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[personal profile] calleigh_j
Title: But The Stars Collide
Author: [livejournal.com profile] calleigh_j
Artist: [livejournal.com profile] eudaimon - mix to come soon
Fandoms: Criminal Minds/The West Wing
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: none
Pairing: Emily Prentiss/Kate Harper
Disclaimer: anything you recognise is not mine
Word count: 13,885
Summary: A few months after the initial alien invasion, Kate Harper gets out of hospital and finds the efforts to save the world well underway, and a burgeoning relationship with a former FBI profiler
Notes: thanks to my beta for helping me get my words out; title comes from 'Aftermath' (REM); chapter quotes from 'Bullets In My Hairdo' (Finn), 'Don't Choose The Wrong Way' (Andy White), 'One Of Our Submarines' (Thomas Dolby), 'Airwaves' (Thomas Dolby), 'Karma Police' (Radiohead), and 'Aftermath' (REM)

Part One


Chapter Four:

Dampness of the wind, the airwaves
Tension of the skin, the airwaves
I really should've seen through the airwaves


It's six days since Kate's been out of the hospital but it feels like so much longer. She's been on the go pretty much since that first meeting and it's exhilarating, although she obviously wishes none of it were necessary. Before the invasion, she'd been out of the field for a few years and she'd forgotten how much she enjoyed it, and just how good she was. Had the K'larn never come, she's sure she would have been happy to stay out of the field, but this unexpected chance to be back out there isn't entirely unwanted.

So far, she's been on one raid and had her first up close look at the K'larn ship. It's big, certainly, but somehow not as big as it looks from across the river. It's definitely alien though. Everything about it is different and strange: the smell, the feel of the walls, the sound made by feet running along the floor. It's an oddly designed place with, for Kate's mind, far too many dark corners for people to hide around. Were she designing a ship, she'd want to make it as difficult for other people to get into as possible. It plays into their hands though that they can find places to hide when they hear the K'larn coming. She's seen the command centre, as part of the team that took the long way around and finally managed to get through the K'larn defences and into the huge rhomboid room at the centre of the ship.

Regardless of their alien nature, the K'larn command centre had been oddly familiar to Kate. It reminded her of nothing so much as the central base for a CIA mission or the bridge on a Navy ship. The fact that she couldn't read any of the symbols or understand the conversations taking place didn't really make a difference. She could see all the things she would have expected to see in any command centre set up by humans. In the end, that isn't all that helpful: the inability to translate the information they managed to photograph is the real problem. But when she crept in through the open door and ducked behind a pillar, she'd remember what Emily said about how there had to be something in that room that could help them. Kate was right too - the fact that they can't understand the information means it's almost useless - but finding seemingly relevant information wasn't that difficult. Of course, it could turn out that all they've picked up are menus for the next two weeks, but they found heavy tablets with maps of the Earth and slightly distorted looking aerial photos of D.C. and the surrounding area and something tells Kate those things are probably relevant.

"Hey, I heard you got into the command centre," a voice says from behind her and Kate turns around on the stairs to see Emily leaning over the rail a couple of floors up, dark hair falling around her face.

Kate stops where she is and waits for Emily to reach her. It's been six days since she's been out of the hospital and six days since she met Emily Prentiss. That feels like so much longer as well. Kate knows how easy it is in a situation like this to become attached in inappropriate ways to inappropriate people. There are a limited number of people around and inevitably people will end up in pairs or in groups and the bonds within those groups are strong. But Kate feels like Emily is someone she could have known and liked before the whole world went to hell. Emily's someone she could have met at the gym or at a bar and they would have gotten on well, Kate's certain of that. But thinking about what could have happened doesn't do anyone any good. Knowing that doesn't stop Kate from thinking about it though.

"So, what was it like?" Emily asks as she comes alongside Kate and they set off down the stairs together.

"Strange, but not strange," Kate replies and she explains the bizarre comfort and familiarity she felt there, along with the frustration that they've found all this information but they don't know how to translate it.

"Maybe Reid will be able to make something of it," Emily suggests but Kate knows that she knows that it's unlikely.

