SUMMARY: She was fine. Really. (Kaylee in Atlantis; sequel to The Monster in the Closet)
NOTES: For Multiverse 2009. Posted without the benefit of beta-reading, so all errors are mine. This is a sequel to the story I wrote for Multiverse 2006 in which Kaylee and Rodney were imprisoned together by Reavers - that story dealt with potentially triggery content, and this one deals with the aftermath, so be forewarned. You probably don't have to read that one first, but this might make more sense if you do. This story is set after Serenity/after SGA 2.20, so at this point there's no Keller, and Kaylee's presence on Atlantis isn't meant as a commentary on that score.
Kaylee woke slowly, the world a haze of unfamiliar voices and undefined sensation. She fought it for a long time, drifting in and out, surfacing only long enough to know that she didn't want to move just yet, repelled by the sharp smell of antiseptic and the specter of pain that hovered just beyond her grasp.
When she finally opened her eyes, squinting against the brightness of the room, she saw a pale, bleary mass at her bedside. A hand reached out to squeeze her own and someone said, "Thank god, you're awake!"
She blinked gummy eyelids, tried to reach up and rub them, but her arms felt like they were made of lead. "Simon?" she asked, surprised at the weakness of her voice.
There was a pause, and the hand in hers withdrew. "N-no. What do you - do you remember anything?" It didn't sound like Simon.
Kaylee blinked again, and her vision cleared. She knew the anxious figure peering down at her. It was Dr. McKay, his features full of angry red scars where someone had removed all the metal the Reavers had shoved into his face. She frowned, letting her eyes slip closed again as everything came back to her. It was all kind of a blur after the two of them escaped, and he did whatever it was he had to do in order to get home. She knew he asked her to come along, and she accepted. She vaguely recalled him dragging her through what looked like a wall of water at the alpha site, and a flash of colored lights that reminded her of the time she'd eaten those bad mushrooms. There wasn't anything after that, but she figured that was enough.
"Yeah," she said dully. "I remember it all." He squeezed her hand again and didn't ask her who Simon was, and for that she was grateful.
It was a couple of weeks before they released her from the infirmary, and even then she couldn't quite walk on her own. One of the nurses had helped her bathe and wash her hair, though, and she felt clean for the first time in...
Well. She felt clean.
Rodney came to wheel her off to her new quarters. She smiled a little when she saw him, reaching up to tweak the ear the Reavers had cut up so bad. It looked a little pink maybe, but otherwise good as new. "Hey. What's this?"
He smirked, giving her chair a good push to get them going. "Oh, Carson has this machine that regrows tissue. Looks good, doesn't it?"
It did, and come to think of it, the scars on his face looked like they were fading fast. Pretty soon, Kaylee bet, there wouldn't be anything there at all. "That the same thing Doc says he's going to use on my leg?"
The nasty wound the Reavers had given her on her calf would take awhile to heal, even with Dr. Beckett's fancy machines. She'd gotten a good look at her leg once when they changed the bandages, and Kaylee was just grateful that she'd never really seen it when the infection was at its worst.
"Yep," he said, rounding a corner and pausing a moment to let a chattering group of people pass.
Kaylee waited until they were out of earshot, toying with the tie on her robe. "Won't be long," she said, unaccountably nervous, "and it'll be like nothing bad ever happened."
Rodney stopped and looked down at her, stricken. He took a deep breath and said, "You're going to have to see Heightmeyer. I've started already. Elizabeth insisted."
"Who's Heightmeyer?" Kaylee asked, worried she wouldn't like the answer.
"The shrink," he sighed, and started pushing her chair again.
They rolled on in silence for a moment, then they came to a junction and Rodney said, "Hey, you hungry?"
As a matter of fact, she was. They entered the mess, as he called it, and for the first time Kaylee realized this was an actual military installation. He'd never really mentioned that part. She wasn't too sure how she felt about that, since all their equipment was shiny and it reminded her just a little of the Alliance. But Captain and Zoe had been soldiers too, and for now at least, Kaylee was content to assume that these people were the good guys.
"Oh, you should meet Shepherd," Rodney said, and changed directions.
"Shepherd what?" Kaylee asked, feeling a little pang.
Rodney frowned. "Uh, John Sheppard. Lieutenant Colonel. He's my teammate. Oh, and the military leader of Atlantis."
"Oh," Kaylee said, thinking of strawberries. Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard gave her his apple, which was really nice. But not quite the same.
Dr. Heightmeyer turned out to be a real nice lady, with long blonde hair and a soft, genuine smile. Kaylee felt instantly at ease around her, which made it all the worse when she started asking these gently devastating questions and Kaylee just fell apart.
She knew, of course she knew what a shrink was, but it wasn't until then that Kaylee realized they were going to try to make her talk about what happened on that Reaver ship. She didn't even know how long she'd been their plaything, but it was months and months and that wasn't something you got over just by talking.
She was fine. Really. So long as she didn't talk about it or think about it, she was fine. Just like all the other bad stuff that had happened to her - getting tied up by Jubal Early, for instance. Given enough time, she could even think about those things. See, fine?
Kaylee wasn't sure what she thought the shrink was going to do, actually. Maybe talk about being here, separated from all her friends with no way of going back. The decision was easy at the time - no way she could really go back after what she'd been through anyway. Better to start fresh. Put it behind her and move on with her life.
