the importance of life
We must have faith.
She looked so fragile; eyes closed in a deep, deep sleep and wrapped in nothing but a loose robe that was just a bit too short for his taste. All superficial wounds had been healed up nicely, leaving only the faintest traces of scars—and yet he knew that was just on the surface. Deep below, where the tubes snaked in…that was where they were so desperately trying to stave off, to keep whatever it was from killing her. Suddenly he felt so very weak, legs threatening to just give out as it struck him hard at what he was about to do.
“Oy Adam, take a breather, we’ve still got some time, ye know…” Hunter, not looking any happier, only determined now to make this work.
“N-No, it’s…I just wanna get it over with…” Even his voice shook, it didn’t seem real that this was happening. Gently he stroked her hair, the strands still like silk. Her skin felt a little cooler, but still smooth and soft…gods, how he was going to miss that…a deep ache stirring within him, causing not only his scar to hurt all over again but rising deep from his psyche, an unstoppable wave of anguish.
Only when she was starting to be disrobed did he pull out of it, instantly threatening visual incapacitation at the poor intern who backed off immediately, shaking all the while. “Oy, th’ fuck you think you’re doing?”
“I-I, it’s j-j-just, a-a-according to Dogoo, clothing w-w-won’t l-last l-long…” It only took a single snarl from the silver-haired man before the poor kid fled in terror, not even looking back. Next to him, Hunter stepped forward, sighing all the while.
“It’s uh, standard procedure I guess…though, can’t say I like th’ idea meself…” Poor Sio, exposed to everyone who worked there and just happened to pass by. Maybe it hadn’t mattered when Iyo had used it, after all there had just been Saint-Germain and her all those centuries ago, but that was before DOGOO had grown into the organization it was now.
“Not. Happening. I am already giving up everything I’ve come to know these past few years, no bloody way I’m just gonna let everyone leer at her like some object—”
“—Then we won’t; I apologize for not realizing it earlier.” Uneven footsteps accompanied by a cane, Commander Iyo slowly limping in. “You’re right Adam, Niall. It was insensitive of us to forget that things are not what they used to be. Unconscious she may be, but dignity she will still have. She can go in as is, unless you had something else in mind?”
Something else, huh… Normally he couldn’t care less about clothing, but for some reason the answer was now standing very clearly in his mind.
“…Give me a minute.”
In his memory, it had only just been this morning that he’d teased her, and then buttoned up her uniform before heading to that ill-fated meeting. The room they shared still in the same state as they’d left it—bed unmade, someone’s pillow on the floor and a stuffed bear lying on the small desk. Swallowing the hysteria, he immediately flung open the closet; rifling through what little casual wear that they’d rarely wore nowadays: a few polo shirts, a pair of jeans, the odd sweater or skirt and…ah…
“—I uh...got you something...”
It hadn’t been worn much after they’d gotten married, but she had been reluctant to leave it behind in her Tokyo home—because it held so much more than just the memory of their first date, that night. ‘Maybe on the off-chance we get an opportunity,’ she’d reasoned, and now it was finally being taken out, but not for a nice date on the beach—
—no, who would’ve ever guessed that this dress, the very first gift he’d bought on a whim just because he wanted to do something for her, would essentially become her burial shroud? Grabbing the hanger, he gently folded it into his arms before sprinting back out.
When he’d returned and laid out the garment the Commander didn’t say a word, only nodded in agreement and she and Hunter left immediately to give them some privacy while he changed her out of that flimsy hospital gown. It didn’t feel right…not the way she was entirely limp in his arms as he pulled the dress over her arms, nor that hastily-mended scar from the c-section that would now be a permanent part of her torso. As much as he’d inwardly complained about his own scars, right now he would’ve taken on all of hers and more, if only she would be all right once again.
Something metallic hit his arm and he looked down to see her wedding band still intact, thought slightly scuffed from all the battles she’d worn it into. Unconsciously he twisted his own, sitting around his left ring finger. Maybe this was all for naught, that the unknown fluid or whatever it was would just dissolve all material goods, metal and all; yet still he desperately clung to hope, that whatever little things he was doing now...it would mean something at the end of all this, if there even was an end.
“Hnn…you have good dreams now, you hear, squirt?” He’d read somewhere that although unconscious, people in a coma were still capable of hearing those around them. How true that was…well, there wasn’t anything left to lose now, was there? “Don’t worry about us; I’ll…I’ll make it…somehow. The kids…oh, our daughter came out just fine…so ‘f you're wonderin’…”
Suddenly he grasped her tight, unresponsive as she was save her for even breath. “Gods, Sio…I’m so sorry…I’m so, so sorry…” He’d give anything for her to wake up, even if just for a second; because there were so many things he wanted to tell her, had to tell her—about his doubts, fears, and what would become of their future… “But, trust me, I’ll find a way t’ get you out of this…I swear to god, I promise…you’ll see us again.” He resisted the urge to just crush her in his arms completely, but still he spent a few more minutes just holding her, trying to memorize everything about her before she was locked away.