"Are you heading down to Garcia's?" Kate asks.

Emily nods, saying, "Yeah, she said this morning that she'd incorporated the new images into the video. What about you?"

"I was going to give Collins a hand with one of the receivers," Kate explains, "There's a problem with one of the ones he and Reid were putting back together and it's a model very similar to one I've used before, so hopefully there might be something I know that they don't."

"What exactly did you do when you were working for the CIA?" Emily asks suddenly.

Kate's first reaction is to say that she can't say, that it's all classified and redacted and make the old joke about how she could tell her but then she'd have to kill her. Then she remembers that there really isn't a government or even anything close to one at the moment and her signature on the Official Secrets Act probably isn't worth the paper it was written on. Still, it's an strange feeling to know that for the first time in a very long time, she can actually talk about the things she's done. Stranger still is the feeling that she doesn't really want to. Her work has required her to do things she'd rather not think of and she likes Emily: she doesn't want to have to tell her about all the things she's done.

"A lot of things," she hedges, "Under cover work, some analysis, advisory stuff. I was there a long time; I did a lot of things and I'd rather not talk about it, if you don't mind."

Saying no is hard, refusing to give out information she no longer needs to keep back. It's one thing to not be allowed to tell people what you do and another entirely to choose not to. Kate's always been a little unsure of boundaries, preferring to reveal too little than too much, and it's hurt her relationships. People have left, husbands have left because she didn't know how to let them in, and wasn't even sure she wanted to anyway. Emily's hardly a husband, only just a friend, but still Kate worries that her refusal will end their barely-started relationship.

"That's okay," is what Emily says and though Kate knows her face doesn't give anything away, inside she feels incredible relief. Both that she doesn't have to talk about things and that she's not going to lose whatever she might have with Emily over her unwillingness to talk.

They walk down the last few remaining steps in silence, but it's not awkward. It feels like a silence between two people who've known one another far longer than a few days.

"It's strange, this new world," Kate says as they near the door to Garcia's office, "the way it changes the relationships people have."

"You think?" Emily asks.

"It makes all the uncertainty and the rules seem so stupid," Kate replies, "Like we should just go for things, say what we really want to say because who knows if we'll still be around tomorrow."

"Have you always been this philosophical?" Emily asks, a twinkle in her eye.

"I don't think so," Kate replies with a grin.

She pushes open the door of Garcia's office and is met by the sound of urgent voices coming from the communications room. She hurries straight through, holding onto the door just long enough for Emily to follow her through. In the communications room, Reid and Collins are learning over the large table, staring intensely at one of the receivers, while Garcia fiddles with the dials on the transmitter, currently on the table rather than in its usual place in the corner. It's only when Reid turns his head to look at them that Kate realises there's a voice coming from the receiver. It's male and distorted by static but coherent and comprehensible and Kate's so surprised to hear it that she completely misses what the voice is actually saying at first.

"How did you get this information?" Reid's asking when Kate focuses again.

"We raided the ship," the man says and Kate estimates he's probably in his late thirties or early forties, "We found maps of North America with different marks over different cities. We think the D.C. ship is the most important on this continent. There seem to be other cities with similar marks over them on other continents - Bangkok, Canberra, London, Rio di Janeiro, Mumbai. We're not sure exactly how they're selecting the cities - it seems to be a mixture of political capitals and population centres. There seems to be a countdown of some kind."

"Counting down to what?" Collins asks as Reid frantically scribbles down notes.

"We're not sure exactly," the voice replies, "but it seems to be counting down to seven days from now."

The voice is lost for a few minutes in the static but then it comes back through, the man asking, "D.C., can you hear me?"

"We're still here," Reid replies, "Sorry, we lost you for a bit."

"I think we're losing the signal," the man says, "There's a storm coming in here. We'll keep this frequency open though and..."

He says something else but Kate can't make it out through the crackle.

"What the hell just happened?" Garcia asks, sounding a little dazed.

"I'm going to find McNally," Collins says, pushing back his chair and hurrying from the room.

"What happened?" Emily asks, echoing Garcia's question.

