've learned my lesson."
Katie smiled softly. "I don't blame you…nor do I blame him. You know the captain; he looks out for all of us, and sometimes, he can be a bit of a mother hen. It isn't always appealing, but he has his reasons. What I'm saying is that I don't think you should make promises you can't keep."
Kristin raised an eyebrow. "You don't think I'm being sincere?"
"Please don't take it the wrong way, Doc. That's not exactly what I meant. I just don't think any of us expects you to change, especially the captain. I know I don't want you to change. I think your mini-mission certainly had good intentions attached to it. It's not like you could possibly have known what was going to transpire."
"Yes, but you do know what they say about good intentions," Kristin muttered; she then let out a frustrated sigh. "You're right; I certainly could not have anticipated what happened, but I feel so…so…"
"Guilty?" Katie offered. She took Kristin's hand in her own, knowing full well that was the case. "Why?"
"First of all, it wasn't just me. Ben, Jonathan, and Lucas…especially Lucas. He nearly died, or so I'm told."
"But he didn't," Katie reminded her. "And that was because of what you did."
"And then what I put the rest of you through…I keep trying to think of things I could have done differently. I'd never, ever change what I did for Lucas…but there had to have been some mistake I made…" Kristin's voice began to tremble slightly. She didn't realize truly how much guilt she felt after all this until then, and it was starting to weigh on her.
Katie moved to embrace her again. "Oh, Doc…no, you can't blame yourself. Ben, Lucas, and Jonathan…they're all fine, just fine. The rest of us were, too. I'm not going to lie; it wasn't easy. The thought of losing you…well, I learned just how much you truly mean to me. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. But this is supposed to be a happy time now. The bad thing is over; it's in the past. We…we need to move on."
Kristin didn't reply; she could no longer resist the tears welling up inside her. She let out a cathartic sob; then another. She felt Katie tighten the embrace and begin to whisper comforting words to her, and the rest of the world seemed to melt away.
Several minutes later, Kristin's cries quieted. She immediately felt embarrassed. She quickly pulled away and wiped her cheeks with her hand. "I…I'm sorry. I didn't mean…"
"Please, don't apologize," Katie told her. Then after a slight pause, she said gently, "Maybe you should talk to someone…about the guilt? Doctor Levin perhaps?"
"I'll think about it," Kristin promised. "I honestly didn't realize how much I still have."
"It'll fade," Katie assured her. "Do you want me to stay?" she asked, gently tucking a stray curl behind Kristin's ear. "Or if you'd like to rest…"
"I…I am a little tired," Kristin admitted.
"Then sleep," Katie told her. She leaned over and kissed her cheek. "I'll come back and see you soon."
Kristin nodded, suddenly feeling exhausted. "Katie?"
Katie gave her another gentle peck on the cheek. "Don't mention it. How many times have you helped me? I was just returning the favor. Sleep well."
Kristin never even heard Katie leave. She wasn't sure if it was the fact she stayed with her until she fell asleep or the fact that it wasn't very long before sleep claimed her.
Kristin would know her brother's voice anywhere; she looked around and saw that she couldn't quite recognize her surroundings. It was…well, it almost looked like the typical artist's rendition of Heaven. It was warm and peaceful. The sky was the bluest she'd ever seen it, and there were white, puffy clouds everywhere. She couldn't see the ground. There were people she didn't recognize all around her. She looked around the crowd, searching for James.
"Angel face!" she heard again.
She turned towards the direction of the voice; the crowd seemed to part and there, under a ray of light, stood her brother. She ran to him and wrapped her arms around him. "Oh, James."
"Hey there," he replied, returning the hug. "I'm so happy to see you're back where you belong."
Kristin pulled away. "Belong? You mean I should be here?" She looked around. "Wherever here is exactly."
James chuckled softly. "No, this isn't where you belong. I was referring to the fact that you are back safe and sound with your friends."
"But then how…" she began, looking around again and giving her brother a questioning look.
"I brought you here…but it's only a visit," he explained. "But first, we need to go somewhere more private." He took her by the arm and led her through the crowd until they reached a walkway leading into a small, cozy apartment. He opened the door and instructed her to sit. "This is more like it," he said satisfactorily.
"James, I'm not sure I-"
"I know you don't…yet. That's why I want you to listen for the moment. First of all, you need to leave your regrets behind."
"That's easier said than done," she replied. "I didn't even realize how much guilt I had until just a short while ago."