Except when she started thinking about what it really meant that she'd never see them again - Simon, and the Captain and Inara and everyone - and her family, her Ma and Pa and all of them - Kaylee realized maybe she did have something to talk about on that score after all. And that seemed fine with the doc, too.
Dr. Heightmeyer tried a few more times to ask her about the Reavers, tried at least to understand. "They fought the Wraith, and they're, what," she said, "human? Really?"
Kaylee clenched her teeth tight and thought about Miranda. "Were," she gritted out. "They were."
Heightmeyer frowned, and when she said, "It's okay, we don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," Kaylee was under no illusions that she meant it on a permanent basis.
Really, she'd been fine.
Kaylee walked away from Dr. Heightmeyer's office on her own two feet, unsteady due less to her still-healing leg than because of the fact that she was shaking.
She bypassed the turn that would take her to the control room, where Rodney said he'd wait for her, and walked instead down a series of passages that she didn't think she'd ever seen before, but Kaylee was used to the twisty layout you might find in a spacefaring vessel. She walked until the lights started to get dim, and the crowds she passed in the corridors started to thin out and then finally dissipate altogether. She was looking for something, she just didn't know what.
It was really quiet this far away from everyone, but there was something else, almost like something she couldn't quite hear. Exhaustion hit her all at once, in a wave, and she carefully lowered herself to the ground, leaning back against a bulkhead and closing her eyes.
She sighed, slowly relaxing enough that the shaking stopped. She felt more comfortable here than she had in a long while. Her palm pressed into the floor, and her eyes snapped open when she suddenly realized why.
Rodney had told her, hadn't her? It's a city that's almost alive, he'd said, back on that Reaver ship when she'd agreed to come with him. She'd forgotten, hadn't felt it. Hadn't had a chance to.
But now Kaylee pressed her ear to the bulkhead, caressing the crystalline structures that let off a warm glow, and she heard it. The city had a heart that beat in time with her own and a soul that never slept, watching over them all.
Kaylee grinned, looking upward and marveling at what she'd never seen before. She hauled herself to her feet and followed the low throb of the city, half-heard and half-felt in the hand she trailed along the wall.
She rounded a corner into a room twice as bright as the passageway. A big chair was placed right in the center, lit from the inside with more crystals and looking like a throne out of some kind of fairy tale. Kaylee approached it slowly, and carefully stepped up on the platform and sat down.
It was a lot more comfortable than she thought it would be. She felt strange, almost like there was a question pushing at the back of her mind, or a word on the tip of her tongue, but somewhere just out of reach. She's almost alive, she thought, and said, "Hello? Anybody there?"
There was no answer, not inside or out. That didn't matter - Serenity wasn't alive but Kaylee could understand her just the same. She felt safe here. Comfortable. Dr. Heightmeyer's office and the Reavers were far behind her now.
The next thing she knew, Rodney was frantically shaking her by the shoulder. She started awake, clutching at the arms of the chair. He was holding a little datapad in his hand and babbling frantically about not being able to find her and talking to Heightmeyer and thinking the worst.
"It's okay," she said, wiping sleep from her eyes and running a hand through her hair. "I just felt like walking, that's all. I could feel her."
"Atlantis. I could just feel her, and I started walking and I ended up here."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Think about where we are in the universe," he said, sounding bored and a little disgusted.
"But I - I don't know where we are in the universe."
He made an impatient gesture. "Doesn't matter. Just think 'where we are in the universe.'"
"Well?" he asked. "Are you going to do it or what?"
"I am. Nothing happened."
His whole demeanor changed, then. He was almost cheery. "Huh. Guess you don't have the gene after all. When you said you could - I was so sure. What did you mean when you said you could feel her?"
Now was Kaylee's turn to roll her eyes. She climbed out of the chair, giving it a little caress and promising to come back soon. "I'm a mechanic. She's a machine. It's really not that hard."
Rodney shot her a look, leading her out of the room and back toward a transporter. "Isn't that my line?" he grumbled.
The guts of a puddlejumper were different from any other shuttle she'd ever worked on, but once Dr. Zelenka gave her a quick rundown of the systems to get her started, Kaylee had caught on pretty fast, and they let her work on them a lot. It was a gorgeous day, the sun shining in a cloudless sky, and so they'd parked the jumper out on one of the landing pads to tinker around with her touchy environmental system. Radek was small, but Kaylee was smaller, and it was a pretty tight fit. She adjusted a connection that seemed a little loose and hit her comm. "Try it now," she said.
She could feel something start up, a tiny slice of Atlantis living here in the jumper. "Yes, that's better," Radek said over the comm. "O2 levels are much closer to normal. I think if we let her run for awhile it might stabilize."
Kaylee climbed out of the maintenance hatch and shimmied out from underneath the jumper. She wiped the sweat from her brow with a greasy hand and looked out over the water. In a little while she'd have to go get cleaned up for her appointment with Heightmeyer, but things were getting better for her even there.
She'd never seen an ocean this pretty, the waves clean and sparkling in the sunshine. A breeze was coming off the water, carrying the scent of salt. Under her feet, she could feel the low vibration of Atlantis, always there once you knew what to look for. Kaylee breathed deep, hands on her hips, and laughed at the feel of the wind in her hair.