PHD #141: Penny's Prerogative
Penny's Prerogative
Summary: Trask quietly recounts reasons why Penelope should opt to remain in a coma. Ultimately, she decides to do otherwise.
Date: 17 Jul 2041 AE
Related Logs: As Flies to Wanton Boys, Bye Bye Birdie - Air Wing, & Sacrifices
Penelope Trask NPC 
Recovery Room - Sickbay - Deck 10 - Battlestar Cerberus
Post-Holocaust Day: #141
A much more quiet area of Medical, this elongated room is also lined with beds. Each is similarly outfitted with privacy curtains as necessary and even the paint on the walls has been lightened in an attempt to help lift spirits. Chairs are readily available all over the place so that visitors can pull one up to talk to the patients during their recovery. Near the entrance, visiting hours are posted with a very conspicuous 'No Smoking' sign.
Condition Level: 2 - Danger Close

It all began with a fever. A dangerously high fever that left her delirious and ranting — which was a bad sign. Fever in radiation poisoning means the death of white blood cells, leaving the victim open to all manner of opportunistic infections and potentially lethal conditions. At some point during a night of endless transfusions, she slipped into a coma. It's a light coma, for whatever that's worth. It means some essential things, like swallowing and that all important act, breathing, still readily engage. So she won't suffocate or choke on her own spittle; if she's fed, she'll eat. The steady blip of the heart monitor plays counterpoint to the rise and fall of her chest. Really, she just looks like she's sleeping — some princess in a grim, post-apocalyptic fairy tale.

Trask may not be the quintessential Prince Charming, but he is devoted. Every day, like clockwork, he'd visit the ward to check on Bunny and Pickle… and Penny. Before Evan was discharged, his time was fairly evenly distributed between the pilot and the snipe, and he even fell asleep in a bedside chair on more than one occasion. After all, even a resilient Taurian requires rest, sooner or later, especially when overworked.

That the veritable Sleeping Beauty hasn't been much in the way of company hasn't bothered him. The utter absence of her side of the duo's typical banter isn't enough to keep Kal away. At first, he simply cracked jokes to which she didn't respond. After a while, he snarkily relayed happenings around the ship. As the days went by, he started to quietly read to her. Usually, it was a few chapters from one of the pulp noir, hard-boiled detective novels that only Quinn knows that he owns.

Today, after a week of no change in the brunette's condition, there is no recounting of the adventures of cynical private dicks or sultry femme fatales. There is simply a green Squadron Leader who has spent the past several, post-clusterfrak hours distracting himself with any manner of constructive activity he could find. Truly, it is a sad state of affairs when Bootstrap is feeling grateful to have despised paperwork to keep him preoccupied. When it was evident he was no longer possessing the necessary concentration to carry-on working error free, wearily did he make his way here.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Penny's breathing is deep and even… the only thing that separates her appearance from that of sleep is the stillness of her shuttered eyes. There are no dreams, where she's traveled. One hand rests loosely across her middle, the other at her side. Some helpful and well intentioned nurse, it seems, has been taking exceptional care of the snipe's hair, still thick and curling. Today, there's a barrette in it, one adorned with a cubit-sized daisy. It's not even remotely something Penny would wear, and as such looks a little ridiculous.

Women frequently complain that men never notice their hair. In this case, Trask notices that it's still there, and the lack of baldness is pretty much all that registers. Drawing a chair closer to the bedside, he pulls the curtain closed, and then slumps into the seat. For a weighted moment, he sprawls there, blandly staring at some spot of equally bland ceiling. Slowly, his eyes close. "My tally's up to six now," he murmurs from behind the medical mask he wears to curtail the spread of infection. "We lost four a few hours ago… CAG sent 'em to the slaughter, but it's my fault they even had to go…" Heavily, he exhales and leans leans forward, head bowed.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Silent and still as a marble goddess, Penny listens. It doesn't mean she hears. Or if she hears, that she'll remember. But she's there, undeniably alive and human, though lacking in cognizance or the capacity for judgment. It's invitingly confessional. Though, by the same token, she lacks the capacity for sympathy, gentle frowns, exasperation, acceptance or absolution. So perhaps it's a wash. A rather lonely wash.

