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The Bonds We Share

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”Hey, sis,” Scott says, his smile brighter than Kara’s seen it in a long time as they move together, embracing each other in an almost-too-tight hug. “Been busy?”

”You know it,” Kara says with a laugh. “Don’t think I don’t know that you and Suvi have been nerding out over the stuff we’ve been finding.”

Scott doesn’t even look embarrassed. “Yeah, but it’s not the same as hearing from you.”

Kara shakes her head, smile still on her lips as she heads towards the bridge of the now-grounded Hyperion, Scott following. “I need to talk to Captain Dunn about some Nexus bullshit, but I’ll catch up with you, okay?”

There’s a flash of disappointment, a spike of anxiety, before they’re both throttled down ruthlessly - something Kara’s going to have to talk to Scott and SAM about, once she finishes with the ‘official’ business here on Meridian. Scott hides it well, though, offering Kara a soft smile and another hug. “I’ll be waiting,” he offers.

Kara asks SAM to let Scott know when she’s done, and it barely takes a second for Scott’s answer to come back, saying that he’ll meet her in the Pathfinder quarters. Kara bites her lip before taking a deep breath and striding through the halls of the Hyperion towards the quarters that Scott’s all but claimed as his when she’s not around. Scott’s waiting on the bed, expression expectant, and Kara doesn’t hesitate to come sit down next to him. “You probably know what I want to talk about,” she starts.

”The fact that ever since the fucking Archon we’re more in each other’s heads than ever?” Scott suggests, tone wry. “Yeah, it’s kind of weird.”

”But how?” Kara asks, a little desperately, because that’s the thing that she keeps coming back to. “How did it happen? What might it affect?”

”I don’t know,” Scott sighs. “I’ve been talking with SAM, since he’s the only one left who knows much of anything about these damned implants, but all he can give me is hypotheticals, because he and Dad never even imagined something like the forces of Meridian and the Archon fucking with them.”

”I can feel you,” Kara confesses. “When I’m on the Tempest, especially in my quarters, by the SAM node. It gets more intense when SAM tells me you’re in the node here.”

”I’ve noticed that, too,” Scott says; Kara recognizes the look on his face as his ‘serious scientist thinking’ look. “When you’re on Meridian, I can feel you no matter what. Gets fainter, with distance - but if I’m in SAM node, letting SAM into the implant, he… boosts the connection, I think. I can feel you on the Tempest all the way on fucking Aya.”

Kara takes a deep breath, her stomach rolling. “So what does it mean? I’m not - I’m good with guns, explosives, infiltrating and dismantling a base, but this kind of technology, that was always your and Dad’s thing.”

Scott drums his fingers against his thigh, expression distant as he considers the question; Kara can almost see the thought flicking past his mind faster than she can track, and if this kind of shit is going to be permanent, then she needs to know now so that they can figure out how to make it work if and when Scott finally joins the Pathfinder team.

Yeah, this isn’t exactly well-charted territory, comes across more clearly, the thought sounding… deliberate. But there’s no intermediary, no faint static that says SAM helped Scott broadcast the thought.

Kara hesitates before trying, It really isn’t. Do you think… maybe it has something to do with SAM integrating with me? The way he’s basically a part of me now?

It’s possible, Scott allows, a frown creasing his brow. He got in pretty deep with me while I was unconscious, and the Archon… He was using me as an outlet, an extension cord for SAM, with Meridian’s control. There’s a brief flash of pain, bright and red-hot, centered in the implant; nothing more than a memory, but enough to make them both wince.

That’s what I felt when I was dying, Kara offers, carefully thinking about how it felt to be on the edge of consciousness, feeling like the implant in the back of her head was going to overheat, trying to burrow its way in deeper into her brain. Maybe something similar happened when you were connected to Meridian? It does act as a terraforming center, maybe some wires got crossed?

More thoughts, equations and sensations and memories, too fast for Kara to fully see, let alone attempt to parse. “I think that might be it,” Scott says finally, the words seeming too loud in the silence they’d lapsed into, making them both jump. Jesus, we’ve been holding a telepathic conversation.