"We'd just gotten one of the new receivers working," Reid replies, eyes still focussed on the receiver, "We were checking different frequencies and then there was a voice. He says his name's Darius Atley and he's a former Marine who was on leave visiting relatives in Chicago when the first attacks happened. They're in a similar situation to us and they've been trying, just like us, to get through to people for months. Apparently they got through to Phoenix last week."

"What's going on?" McNally says as she pushes open the door, Collins right behind her.

Reid repeats the entire conversation without even glancing down at his notes and Kate doesn't think she's even seen Nancy McNally so visibly shaken by something.

"What about the countdown?" she asks when he's finished.

"We don't know," he replies, "They were cut off before Darius could tell us anything else, not it sounds like they know anything else about it. All he said was that it seems to be counting down to a week from today."

In Kate's experience, a countdown in a military situation is unlikely to be a countdown for anything good, at least for anyone who didn't plan said countdown. Right now, all she can think of are countdowns to weapons being fired and bombs being dropped. And in this situation, with alien ships apparently on the ground in at least three major US cities, it feels like nothing so much as a countdown to the end of the world.

"It can't be a good thing," Emily says, vocalising what Kate had just been thinking.

"We don't know that," Garcia says but she's drowned out by McNally saying that they need to call a meeting and form a plan of attack. Because Garcia's right; they don't know that the countdown is to something bad but they can't sit around and wait to find out.

***

It takes about forty-five minutes to get all the essential personnel into the meeting room on the first floor. All the chairs are taken and people are lining the walls. No-one outside of those of them who were in the room knows what's actually happened but they all know it has to be something big to require a meeting like that.

"Hey, what's going on?" Morgan asks as he slips into the room, joining Hotch and Rossi just to the left of Emily. Emily starts to explain but then McNally walks in and the whole room falls silent.

It doesn't take her long to explain the recent contact, news of which has whispers flying all around the room, and then she moves onto outlining potential plans and how they're going to go about finding out what the countdown is for and, if necessary (Kate's certain it will be), averting it. She divides people into teams: people to more closely examine everything they brought back from the raid on the command centre, people to work out the best routes to all the important locations on the ship, people to check weapons and people to work out who would be the best people to send in if they need to and who would be better staying behind. There's discussion as well, heated discussion, about what to tell the civilian population of their little colony, their little island. The higher-ranking military personnel are by and large in favour of keeping things quiet, but everyone else wants everything to be open. The word 'transparency' is thrown around a lot and Kate feels like she's back in the Situation Room, trying to weigh up the best military move against the best political move.

Eventually, the conclusion is reached that everyone should be told what's going on. It would be impossible to keep everything a secret anyway and having everyone know to start with is probably the safest option. Which means there needs to be another group to go around informing everyone else of what's happened and what's likely to be happening over the next few days. Kate desperately wants not to be a part of that group. Honestly, she'd prefer to just hole up in the hotel until all of this is over. She knows how badly wrong this could all go and doesn't want to go out there and see all the hope and all the dreams that maybe they can put the world back to rights.

Thankfully, Kate finds herself assigned to the group that will be putting together teams for what Kate sees as the inevitable raid. Emily's going to be working on find the quickest and safest ways into the ship as she's one of those who's been on the most raids. They part ways in the stairwell Emily goes down to Garcia's office with Reid and a few others and Kate heads to the makeshift armoury, down in the underground car park: the process of setting up teams is going to be heavily dependent on what weaponry they have, and Kate has a sinking feeling they're going to be sorely lacking.

"Good luck," Emily says, catching Kate's right hand just before she goes through the door and into the corridor.

"Yeah, you too," Kate mumbles but Emily's let go her hand and the door's almost closed already and she's not sure Emily can even hear her. It's not until she's down in the armoury, counting out magazines, that she realises she hadn't wanted Emily to let go.

***

Chapter Five:

This is what you get
This is what you get
This is what you get when you mess with us


"It's a countdown to a co-ordinated attack," McNally announces in the third full meeting in as many days, "This morning, we were contacted by a group of Air Force and Marine personnel working in NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Apparently they have a language specialist there who was able to translate some of the information they had gathered from the K'larn ship outside Denver. There's a heavy concentration of military personnel in the area and they were able to pass information between Denver and Colorado Springs, and the team at NORAD. As of yet, we still don't have that many details suffice to say that four days from now, K'larn ships all over the world will be launching weapons designed to wipe out all remaining human life on Earth."