James sat next to her and put an arm around her shoulders. "Oh, angel face, I know…but you really have no reason to feel the way you're feeling."
She turned to look at him. "No reason?" She shook her head. "No, I think I have every reason. I keep hearing about how hellish it was while I was missing…how upset Lucas was, how upset Nathan was, how upset Katie was, how upset Cynthia was. And the list goes on. I am going to be hearing about how upset everyone was for days…and it was all because of me. How could I not feel bad about that?"
James sighed. "I'm not telling you not to feel bad. Of course you're going to empathize; you always have had a knack for that. That's why you're a doctor, but you also need to separate yourself. You need to realize that no one could prevent what happened. What happened was meant to be, as difficult as it was. There isn't anything you could have done to prevent it. But that doesn't mean you need to take the burden on for everyone else. Do you understand?"
She shrugged. "But that doesn't exactly change the way I feel."
He placed a gentle kiss to her forehead. "I know…but that will fade as the days go on. You just need to let go and realize that what happened was a lesson for everyone involved. Not just you. Not just the captain. Not just Doctor Talbot. For everyone."
"But why did-"
James shook his head. "The why is something you all need to discover for yourselves, but I think you might realize part of the answer already," he replied. "Carol told you that."
"Carol? You mean you know about her?"
James smiled softly. "Sorry, I'd forgotten you didn't know."
"Know what? Oh, I am sick of all the riddles lately," she muttered in frustration. "Why can't anyone give me a straight answer lately?"
"Oh, honey, that's because you already know the answers. You just don't want to admit it yet," James explained.
Kristin groaned in frustration. "That's exactly what Carol said, but if I knew all the answers, I wouldn't be asking. I honestly don't know what's happened to me the past few days. Carol told me my soul was on a journey, a journey I can't even remember. And then I've had these dreams…" She buried her head in her hands. "Oh, James, I'm just so confused."
James put his arms around her. "I know, and I'm sorry."
"What do I do?"
"You need to take your time. These memories...they're going to keep coming to you. I'm not sure if you'll remember everything, but you'll start remembering more and more."
"And then what?" she asked. Her voice sounded so small, it even surprised her.
"I think you know I can't tell you that." He paused for a moment and pulled away to look at her. "In all the years I've known you, I don't think I've seen you quite so afraid," he noted.
"I…I'm not afraid exactly…just unsure."
"I understand, but I'm not exactly the person you should be talking to," he replied.
"I'm just mustering up the courage," she told him, "and part of me is trying to make sense of everything before I do that."
He pulled her back into his arms. "Oh, baby sister, I understand, but did you ever stop to think that maybe he's doing the exact same thing?"
"I know," he confirmed. He sighed. "Kristin, I promise you, you are going to be just fine. You just need to stop putting so much pressure on yourself, let things fall into place. They will. And most importantly, you need to relax. Everything's fine. I promise you."
"You're going to send me back now, aren't you?"
"You can't stay."
She hugged him tighter. "I miss you so much."
"Me, too, but I'm always with you. And I'm always here if you need me."
Kristin suddenly awoke, feeling quite moved by her dream. She felt wetness on her cheeks and realized she must have been crying. She wiped at her eyes, erasing the evidence. Before she could begin to wrap her head around what she'd dreamt, she heard a knock at the door. She looked up to see Nathan.
"I had stopped by earlier, but you were asleep," he explained, walking in. "I hope it's all right."
She offered him a smile. "Of course. I was hoping you'd come by. I mean…I've missed you."
"The crew must have tired you out," he noted.
"No, actually, I've only seen Lucas and Katie. I'm not sure what's keeping the others."
"Well, I did warn everyone they weren't to bombard you. I didn't mean they couldn't see you, though."
She waved a hand. "It's probably because I've been sleeping half the day away." She motioned towards the clock. "I can't believe it's afternoon already."
"You are supposed to rest," Nathan reminded her.
"I know." She paused for a moment. "Nathan? Could I ask you something?"
"Of course. Is everything all right?" he asked, suddenly concerned.
"I've been having these dreams…or maybe they're memories? I've been trying to make sense of them myself. But every time I shut my eyes, I have another one…and I only find myself more confused. Nathan, some of these dreams…they involve you." She stole a glance at him, and he looked down, telling her that perhaps she was on to something. "Nathan, I need to know the truth. What happened while I was away?"
A/N: I am so sorry for not updating for so long. I know where this story needs to go, but I was having some trouble putting what I wanted into words. Thank you for continuing to read, and I hope you still enjoy. I appreciate it.