Kara laughs, the sound quiet. “Well, you know how close we used to be. Used to piss Citadel security off so much, remember?” Memories of a childhood and teenage years on the Citadel blink by, getting caught and formulating an escape plan within seconds, only a few glances, leaving security in their dust as they sprinted down halls and paths they’d long ago memorized, taking twists and turns, splitting up and then coming together on the other side of the Citadel.

Scott smiles at the memories, glancing at Kara. “Until you and Dad finally had it out and you left,” he says, but there’s no accusation in the words, or in him. It’s something they’d long ago come to terms with, the fight - verbal and physical - that Kara and Alex had in the kitchen of their apartment that ended with Kara leaving with nothing more than a bag and some credits, joining up with the first crew off the Citadel that needed an extra hand.

Kara still feels guilty for how she left, not a word to either Scott or her mom until she was in the next system, working with the security team on her ship and learning the skills she’d eventually use as a merc. She knows Scott had felt betrayed, moreso than Ellen, who’d seen the mounting similarities and resulting tension between her daughter and husband, and knew it would come to a head eventually. “It was going to happen eventually,” she says after a moment, the old explanation. She and Alex had never been close after that, circling each other like too wary, solitary predators, and Kara had been honestly surprised when Alex had offered her a position on the Pathfinder team. It had been easier being Alex’s teammate than his daughter, in a lot of ways.

Scott’s hand finds hers, squeezes. “SAM?” he asks, getting the AI’s attention. “What do you think?”

”I think it is a reasonable explanation,” SAM says immediately. “I was never meant to integrate this fully with humans, and I believe the similarities in your DNA, combined with the unknown influence of Jardaan technology on the bond I had already been forced to forge with both of you deepened it, made additional connections.”

”What do you think the limits are? The dangers?” Kara asks; it’s a familiar question, one she often asks SAM and his superior processing power when faced with unfamiliar technology.

”We already know that if the two of you are near my nodes, then the connection will stretch across most of the galaxy, if a bit weakened. Potential dangers include physical or mental harm to either one of you affecting the other, or the bond creating a dependency that would happen your individual effectiveness.”

They consider that for a moment, and Kara knows what Scott’s conclusion is going to be before he even thinks it; he’s a scientist through and through. “We need to test it, then.”

”Lexi might be the best option to help us,” Kara says thoughtfully. “She’s most familiar with how SAM’s integration affects me, and Harry kept her updated on your condition.”

”Works for me. SAM, would you send her a message, let you know what’s going on?”

”Of course, Pathfinder. Would you like to arrange a meeting?”

”Ask her to come here when she has time,” Kara decides after a moment. “It’s pressing, but not urgent.”

”Message sent, Pathfinder. Dr. T’Perro is on her way; she had just finished her duties.”

The next few days are filled with tests of various kinds, Lexi running as many tests as she can while they’re grounded, and coming up with tests to run once the Tempest is back in the air. Scott hasn’t quite been cleared for joining the Pathfinder crew yet, but they want to know the extent and dangers of this new bond before he’s joined them.

It’s uncomfortable - sometimes to the point of pain, when they stretch the bond to its absolute limits - but they get results, shaky and uncertain though they are. The more they concentrate, the clearer the message is, even when Kara is away from the Tempest’s SAM node; Scott needs to be in SAM node, or at least in the Hyperion to get the message through. But, when they’re both directly next to their respective nodes, the message is almost as clear as if they were standing next to each other. Emotions are more difficult to transmit, apparently, unless they’re in physical proximity to each other - within a few kilometers, getting exponentially weaker as the distance increases.

By the time Scott is finally cleared for duty, the four of them have a better idea of what to expect. That still doesn’t help the first morning that Kara sleeps in, finding Jaal, Kallo, and Scott deep in discussion in the kitchen when she finally wakes up, and gives Jaal a kiss. When Jaal’s arm brushes against a fresh bruise, Kara can’t help but smile at the memory of how that bruise got there, and Scott promptly chokes on his coffee.

The sympathetic pain in her throat, coupled with Scott’s spluttering and coughing, pulls the two of them apart, and when Kara feels the mortification and horror coming from Scott’s side of the bond, she bursts out into embarrassed laughter. “Jesus, I am… so sorry,” she manages to get out while Kallo thumps Scott on the back.

”New rule,” Scott wheezes. “SAM, screen all thoughts related to sex. I don’t ever want to know that much about my twin’s love life. Why the fuck didn’t I get anything last night?”

