“You should be asleep.”
Donna bit her tongue as the gentle rejoinder drifted from the doorway. It wasn’t Lea she was mad at, and she didn’t want to take her frustrations out on her sister. Lea, of course, missed none of the irritation that played across Donna’s face – perversely, Lea’s perceptiveness was enough to make her the target of Donna’s ire. But she reined it in as Lea pushed her way into the lab and crossed to where Donna sat.
“I’m not tired,” Donna said.
Lea eyed the five empty coffee cups taking up valuable real estate on Donna’s desk. ‘The cups would agree,” she said, “but your face says otherwise.”
“Leave my face out of this.”
Lea sighed, and perched on the edge of the desk, earning another scowl from Donna. Lea’s butt was now on the reference text she needed. “Donna,” Lea said. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Donna snapped.
“Uh-huh,” Lea fired back. “And I hate Space Heroes.” She folded her arms, fixing Donna with The Look. “Come on. Spill. Or I’m going to stay up all night with you.”
Spite, bitter on her tongue, forced the next words from her. “Oh no, we couldn’t have that. Got to have your beauty sleep after your Magical Mystery Tour.”
Lea’s eyes went wide with shock, and Donna instantly regretted it. Unable to stand that look on Lea’s face, she spun and lurched to her feet, staggering across the lab until she came up against the Pulverizer’s tank. Her hand resting on the glass, she stared at the frozen eyes within and wondered just how much Sam was aware of what went on in the outside world. Just another example of her failure….
“Oh,” Lea said softly. “This is about August.”
“Of course it’s about August!” Donna spun back, her voice cracking as she stormed back to the desk. Lea had gotten to her feet, and Donna reached around her to grab the medical text. “All the nights I’ve lost sleep studying, learning as much as I could, trying to be the best so that I can take care of all of you, and then you swan in with your hocus pocus and save the day? Fifteen years of studying, and it’s all useless! I couldn’t… I couldn’t save him!” The medical textbook hit the opposite wall with a resounding crash, punctuated by the tearing of pages as it fell.
The worst part was, her eidetic memory wouldn’t let her forget. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see the snake bite on August’s arm, watching the angry red lines the venom left as they wormed their way through his system despite her every effort to stop it. She could still hear the soft, mocking rhythm of the heart monitor…
Lea hadn’t moved. Donna’s words hung between them, and she realized it was the first time she’d spoken them. She hadn’t truly realized just how much it had been bothering her, but like the release valve on a pressure cooker, once that cork was out, her explosive anger went with it, and she sank to her knees, her eyes welling with tears. Ashamed, she covered her face with her hands. That was a fine way to thank Lea for saving her life. For saving August….
She hadn’t heard Lea move, but slowly, she became aware of a soft touch against her shell. Gradually, she uncurled from her fetal position, blindly seeking reassurance as Lea pulled Donna into her arms, brushing the tears from her cheeks.
“I’m sorry–” Donna began. “I didn’t mean–”
“Shhh.” Lea’s hand kept moving, tracing gentle circles against Donna’s shell. “I understand.”
Of course she did.
Donna had amends to make. But for now, she’d take the olive branch Lea offered, and let herself be soothed by that touch against her shell. She didn’t know how Lea managed it – it never felt quite the same coming from anyone else, even if the movements were identical. There was no logical scientific explanation for it. But from Lea, those circles meant comfort, and love, and a deep, abiding certainty that everything would turn out all right.