Spoilers: Season 1 only, even though it's set generally in Season 2
Summary: Heightmeyer fic – she didn't always do this, this wasn't her first choice, but then it seems sometimes you have very little choice.
A/N: Betaread by Fanwoman.
Soldier Through This
The nightmare returns, even though danger is gone, for now.
She's smiling, so hard it hurts, but he never sees its as fake as it could be. He believes her, and he smiles back weakly through the pain.
Kate turns around, face hidden from him, and drops all expression from her face, trying to control her emotions, to forget what she just did and to ignore the truth.
He won't be okay, far from it. He's practically dead already. There's nothing they can do for him apart from watch over and dull the pain as much as is possible. But she couldn't tell him that because they need him. He's the only one who knows the procedure out here; he's the only one who can fix it and make this better – simply put, with him they stand a chance of getting out alive. The alternative isn't pretty. He'd die quickly and painlessly, but his fate here would be transferred to countless others, dying slowly but surely.
He should know how little time he has left, and they should be helping him go with dignity – his chance to say goodbye and slip into a sleep from which he won't wake - rather than stretching out his life painfully. He'll die in agony because they need to keep him conscious and lucid to get what they require, but it comes under the category of necessary.
She walks away and wishes she didn't have to deal with this. And that's where the nightmare ends, which is almost funny considering that was only the start of the whole thing in real life. For a nightmare, it's oddly lacking the scary parts - the attack that led to it all, the screaming of the injured, the blood and gore. All she has is a picture of the fairly bare medical facility, of him in his bed, desperate eyes staring up at her, full of hope.
She let him believe he was right to have that hope, but in the end, she had to look him in the face and admit he had always been dying. And that was the worst part after the initial lie - knowing what she'd done was evident and she couldn't change it, couldn't pretend it was nothing. But it did matter. It mattered to the people whose lives it saved, but most of all it mattered to him, the person whose comfort they sacrificed for everyone one else. Even today, she knows it was wrong, despite the lives it saved. She cares because she never signed up to do that; the patient is meant to come first. Yet somehow, the rules didn't apply out on the battlefront, and she'd been confronted with that reality.
She hadn't dealt with it well, which was why she'd retrained – going into psychiatry; abandonning her first profession. She likes to think if she gives hope now that it's at least possible. But sometimes it won't be, and already for some it hadn't. She'd once told Lily Dumais that she'd be perfectly fine, that there was nothing to worry about, despite the fact they were all living in an ancient alien city they didn't understand.
Maybe that's why she gets the nightmare, a reminder she's still lying, she's still doing what had caused her to quit being a medic out there in the warzones. She'd thought dealing with the after effects would be easier on her, because it was dealing with those who had survived the worst.
And then she'd taken this job, in part because she'd been bored and had wanted some action in her career, just not the kind she'd had before. It had sounded wonderful, and it had been wonderful, right up to the point they'd started losing people, losing them to what was basically a war even back then before they'd strictly known they had an enemy.
It was the same old story now. She saw the survivors, but she was lying and hoping it might turn out to be true. Most of the time, it worked out, but not always. George was the first. She'd wanted him to be the last, but wishes like that often don't come true.
Still, there was one small comfort that the first had been the worst of it all. To tell someone you might love that they'll live when they won't... she wouldn't wish it on anyone. By comparison nothing else can be quite that bad, even if none of the deaths are ever going to be better than that.
Hearing Carson talk about having to do something similar, she sympathises, but she doesn't reveal just how much experience she has with that kind of situation. He's in tears, but she doesn't say anymore than what she would for something she has no knowledge of. She lets him cry it out because she knows he needs to, and they need him too – he has to find a way to cope, and unlike her, he can't ignore, he can't give it all up.
She knows her mistake now, but maybe some good can come from it, considering it put her here with them. It's her job to make sure he leaves here better than before, even if nothing has changed in reality; it's her responsibility to make sure he walks back in that door for his next session, instead of leaving like she did once upon a time when she was in the military. But she tries to keep those old issues behind her, the nightmares not withstanding, so she can concentrate on her new vocation – it almost makes up for her past. The one thing she takes from it is the knowledge that lesson taught her.
They all want comfort -and she tries her best, does everything she can for both their own good and the good of the city – but regardless, they just have to battle through to the end. The end is never in sight, and she's glad. She doesn't know if she'd deserve it but she prays that her death would be quick if it comes while on Atlantis – unforseen, catching her rather than consuming her.
It's a small mercy, albeit one she could not give to her love, and one she can't guarantee to anyone she sees - no matter how much hope she can inspire. There is no end to the web of lies spun, but it supports them; until they finally fall.