Officer Lambert had been confined to bedrest for one day and five hours, and he despised every minute of it.
He’d only slept for two of the twenty nine hours, for a start. Selburg kept trying to force him to sleep, but his mind kept wandering, with no discrimination between things such as how he really should be doing his work, to the Notebook, which he hadn’t watched since his senior year of high school, to his sister, his niece, who had only been born a few weeks before he left. He thinks about what he’s going to say to them if he gets back to Earth. He thinks about how his grandparents, and how he hasn’t talked with them in a while, and how maybe they’ll be proud enough of him to not question why the name on the headlines didn’t match the name they knew him by.
And sometimes, on the hours that he’s feeling particularly bad, he thinks about how he’s going to die.
It isn’t one of those hours right now, though. Lambert blames Dr. Selburg and the mystery IV bag for why he feels so off kilter, but that might also be attributed to Lovelace’s presence in the room. He wasn’t sure why she was there, and she wasn’t saying anything, so the pair was left in an uncomfortable silence.
After an awkward moment of eye contact, Lovelace says, “Selburg says your fever is improving.”
That’s a lie, but Lambert’s too tired to pick a fight right now, and at least her crummy attempts at bedside manner were better then Selburg’s. He’s too tired to say anything in return, though (and he blames this on the iv bag too), so silence once again penetrates the room.
“Looks like you’ll end up fine.” She says, and Lambert can tell that she was trying to sound sad about it, but only in a way that he could tell was a joke. At least, that’s his theory— he never was too good at telling where the teasing stopped and the bullying began. But he knew Lovelace didn’t actively wish death on him, and so she was probably trying to joke.
(At least, that’s what he thinks.)
(He’ll ask Rhea once he can talk again.)
The Captain sighs, rubbing her hand against her face in a clear display of unease. “I’m not even sure you can hear me right now.”
He tries to say something, but nothing comes out, like his vocal cords just shut down, like a door blocking his speech from coming out of his mouth. It reminds him of the days when he feels twisted inside, when his hands feel fuzzy and wrong against everything he touches, when the world is just too much and everything is wrong. He wishes he could move his hand to shake out some of the bad feelings, but it’s trapped in the restraint, and so he’s left with terrible twisted things running through his veins.
Lovelace is still there. Her mouth moves, but he can’t make out what she’s saying through the rumbling in his head, his ears, the whole damn station. The Hephaestus was so loud, but only when he was feeling worse for wear, when he’d listen to static for hours on end and then just a little longer, because his job was important and worth it for the bad feelings.
His job was important and worth it for the bad feelings, but he was missing it because he was stuck on bedrest.
Lovelace’s shoulders slump, and she turns to leave the room, but he doesn’t want her to leave, and he tries to say something but his words are still blocked off, and it sounds like a pathetic whine. He’d be embarrassed about it, but the alternative is that the Captain leaves, and he can’t be alone right now, he doesn’t understand why but if she leaves he knows everything will get worse.
It worked, though. She turned around, a concerned expression written on her tired face, and something about it made Lambert want to cry. Maybe he did start crying.
“What? What is it?” Captain Lovelace asks.
Lambert wishes he could talk to her, but his lips feel like they’re glued together, and his mouth won’t work. She keeps coming closer, though, even though he’s feeling too exhausted and terrible to talk.
He still feels numb, thanks to the iv bag, but he could feel his breaths evening out as she got closer. She hovers over him in concern, her face filled with an odd look.
“Do you want Selburg?” She asks.
He shakes his head as much as he is able to, which isn’t much, but Lovelace appears to get the message, because she doesn’t fly off to get him.
“Sam, I can’t help you unless you talk to me.”
Don’t call me that, he wants to say, but his words are all trapped in his un-cooperating mouth. Instead, he reaches, reaches out for her hand because it’s so close and he just needs the reassurance right now that he’s not actually dead because that’s what he feels like, death, but her hand is just slightly too far away.
His hand goes back to where its strapped on the table, and he’s about to give up when Lovelace grabs his hand with her own, and she nervously looks back at Lambert.
The feeling of something solid makes just a tiny bit of him feel better.
He relaxes against the table, his eyes fluttering shut.
Lovelace doesn’t move, doesn’t loosen her firm grip on his hand.
And for the first time in seventeen hours, he drifts off to sleep.