Perhaps, on some level, Kal is hoping that she hears and understands him. At the foremost of his consciousness, however, he would avoid confessing anything to anyone. It is Penelope's inability to even attempt to offer any semblance of comfort that makes him able to speak of such things. "I hope you're enjoying your nap," he finally says, easing into a more upright position, although that is simply so he can take her uninjured hand betwixt his own. "DRADIS is totally frakked. Comms are down. At least FTL has been restored."

Penelope's hand, cool and long-fingered, callused and capable, rests in Kal's. Beep. Beep. Beep. And then seems, ever so fractionally, so slightly it could be imagined, to curl around his fingers. Nothing on the monitors seems to change. Her eyes remain shut and unmoving.

"They were Petrels. All four of 'em," he says, returning to the topic of the CAG-commanded suicide mission. "Sitka's understandably pissed-off." For his part, Trask simply sounds tired in more than just a physical sense. With a gentleness that is at utter odds with his strong, scarred, skilled, and heavily callused hands, he starts to massage the mounds of Penelope's palm. "The alternative was for Cerberus to be rammed by a basestar, and seeing that it's our," presumably he means the Air Wing, "job to protect this ship at all costs, that wasn't about to happen before we exhausted every horrific option available."

Quietly, he muses with a certain sympathy for the Sagittaran, "Still, for all of the casualties to come from one squad… that just… hells, it'd suck no matter who was ordered to fly head-on into those propulsion engines." Somberly, he falls silent, still gently rubbing. "Shiv took it out on Toast, and she's taking it out on herself. There wouldn't have been a need to even make that call if I'd only done my frakking job and /somehow/ stopped Morgenfield." The ECO's voice is soft yet swollen with self-recrimination. Never mind that he was fighting off the effects of CO2 poisoning and had a crazy skinjob who'd killed his pilot mere moments earlier pointing a gun at his own person, at the time.

Bee-beep. Beep. Beep. It's easy enough to know what she'd say, however empty the words might seem. That it isn't his fault. That he did everything he could, that he always does, above and beyond the call of duty. And she'd mean every word. But there are no words, just her hand at rest in his. Her breathing remains deep and even, passing like a ghost between her slightly dry lips.

"Y'know," the man admits with subdued rue, "I honestly don't believe that life is some great gift. It's usually sixteen different flavors of hell. Every so often, you get a lick of something that doesn't taste half-bad. Even so, I'm not inclined to die. I can't even blame that on masochism or a sense of morbid curiosity. I just have this sick sense of self-preservation." Wry, he adds, "I came by /that/ honestly. So hard-earned to become so hard-wired…" As is common when someone fights so hard to overcome so many hardships. In an alternating manner, his rough thumbs tenderly rub small circles into the heart of Penelope's palm.

"Excuse me…" That would be Ensign Emily Gerber, RN, a sweet and apple-cheeked little thing that seems, more often than not, to be on duty when Trask's visiting his variously gimped friends. "Sorry to interrupt, sir. Just got to get her vitals." She perches herself on the edge of the bed, strapping a blood-pressure cuff around Penny's upper arm. "How's she doing today?"

That polite interruption is met with a quiet clearing of the Taurian's throat. "I'm no medical professional," Trask replies with a flippancy lacking bite, "but my diagnosis is that she's still in a frakking coma."

"Ya think?" Nurse Gerber replies, drily. She pumps up the cuff, reading the dial as it slowly deflates. "Hope springs eternal, sir. Honestly, there's no reason she shouldn't be awake. No medical reason, anyhow. We've fixed everything we can, y'know?" She scribbles a note on the clipboard balanced on her thigh, removing the cuff and gently prying back one of Penny's lids, shining a pen-light into the hazel eye behind it. "It's up to her, now."

