The Path

The sliding door to the infirmary opened to reveal a wan Marisol, sleeping on the treatment table. She looked so fragile, huddled under the thermal-lined blanket. Lyen's hand traced Marisol's exposed cheek framed in bandages. Biting her lip, Ly drew the stool under her.

"Oh Marisol," she was shaking her head, her mind flashing images from the mechanic's emergency surgery. Marisol's open skull before her, fingers steeped in her blood. She'd hesitated when bringing blade to scalp, after Dorian had shaved her beautiful hair, matted with blood.

Tears fell on the blanket as the nun reached both hands to gently cradle either side of her friend's face. "I'm so, so sorry," a hand wiped at her own cheek, "I should never have left you." 'Ship buddies' had been her idea, but Ly hadn't been there to walk her back to her room.

The quiet medbay sounded its regular rhythm of muted beeps and whirring machines, but she didn't hear any of it, sitting at the bedside, listening for breath, watching the blanket rise and fall. Her soft hands found Marisol's callused one. She was so strong; years of fixing and maintaining engines, even cooking wonderful meals had crafted this beautiful hand. But the cold, smooth sensor on her finger stood in stark contrast to that strength. Matters of the brain, the nun learned, were no sure thing. That dark fear plagued her brow.

"Please, be okay," she pleaded, smoothing Marisol's bangs.

Having had a shower and a change of clothes, Dorian sidetracked up to the galley for coffee. There he found the Lieutenant. “Left rear quadrant,” the medic placed two fingers to his own head for illustration. “Potential impact upon tha Parietal or Occipital lobes of tha brain. Tha skull did crack undah tha force, but tha bone structure didn’t yield.”

“We knew she was hard headed,” Riley observed. “Now we have proof. You mentioned the brain. Can you tell?” she asked, permitting the question to hang without giving voice to the words.

“Scans don’t reveal evidence of damage tah tha underlyin’ tissues,” he folded his arms. “We’re monitorin’ neural activity and any fluid pressure buildup. Once she wakes up, we can issue tha usual tests. That portion of tha brain ovahsees sensory input an’ its’ relational judgement. Ah’ll keep yah posted.”

“What about her face?”

“Lyen has a gift,” Adler replied. “Ah have high confidence fah that part of her recovery.”

Armed with coffee and a steeping cup of tea for his partner, Dorian returned to the infirmary. “Here, Sistah,” he offered the mug as his eyes travelled over the readouts and scans. “She’s stable,” he said, more for Lyen’s reassurance than the mere issuance of fact. “Yah did very fine work, Lyen. Very fine work, indeed.”

At Dorian's entrance, Ly let out a short snuffle, turning her face away for a moment to fight the beading in her eyes. "Thank you," she said, eyes tracking his as the mug traded hands. The cup traveled to her lap, but her gaze fell on the sleeping woman. "I don't know why it's so hard to be hopeful. I know we did everything we could--everything right. But it doesn't make me sure she's going to wake up, okay." Her melancholy features shot a glance at Dorian, "Not even with your charming drawl saying otherwise."

He listened, reading the anguish Lyen had successfully contained during the surgery. “If Ah may be so bold,” the medic stood at her side over their patient, “Ah rathah believe that it’s tha touch of yah loving hand that’ll shepherd her safely back. She told me about yah both,” Dorian said quietly. “When it began, and how she feels about yah. Ah’ve known Marisol fah a long time, Lyen, but short of her children Ah’ve nevah seen her so happy as when she talks about you.”

Lyen took Marisol's hand again, squeezing it. She hadn't discussed this personal topic with Adler, why she wasn't sure. Of course Marisol mentioned it to him, and after all, the medic felt like common ground between them. Ly decided she was glad he knew. Besides, who could offer a keener insight on the mystery that was the mechanic? "I'm glad to hear that," and she genuinely was, though it was difficult to show. Somehow, in the heat of what needed to be done to heal their patient, her stowed feelings began leaking through the dam.

She took a breath. As she let it out, she remembered a prayer for peace.

"Would you pray with me?" She asked of the man beside her.

“Of course,” Dorian nodded. Since their time on New Kasmir, Lyen’s presence in the medical bay had signified a marked difference in the treatment of patients, and the considerations of their caregivers. The partnership forged between the nun and the medic had grown, somewhat astonishingly, to a parity of trust and personal need. Lunar Veil’s spiritual and medical leads found in each other not only the bond of a working partnership, but the more humanistic comfort of knowing that even during moments such as this, neither of them need feel alone.

