"She's alive." The rocketeer looked up at the ceiling from a small private berth in the medical wing. The nanosurgeons and biotic field had done their work, and both she and Dr. Zhou were fine, all checked out and ready for action - at least, physically. "No call, no letter, no hint she'd survived, and now... this?"
The combat doctor sat by the bed, holding her wife's hand. She shook her head. "It's..."
"I can't believe it," Fareeha continued, unheeding. "I can't believe she's still alive. I just can't." She squeezed her eyes half-shut, still looking at the ceiling, but really, looking at memories. "We buried her, years ago, how...?"
"I remember." The funeral - like so many, at the time - had lacked a body. But there was a ceremony and a marker and a reception and most of all that empty feeling that wouldn't ever entirely go away, as much as Angela might try to fill it, a feeling of finality that did not sit well with being undone. "I had no idea."
"I know," said the soldier, gently squeezing that slender hand. "How could you have?"
"Are you angry at me for hitting her?"
Fareeha snorted. "I... no? Why? I don't think so. It sounded to me like she deserved it. Had I been awake, I think I might have given her more than a good slap - but I don't know." She rubbed her forehead with her free left hand. "She is my mother, and I always loved her, but she has always been like that, and now this, and now I don't know what to think."
"It feels unreal to me, even now, and I was there," said Angela. "I saw her myself, with my own eyes, but..."
"'Unreal.'" Fareeha sampled the sound of the adjective. "That's a good word for it." She shook her head. "I know, at some point, this will sink in. But right now, it hasn't."
Angela leaned down on her lover's shoulder, and no, that did not work. "Scoot over, there is room," she said, sliding onto the berth with her wife. "I am still very angry at her."
Fareeha put her head on Angela's shoulder. "I'm not surprised. I will be too, I think, eventually." She took a deep fortifying breath, trying to steady herself. "But she's right about one thing - about doing what is necessary. It's a military ethic, and I do understand it."
"Schiisdräck. It's just another excuse. She has always found excuses."
She has indeed, Fareeha thought, though she did not want to admit it. "You are not from a military family," she deflected. "You wouldn't understand."
"Don't give me that," she replied, poking her wife with pleasant indignity. "I'm Swiss - we are all military, in one way or another."
"Real military," goaded the Egyptian, a little smile on her face.
"Oh ho ho, is that how we are going to play this?" she chortled. "Do I have to slap you today as well? I remind you whose army has not lost a war in two and a half centuries."
"Do I have to remind you who hasn't fought a war in two and a half centuries?" retorted the rocketeer with a bit of a smile, for the moment.
"Because no one dares fight us," she said, with customary Swiss satisfaction. "Of course."
"I certainly will not fight you, not in the face of that logic," said the rocketeer, a quiet wryness in her voice as the sound of it went soft. "I surrender."
"Another glorious Swiss victory! But so easily?"
Fareeha rolled onto her side and wrapped her arms around her wife, and let out a long, low, shuddering sigh. "Would you just... hold me, for a little while, until we have to go upstairs?"
Oh, beloved, Angela thought, is it starting to register with you? "Of course I will. Come on, love, let it out." She pulled her lover's head against her chest, and slowly, softly petted her head as she quietly started to cry. She put away her angry thoughts about Ana Amari, and comforted her wife, instead - a far better and more immediate concern. "I'm here for you," she whispered, "as long as you will have me."
Hopefully, she thought, forever.