She pauses while the information filters around the room, people turning to one another to express disbelief and horror and well-hidden fear. Emily looks around but doesn't speak: she's more interested in knowing what they're going to do about it.

"We don't know as of yet why the K'larn have waited so long to launch this final attack," McNally continues, "but it's clear that we need to stop it. It is believed, judging from information gathered by Chicago and the NORAD team in Colorado, that the ship here in D.C. is the most important one in North America. So whilst all the other cities we've been in contact with will be doing their best to destroy the K'larn ships where they are, there is more responsibility on us here. We have no idea why this ship is the most important or if there are different things planned for here and the other cities marked differently, but we need to destroy this ship."

Emily's exhausted already and as McNally starts going over the latest plans - shaped charges all over the K'larn ship - it's a struggle to stay awake. Everyone's been working around the clock since the first contact with Chicago and every time Emily stops for a minute, there's something else that needs to be done. It's as if the contact with Chicago opened up floodgates somewhere: they've spoken to people in Phoenix and Denver and Boston and San Francisco and everywhere in between. No contact as of yet from outside the US, but Emily imagines that if this many people have survived here, then there must be others all over the world.

"It doesn't seem real, does it?" a voice asks quietly from her side and Emily smiles as she recognises Kate's voice.

"I keep expecting Harrison Ford or someone to jump out from behind a wall with a huge space laser and start shooting things," Emily replies, turning slightly to look at Kate, "You've been locked up with McNally all day. What's going on?"

"It's the NORAD thing," Kate answers as her gaze flicks back and forth between Emily and McNally, who's talking now about the plans for the following seventy-two hours, "It's...complicated."

From the way Kate says that, Emily knows that what's going on at Cheyenne Mountain is more than NORAD, more than tracking Santa Claus. She's curious but she's learned not to push: Kate tells things in her own time, not before. Emily thinks that might be why they get on so well: she's the same way.

"Good complicated or bad complicated?" is all she asks.

"Good complicated, I think, I hope," Kate replies, "It's hard to tell - they've had problems there as well, partly to do with the K'larn and partly to do with other things, but we might not be as alone in this as we think."

Emily's not certain what kind of problems could be on a level with a full-on alien invasion, but clearly they can't be anything good, nor can Kate's uncertainty over the situation be any good. But although Kate may not always be the most forthcoming person, Emily knows that she can trust what Kate says, no matter how lacking in detail it may be.

"Look, I have to help McNally sort out final teams," Kate says apologetically as McNally finishes talking and people start to leave, "but I'll find you later and let you know if I've heard anything new, okay?"

"Sure," Emily replies and then Kate's gone from the room. It's not as if she won't find out soon enough any updates to the plan - after all, she is supposed to be leading one of the teams - but the fact that Kate would take the time to come and tell her personally is nice, and comforting in a way Emily doesn't want to examine too closely. She doesn't have much time to examine her feelings closely anyway as she's needed back down in Garcia's office to finalise entry routes and where they're going to be putting the charges.

***

It's dark still, too early for the sun, six days after the first contact with Chicago. There are about thirty hours left on the countdown clock as they go through the final team assignments in the meeting room on the first floor. Emily's with Morgan, Graham Edwardson, and two former Marines - Kurt Bradley and Katie Gavalda. They're one of three teams charged with placing charges in the command centre, or at least as closed to it as they can get. The charges can either be detonated manually or by timer: the timer is what they're all supposed to be using if at all possible, but they've all accepted that manually detonating the charges is better than not detonating them at all. They've all accepted that they might not be coming back from this.

Emily takes the weapon she's handed and goes through the checks, working on autopilot. Projectile weapons seem to have a limited effect on the K'larn, merely injuring where they would kill a human, but it's better than having nothing. If nothing else, they do usually manage to slow down the aliens. She's intimately familiar now with everyone single one of the limited selection of weapons in their armoury and has opted for a high-powered rifle along with her personal FBI-issue weapon.