For all the fuss they raised about this entire process, it was surprisingly straightforward. He carried her in his arms, princess-style, although this time nobody cracked a joke or even a hint of a smile. The mood could only be described as somber, more like a funeral. Hell, it might as well be, given the circumstances.
“Adam Muirhead. You are sure, and understand fully, what it is you are about to do?” The Commander once again resuming her authority now, gazing down like the indomitable figure she was from her perch up high, Saint-Germain always by her side. All the staff stood to the side respectfully, their gazes lowered but still it felt more like a trial, like he was about to accept some sort of punishment. And maybe in a way he was, leaving her entire fate up to some hastily-scraped together plan that did not have any sort of guarantee, but only hope.
All because he’d failed to do the one thing he’d swore he would, even give his own life for, ever since they first met—to protect her.
And now he was still alive while she might as well not be.
“…Yeh. I understand.”
A moment of silence, as though they were also in disbelief at what was about to happen. “…Very well. There is no going back after this then…”
“I know.” He wished they would stop delaying the inevitable, for with each passing second, the more his reluctance was growing—any longer, and he might very well just dash out with her, consequences be damned.
All external lights seemed to dim as the field dropped, and Dogoo gently stepped out, hovering uncertainly, trying to gain a hold in the outside world after its time in stasis. They’d never seen the alien outside before, only Iyo and Saint-Germain before them, and yet despite all the holographic communications and in-person visits, there was still a sense of unnatural being surrounding it.
“Please, set her in gently, and the field will automatically contain itself.”
A dread. Reluctance. Fear. Each step seemed longer than the last, and the closer he got, the less he could hear, until the only sounds that remained was his own heartbeat. It was so easy—just lay her in, and she’d be all right…right? At the last minute his courage failed him and he simply stood there, staring blankly into the flickering ring.
“…Adam? Do you wish to retract your choice?” All eyes on him now, and though he was sure none of them would judge anything, just their gazes penetrating him, stripping him of everything until the very depths of his soul was laid bare and naked, every vulnerability and self-loathing in full display…suddenly he broke into a cold sweat and a wave of nausea consumed him.
‘Do you?’ A barely noticeable whisper that only he could hear in his own head.
”…No.“ It was like watching through the surreal quality of a dream, or maybe Nightingale had taken pity–or something–and his body moved though he wasn’t aware of controlling it, unaware of letting go and seeing her hover in that weightless state. Only when the field closed up and he stepped backwards, did the full weight of what he’d just done hit him entirely.
You won’t ever see her again after this. Not in the way you’ve known in these past years. She is more a symbol now, something you hope for, but never someone you can embrace anymore.
He reached out for her only to touch some sort of force field, the energy vibrating his hand back. So this was finality… A sort of numbing sensation spreading through his body, unable to feel or think of anything–because what could he possibly feel now–
What have you done?
“–we think it best for you to convalesce back home.”
What? Home? “You mean…”
“Perhaps it’s premature for you to be traveling, but as of now, we feel it would probably be better for you to get some distance from DOGOO for the time being. Transportation to London, England, is already being arranged as we speak.”
“Oh…” Right. London. His home, though he hadn’t thought of it as such in a long time now. “What about–”
“Your children can go with you, and your mother has already been informed.” At this point the Commander dismissed everyone else with a wave of her hand, and room becoming eerily quiet now. “Or rather, I should say she…requested your presence home after the mission.”
His mother…he couldn’t remember the last time they’d been in contact, not since his son was born.
“I see…” He had no more energy left to even argue against anybody at this point. Right now, it was just easier to simply give in and go along with what everybody else wanted. “How long?”
A pause. “…We have not put a timeframe on this, given the sudden circumstances…but, whenever you feel…ready.”
There was nothing much left to say after that.
“Nee tou-san, we’re going?”
“Yeh; we’re going to see grandmum in England, okay?” He hadn’t told him yet, that it was just going to be the three of them from now on; how was he supposed to tell them something like that, that his mother was not going to be around anymore and while not dead, she just wasn’t going to be able to, to…
“Hurting?” A worried tug at his wrist as he had to pause while the pain passed through him.
“Y-Yeh…don’t worry, I’ll be fine…” After hastily throwing a few essentials into a duffle, he’d paid a quick visit to the remaining two members of his platoon, both to break the news and to temporarily hand over leadership duties to Jess, who would effectively be in charge while he was gone. Neither of them showed much emotions other than disbelief and sorrow, but they promised to hold down the fort while he took time to recover. Hunter had given him an all-too-lengthy list of ‘can’ and ‘can’t dos’, along with a seemingly endless amount of strict instructions for his mother on how to treat his wounds, etc., before giving him a surprisingly uncharacteristic hug.
The winds whipped his hair around his face, the chopper getting ready to take off soon. Despite the noise, his daughter didn’t seem bothered at all, still snuggled sleepily against his shoulder, oblivious to the wind and chill.
“…She’s not coming.” Somehow, Adam knew whom his son was referring to.
“Will she be back?”
“…I don’t know.”