”Ah, I preemptively blocked the connection,” Kara confesses. “Asked SAM to make sure you weren’t disturbed by us.”

”I will endeavor to be more vigilant during the everyday,” SAM chimes in over the speaker - with a distinct note of amusement. He’d started picking that up during their missions, Kara had noticed. He seemed to have a very dry sense of humor.

”That would be much appreciated,” Scott grumbles, getting up to fetch new coffee. He doesn’t shy away when Kara follows, pressing up against him for a moment in a show of comfort and apology to hand him the creamer. They exchange a smile, still a bit mortified on both their ends, but it’s still got nothing on the time Kara walked in on Scott and his first boyfriend; at least this had only been a brief flash of sense memory.

They quickly find that the applications of this new bond in the field are wonderful. In battle - still a more frequent occurrence than not - they never have to speak to each other, plans and counterplans flashing quick as a thought between them before being communicated to the others. They always know where the other is when they go to the surface, and many people who are tempted to start trouble take one look at the Pathfinder and her twin communicating without words, with nothing more than a few facial tics, and decide that’s not something they want to deal with.

They only have to escalate the situation a few times, often when someone who knows they’re in the wrong is trying to bluster their way out of a situation. Kara and Scott’s synchronicity only improves with time and practice, and the two of them moving in tandem, leading their team as they deliver justice and punishment where necessary, spreads the message that even now the human Pathfinder and her team aren’t to be messed with.

The largest downside becomes apparent one day on Kadara. Pirates and rebels, Outcasts and members of the Collective are constantly in skirmishes, and Reyes had finally called in a favor to bring some extra power to help get things under control. A rogue faction of the Outcasts had found a new leader, some former Nexus security named Tanilea, and were attempting to rebuild their numbers to make a move on Kadara Port.

Kara, Scott, Jaal, and Vetra head down to the surface, taking the NOMAD to the last known location of the Outcasts headquarters. They were ambushed, though Kara managed to make her way out of the main fighting and set up on a nearby rock formation, picking off Outcast members with precision - until one of them manages to lob a grenade a bit too close. Kara swears, rolling as SAM identifies the threat heading her way, but the Outcast must have held onto it for a moment after releasing the trigger, because it explodes too soon. She’s slammed against the rock by the force of the explosion, vision going fuzzy as she loses her grip and footing, slipping off of the side of the formation. When she hits the ground, her vision goes dark.

Scott yells, gunning down the Outcast who’d thrown the grenade with prejudice before running for where Kara’s lying prone on the ground. SAM has already alerted the Tempest, beginning first aid. Scott, Jaal, and Vetra manage to take out the rest of the Outcasts, and Vetra drives the NOMAD while Scott and Jaal keep Kara stable in the backseat. She wakes briefly, manages to answer the questions Jaal asks her, but Scott is too preoccupied with the terrifying fog and blankness on the other end of their bond to say anything.

He doesn’t leave her side once they reach the Tempest, Lexi already waiting for them. He stays out of Lexi’s way, but doesn’t leave the medbay. Liam brings him some food and drink at one point, but Scott can barely choke down a few mouthfuls past the lump in his throat. Half of him is numb - but it’s not really half of him, it’s Kara, but there’s no difference by now. They’re themselves, but they’re also each other, the lines blurring over the past months until there’s no real difference.

Lexi and SAM keep Kara unconscious until they can determine that there is no swelling, no concussion, nothing more than some nearly full-frontal bruising. Lexi gives her some painkillers after Kara wakes up, with strict orders to rest. Scott fusses over Kara in a way that she would never have tolerated before, but Scott feels like he’s about to fly apart at the seams, unable to get the moment of fear, anger, and then pain and terror before the terrifying darkness. Kara has to feel it; she doesn’t protest Scott’s treatment, goes along easily with him as he leads her to the Pathfinder’s quarters.

Her side of the bond is still fuzzy, a bit unorganized; Scott knows it’s the painkillers, but he still doesn’t like it. He gets her settled on the bed, curled up under the covers with the climate control turned down and water in reach.