Without missing a beat, Kal quips, "Like I said, I'm no medical professional." As for the nurse's prognosis, he notes in a deadpan manner, "Lieutenant Paris is an engineer. She's probably examining every possible angle before she settles on a course of action."

Gerber ahs, nodding as though much enlightened. "Considered and methodical, is she? I — " She blinks, frowning and moving the light away from Penny's other eye. Then back again. Away. And back. "Uhm. Has she done anything unusual, in the past few minutes? I mean, unusual for her being in a coma. Moved even a little? Even if it seemed involuntary?"

As a matter of fact, she did. Unfortunately, Trask has not been in a state of mind to notice such subtleties. "I wish I could say that I'm holding her hand because she was determined to give me a handjob, but that isn't the case." Admittedly, Penelope probably wouldn't be so inclined to do such even if she weren't in a coma.

The look Gerber gives that comment is… just slightly incredulous. She blinks. Once. "Uhm. Right." Once more, she shines the light into Penny's eye. Then checks the other. "We've definitely got some pupilary light reflex going on. That's a good thing." She smiles encouragingly. "Keep talking, sir. Maybe you can help her work through the decision to come back." She makes a few more notes on the chart, then moves on to visit her next patient.

Wait… signs that the snipe might only be /mostly/ comatose? Perhaps it's because he is so exhausted, but Bootstrap seems somewhat bemused. As what the departing nurse said starts to sink in, he finds himself murmuring, "Maybe I don't want her to. Maybe I like her too much to ask that of her. Maybe I'm just a plain ol' prick and not a selfish one." Troubled, his brow knits and his mouth quirks, and with conflicted eyes he regards Penelope. All which means that he takes refuge in his fortress of flippancy. "Y'know, if you have the audacity to wake up, don't think I'm gonna let any of this coma crap get you off the hook for the display case and the blowjob you owe me."

That would have gotten at least a roll of her eyes on a slightly less comatose day. Actually, this is a slightly less comatose day, comparatively. Still, nothing. Or… something. Maybe. There's a flickering of her throat. She swallows. But… that's not too unusual. She can still do that. Has to, every so often. Like breathing. Maybe the timing's just weird. Yet the heart monitor maintains its steady drone. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Now that he's paying closer attention for possible signs of activity, Trask notices the throat movement. "I had a feeling that you swallow."

And, yes, he meant it /that/ way.

Penelope exhales. And breathes in… deeply. The rhythm's off. It's not as though she's having trouble breathing, but less metronome-even, as it has been all this long and fathomless sleep. It's only for a few breaths, however… then it's nice and even again. As though she'd surfaced for a moment, then refused the waking world, preferring to dream.

Those expressive brown eyes of his remain intensely ambivalent. Lightly, one callused thumb caresses across her fingers just below her knuckles. After a pensive moment, he wryly smirks, "Like I said, the best anyone can hope for is a lick of something that doesn't taste half-bad. Not sure that's really worth waking up for."

Her fingers twitch beneath his thumb. She swallows again, and this time there's definitely movement. Penny's dark brows knit, her eyes shutting tighter, as though those dreams she retreated to have turned on her. There's a subtle flicker beneath her lids. Eye movement.

All of this Kal does see. In response, he shifts a little due to the onset of emotionality, which he always finds uncomfortable. Finally, all he says is, "A nightmare's a nightmare, I suppose. Maybe it doesn't make much of a difference whether it happens when you're awake or you're not. Either way, it's your call. I'll be around, all the same." With that, he gives her hand an affectionate squeeze and then carefully lays it back down on the bed.

Penelope's hand on the bed flexes, her fingers curling in on the absence of Kal's hand. Her lips move and her lashes flutter. Very slowly, painfully it seems, her eyes open. She winces them shut again, her head turning towards the ECO. Another swallow. "What…" There's barely any breath behind it, and no sound. It's just the shape of her lips. "What is…?" Her eyes open again, trying to focus.