After placing their mugs upon the counter, Adler returned to Lyen’s side, offering his hand.

"It's a simple prayer, and, truthfully, it's as much for us as it is for whom we lift up." She took his hand, resting the other in a half lotus at her chest, "Repeat after me,

May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind quickly be freed from their illnesses.
May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another."

The nun enunciated each phrase, simple as it was, and the pair repeated the prayer a second time. "Something about repeating the words centers me in their meaning. As if the second time through I truly start to believe what I'm saying."

Her hand clasped with Adler's, she felt a sudden calm; the look on Marisol's face took on a contented repose to her almond eyes. "Thank you," she turned to face him, "you have been a rock through so many turbulent waves. I don't know that I've expressed how much I appreciate who and what you are to me."

The medic studied almond eyes which revealed a wealth of emotions. Despite her cool headed performance during the surgery, he read the fear, the self doubt borne by practitioners since the dawn of the healing art. As those eyes darted toward Marisol, he caught a glimpse of the more powerful emotions she fought to keep in check. “That was a very kind thing tah say,” he responded. “Ah think…” Dorian offered, “that a part of yah tutelage gave me tah realize that we are much strongah than we know...that those strengths lie dormant within us, waitin’ tah be discovered by tha people in our lives. Lyen, Ah draw upon yah tah steady mah foundations on a daily basis.” He glanced at their patient, before a wan smile crossed his face. “Yah know her...she leaves no doubts,” he chuckled. “Havin’ folk like Marisol and yahself in mah life has brought so much meanin’ much peace,” he said, before delivering a mild shrug. “All that tah say that Ah look tah you...both of yah...fah tha very strengths yah credit me with.”

"I don't feel very steady right now," she said, watching the sleeping form beside them. She let out a single chuckle: he was right. Marisol left no doubts. Her eyes glazed slightly as she called each powerful moment in memory demonstrating such. His shrug brought her back.

"I have learned from you, in so many more ways than I anticipated. You've taught me a trade, yes, but you've shown me something deeper, too. For the last ten years, I retreated from others. My Order counts it as a virtue, separating oneself from the physical world. But this place, you, and," she found the mechanic's sleeping hand again, "Marisol, and everyone else aboard have shown me that keeping myself at arm's length from you all isn't really living. Knowing and being known has become one of my greatest delights. Any strength I brought to the Veil has become my weakness--this community has graciously shown me that. I wish you had known me before the monastery; you'd see the impact of your friendship in full."

Dorian’s glance moved toward the vital signs before landing upon Marisol’s face. “Ah’m guessin’ of course,” he replied, “but Ah conjure what yah describin’ as weakness might best be termed ‘growth.’ He lifted his eyes to meet hers once again. “You and Ah,” he tilted his head, “seemed tah find trust fairly early on, somethin’ Ah treasure, actually. Tha person you are brought me tah shelve mah prejudice an’ learn tah walk yah path. And it is your path, Lyen. Tha fact that it leads yah among those who need yah tha most seems very fitting. What was it?” he asked, “in tha prayah? About tha powerless findin’ powah, and people thinking of befriendin’ each othah? That’s tha path Ah see yah walkin’, Lyen. Ah want tah follow. You walk among tha people, yah find yahself befriended,” he paused, taking note of Marisol’s hand in hers. “Yah find yahself loved...Ah personally can see no highah virtue than that.”

"Well," she said, lifting Marisol's hand in hers, "this is something I never bargained for, and, honestly, something about which I'm not sure exactly how I feel. I mean, I know how I feel, I just... am not sure how to reconcile the implications." The nun pursed her lips, considering.

"What do you say to sitting down together in the lounge sometime soon? I've been meaning to catch up with you and I have some things I wanted to ask you, about your path." Lyen fixed the dentist with a warm smile.

Adler smirked. “Considerin’ tha entire crew have been confined tah tha ship fah rathah dubious reasons while we’re on Silvahhold, Ah’ll be spendin’ mah evenin’ in tha lounge,” he replied. “Ah’d be delighted fah yah company.”

Lyen nodded, her attention falling back on their patient. Her Marisol.

"Now, what are we going to do about her hair? How do you think she'd look with a mohawk? Or maybe a really chic bowler? Trilby? Sombrero."

“Two things on that,” the medic folded his arms. “First, Marisol will not take suggestions on her hair from me,” he chuckled. “Second, Ah cannot begin tah presume how she’ll react tah bein’ shaved. That,” he grinned, “is why Ah’m tellin’ her it was all yah doin’...”


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