When he makes to move towards the couch, Kara finally finds her voice. “Don’t,” she says, quiet; Scott’s still a beehive of emotion, almost buzzing with it, and she doesn’t want him so far away, not after the fear and agitation that’s been coming off of him since she woke up the first time. “C’mere,” she adds when all he does is look at her questioningly, stretching out the least-sore hand in invitation. She frowns slightly in concentration, and carefully pushes an image across their bond, sighing a little when it doesn’t hurt: the two of them on the bed together, curled up the way they used to when they were children, nothing more than a tangle of limbs.

Scott blinks, then smiles, relief loosening the tense set of his shoulders and relaxing the rest of his body as he quickly strips out of his shirt and climbs in next to her. It doesn’t take them long to figure out a position that puts the least amount of pressure on Kara’s bruises, and they sigh in tandem once they’re settled, relaxing into each other and the mattress.

They drift like that for a while; Kara doesn’t bother to keep track of time, too busy taking in the feel of Scott’s skin and pulse against her own, taking and giving reassurance in equal measures. Eventually, they’re disturbed by the door sliding open with a soft hiss; Kara doesn’t bother picking her head up, already knowing from Scott that it’s just Jaal.

When he hesitates in the doorway, however, Kara does shift around so that she can extract one arm from Scott’s grip, using it to gesture to the stretch of empty bed on her other side. “Bed’s plenty big enough for all of us,” she says quietly, giving Jaal a soft smile. “Scott doesn’t mind. We’re both just shaken.”

”Because of this new bond you share,” Jaal says, not really a question. He does move closer, though, carefully taking off of his rofjinn and tunic and folding them before laying them on the nearby table.

”Yeah,” Scott answers, shifting himself and Kara over to make room for Jaal to slide in behind Kara. “It was… awful. Like, you were just there one moment, and then I could feel you get annoyed, then a bit scared, then you were in pain and terrified, and then there was just… nothing. SAM started broadcasting your vital signs, it’s the only reason I didn’t think you were dead.”

Kara makes a soft sound of apology, squeezing Scott carefully. “It’s one of the dangers of the job. Least this time it was just some unconsciousness and not a real near death experience. My helmet took the worst of it.”

”Peebee and Vetra are working to repair it,” Jaal reports. “There was quite a dent in the back. But you are safe, now.”

”Yeah,” Scott agrees, though Kara knows he’s not quite soothed yet. “It’s just… The nightmares get shared sometimes, you know? I see you watch Dad get blasted off that cliff, see him take the helmet off and feel you die of suffocation, or I feel SAM stop your heart. Or SAM getting ripped out of you, what you put yourself through to get you, Jaal, and Peebee out of that Remnant city. Or I get to feel what you felt, watching my pod get banged around, sparking and crackling from the energy of the Scourge, and when I was unconscious.”

”And when the Archon took you, what he put you through in Meridian,” Kara finishes. “Yeah, it sucks. We can’t keep secrets from each other anymore, but… I don’t think we should. Who can we trust out here, if we can’t trust our family and crew?” She reaches behind herself, taking one of Jaal’s hand in hers and bringing it around so she can tuck their joined hands between her chest and Scott’s ribs, her head pillowed on Scott’s chest. “We lost a lot, getting here. Gained some bad things, some scars and memories that won’t ever leave us, but.. We gained a lot more, too.”

”We gained freedom, a new home - even for the Angara,” Jaal agrees. “None of us alive knew how to live without the threat of the kett hanging over our heads. And, we gained each other. The crew of the Tempest is a family, now.”

”But we lost so much while I was unconscious,” Scott says quietly, voice thick. “I just… I can’t lose you, too, bug.”

”I’m going to do my best to make sure you don’t, doc,” Kara promises, determination swelling. She can feel how every loss, every tragedy weighs on Scott - Scott, who wasn’t even there for most of them, unconscious or grounded on the Hyperion. “It’s a dangerous job, but Jaal’s right. This is what we’ve got each other, and our new family for.”

Scott takes that all in, then takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “You’re right,” he says finally, shifting so he can give both Kara and Jaal a smile. “I know you are. Guess that’s another thing we’ll just have to do for each other, right? Keep each other on track?”

”Right,” Jaal says, barely more than a rumble, and Kara lets herself lose the thread of conversation, following the lure of the painkillers into sleep, surrounded by her family and her home.