Disclaimer: They're not mine.
Summary: Kate seeks help for her nightmares.
Notes: This story was originally written for the 2008 sg_rarepairings Fic Battle for the prompt "darkness."
The first time she came to see him, it was in the darkness of the Atlantean night. He hadn't expected her, but realized belatedly that he probably should have. She stepped just inside the doorway when he answered, and stood there silently, shivering.
"I shot him," she said at last, voice flat.
"You saved lives," Sheppard said. Which was true, and probably not very helpful under the circumstances.
"He didn't deserve to die."
No, he agreed silently, but that didn't mean they'd had a choice. She'd never killed anyone before, he realized. He felt a certain wonder at that, living as he did surrounded by soldiers and scientists who carried guns as easily as laptops, and with his own first kill so far in the past. But of course, realistically, most of the scientists had never killed. They carried guns, but they didn't use them off the firing range. Most of them weren't McKay, weren't crazy enough to follow him into the complete unknown, and those who did tended to leave the killing to the soldiers. As for Kate, well, there wasn't generally a lot of cause for the base psychologist to leave Atlantis. But earlier today…
M3X 892 had been overlooked by the Wraith for generations, until one day they found it again. The people had no preparation for that sort of devastation--only a few old stories about a danger they'd mostly believed was legend. The few survivors were numb, had no coping skills. Severe PTSD. And so Kate had come, to bring what comfort she could.
"You had no choice."
"He was only a child!" She'd begun crying then, and he'd pulled her into a hug.
The boy had been about fourteen in Earth years. Maybe fifteen. His whole family had been wiped out, a too-common tragedy in this galaxy, leaving him one more walking wounded. Until he began screaming about Wraith that weren't there and grabbed a gun from the marine who tried to restrain him. (Sheppard would be having a few words with that marine, if he survived his own gunshot wound.)
Things might have been different if Ronon had been there with his stunner, or if they'd had a Wraith gun. Or one of those Zats that he'd seen at the SGC. But they had had none of those things, and when the boy had opened fire on the Lantean personnel, they'd all ducked and begun reaching for their own guns. Because the boy had a full clip and there was no way for anyone to get behind him. It was sheer bad luck that Dr. Heightmeyer had happened to have the best angle; had happened to be off to the side where he wasn't shooting. John hadn't driven her too hard on the shooting range; she didn't leave Atlantis often enough to make it worth his time or hers. But she carried a gun, as all the scientists did, and she knew how to use it. And she had.
Kate left his room after the hug, tears more or less under control. He'd offered what reassurance he could, all of it useless in the face of her guilt.
A week later she returned, looking pale and haggard.
"How do you sleep?" she asked when he opened the door. "I know how to deal with PTSD, but this isn't PTSD, it's…" she gestured helplessly. Guilt, he diagnosed. Guilt and fear and regret all tied into a knot not amenable to treatment by propranolol and prolonged exposure therapy. He knew that type of darkness.
He stepped aside, a silent invitation. She came in and the door slid shut behind her.
"Is there anyone you regret killing?" she asked. Not a psychiatrist's question. John sighed.
"A few," he admitted quietly. She was looking for the secret on how he dealt with it, and there was no secret. Just a lot of sleepless nights and a certain level of desensitization. Enemies could be reframed as targets, but victims were more challenging. "Do you play cards?" he asked. Distraction, he'd found, worked well in the short term.
"Cards?" she said skeptically.
He shrugged. "It's something to do when you can't sleep." He searched his desk and found a pack. "And I could use the company." Which wasn't strictly true, but he wasn't going on a mission tomorrow and could afford to be a little short on sleep. He's wasn't fooling her, of course; she knew these tricks. But she played along anyway, because it was better than going back to her room alone.
Two nights later she was back again, and this time he did have a mission to worry about, so after an hour of conversation about nothing in particular, he made his excuses and she left.
He was gone for three days. He went to check on her the night he got back.
"It's the nightmares," she said.
"Have you," he began and then stopped. There was another psychologist on Atlantis now, a necessity with the growth in population and the degree of trauma typical of Pegasus. She'd probably already talked to him. Sheppard knew from experience how little that helped with this sort of situation.
"Do you want some company?" he asked instead. She nodded and let him in.
"I talked to George," she said. "He told me all the things I would say myself. Things I know."
"It can take a while for your emotions to catch up with your mind," he said.
"Do they ever? Do you stop seeing their faces?"
He couldn't give her the answer she wanted. Even when it gets better, you don't forget the faces. You just don't think of them as often.
She watched him silently for a moment, and then leaned closer. Her lips were soft and warm and she pulled back almost immediately.
"Sorry," she apologized. "Unprofessional."
A smile tugged at his face. "I haven't been in to see you professionally for almost a year. No doctor-patient relationship."
"Until the next time you need me," she said.
"So I'll talk to George."
They kissed again and this time he was the one who pulled away.
“Is this just about escaping the nightmares?” he asked seriously. Because yeah, sex was a more effective distraction than cards, but the effects didn’t last any longer, and there were a whole lot more complications.
She hesitated. “I don’t know,” she admitted finally. He nodded and stepped back.
“I think we should probably wait until you do know,” he said.
She looked thoughtful. “It might help if I saw you at some point when I wasn’t a nervous wreck. Something more social.”
“A date?” he asked.
“Maybe,” she said, smiling a little.
“I’m off tomorrow night,” he offered.
“20:00?” she suggested.
“Sure,” he said easily. “What do you want to do?”
“Surprise me. It will give me something else to think about tonight.”
He laughed then, and as he turned to leave, he asked, “Will you be okay?” And she knew he didn’t just mean tonight.
She took a deep breath. “Yes,” she said.