Looks like she made her decision. The choice tastes bittersweet to Trask. "What is what?" he asks with faux innocence, acting as though she hasn't been in a coma for the past week.

"What's… my call?" Penny is more than a little disoriented, but apparently lucid. "Frakdamn, it's bright. Did I fall asleep on you?" She reaches for Kal's hand. "I'm sorry."

"Anything. Everything. Woman's prerogative," is the quasi-blithe reply. Gently, his rough hand slips into Penelope's. "You have a nice nap?"

Penelope frowns slightly, testing her limbs. They move sluggishly, sore. She shakes her head. "I feel like I was hit by a frakking truck," she whispers. She blinks a few times at Kal's hand, then at the man himself. "No suit."

"No suit," Trask confirms, although he is wearing a medical mask. Once more, he resumes kneading her palm. "Tell me where it hurts and maybe I'll rub it better." Even though his mouth can't be seen, he must surely be smiling.

There's a raspy sound that's likely a laugh, though she winces a bit. The wince relaxes into a faint smile. "Everywhere," she replies. And if that's not an invitation… But there's a pause, and her eyes trouble once more. "How long have I been… or have I been… sick?"

Invitation that it may or may not be, the ECO doesn't yet RSVP. Instead, Bootstrap nonchalantly answers, "That depends on whether or not we include the time before the coma."

The heart monitor picks up the pace as Penny's eyes widen in alarm. "How long?" she asks, swallowing hard.

"Like I said," Kal casually repeats, "that depends on whether or not we include the time before the coma." How helpful of him.

Penelope closes her eyes and shakes her head. Of all the times for him to be difficult. "The coma," she clarifies, tersely. "How long?"

It's always during the most difficult times that he is the most difficult. "A week or so." Said as though he were telling her that tuna casserole is the galley's special of the day.

Penny seems to relax a little at that. A coma isn't good news, but a week isn't bad. She studies Kal, trying to discern as much as she can with that inscrutable mask in place. "Are you okay?" she asks. Strange question, but there you have it.

"Holy frak!" Nurse Gerber nearly trips over her own feet, stopping abruptly on her way past the bed. She fumbles her clipboard and hurries over. "She's awake! Sir, you did it!" The young woman beams, fluttering between re-checking Penny's vitals and scrutinizing the monitoring equipment. "How do you feel?" she asks the patient.

"Fine?" Penny ventures, eyeing the enthusiastic nurse warily. She looks at Kal, eyebrows lifting. "You did what, now?"

"Just peachy." Never mind the glib tone and the fact that his eyes and his body language suggest otherwise. "I'd say that I should let you get some sleep, but you've kinda overslept." Patting the snipe's hand, he once more carefully lays it back on the bed. "I, on the other hand, am in need of some beauty rest," the man says, rising to his feet. The nurse's praise rolls right off him. "Just waited for you to make up your mind." No biggie. "Now that you have, I can hit the hay. I'll swing by tomorrow to resume my thorny duties." In her side. "I'll even add some ass-pain as a welcome back gift."

Penelope lolls her head to the side, tracking Kal's movements toward egress. Her frown is light, but distinctly pensive. "I sure don't feel like I've been sleeping…" But she nods, lifting her hand slightly in farewell. It seems to take a bit of effort. "Sleep sweetly, Kal. And… thank you." She smiles faintly, shoulders moving fractionally in what might be a shrug. "For whatever you did."

"Sleeping. Coma. Whatever. I'm not a doctor, so it's all the same to me." Ever one to downplay something terrible. As for the thank you, it's dismissed with an, "Anytime, Henny Penny. We can play doctor when you're feeling better." A typical Trask exit line, offered with an idle wave to both ladies.

"Good night, Prince Charming." Penny smirks and rolls her eyes, turning her attention to the hovering — and slightly scandalized — little nurse. "He's all talk," she assures the younger woman. "And talk. And talk. And talk."

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