Across the room, she spots Kate, deep in conversation with McNally and Garcia. Understandably, Garcia's more than a little nervous about this whole endeavour as it's her job to bring down the shields in the right places at the right time. She's done it dozens of times before but there are far more people involved this time than there normally are, and so much more at stake. When Kate looks around the room, she catches Emily's eye and flashes a tense smile. Emily reflects the gesture, her own smile equally tight, before Morgan taps her on the shoulder to bring her attention back to the blueprint on the table so they can go over their route one final time.

The whole room is fairly buzzing with anticipation. There's a low hum of conversation as people prepare themselves mentally and physically for this, the Final Battle. That's what everyone's calling it anyway: the Final Battle, capitalisation clearly audible. It's hardly a battle but there's a painful air of finality about the whole thing as Emily looks at all the people gathered in this little room and wonders how many of them won't be coming back. It's all happened so quickly as well. For months, they sat around with nothing really to do other go on raids which, after a few weeks, stopped teaching them anything new. And now, over the course of just a few days, everything's fallen into place and at last they're about to launch an attack.

There's really nothing more for it now though than to check radios, check teams, and go. In the crowd of people, Emily manages to find JJ, Rossi, and Hotch and wish them good luck. Garcia and Reid are down in the basement and she's already said good bye to them. She can't find Kate though and the idea of going without saying something to her is painful, but there's no time. McNally gives one last, short pep talk - good luck, God speed, make us proud - and then they're filing out of the room and towards the staircase. Emily's so focussed on the task at hand that she doesn't realise Kate's beside her until she's being pulled out of line and behind the open door to the stairwell.

They're mostly hidden from sight, and if everyone else is like her, Emily doesn't think they would be noticed were they standing stark naked in the middle of the corridor.

"I just wanted to say good luck," Kate says, but her hand is still wrapped tightly around Emily's.

All Emily can think is that in an hour, she might be dead and there are enough things that she regrets already with adding anything more to the list, so she leans forward and kisses Kate. Presses her back against the wall and kisses her hard, desperately, wishing they could be anywhere else.

"If I make it out of there..." Emily says, and Kate doesn't try to correct her, just interrupts her.

"I'll be waiting."

It's Kate who initiates the second kiss and then Emily reluctantly pulls away and ducks around the door and into the stairwell. She jogs down the stairs until she finds her team and her place in line. Once they get out of the building, they split up to cross the bridge. They go as teams, staggering their departures all a few minutes apart. Emily's team is the second to go as they have the furthest to travel. They jog across the bridge, Emily acutely aware of the extra weight on her back. On the other side of the river, they head around to the left. When they're safely hidden a few hundred feet from where they should be going through the shield, Edwardson radios Garcia to let her know that they're in place. She tells them to sit tight and Emily curses under her breath: the waiting is going to drive her insane.

"So, you and Kate Harper," Morgan mutters from her left side.

"What?" Emily says, her head jerking round so she can look at Morgan.

"Hey, I think it's great," Morgan protests, "She seems great."

Emily thinks about protesting but decides it's just not worth it. She just grins instead, and then the radio crackles as Garcia tells them to go ahead.

One by one, they leave their little clump of trees and sprint towards the shield. Emily's in the middle and she looks ahead as the shimmer that marks the shield blinks a few times, faltering, and then vanishes. Emily runs through and follows Morgan and Gavalda into the ship. She hopes that one day, they'll find out why the K'larn ships are the way they are, why despite all their technology, it's been so relatively easy to get inside them. This isn't the time to question their luck though so she banishes the thought from her mind and focusses back on the task at hand.

Soon enough, she and Gavalda are tucking themselves into a darkened archway as the sounds of K'larn footsteps become audible. In the end, no-one comes down their hall, instead going straight past at the junction up ahead. Morgan gives the all clear signal and they creep forward to where their hallway crosses another and go right. They meet two other patrols on the way to the command centre, hiding behind wide square pillars and ducking into archways to keep out of sight. It takes about ten minutes for them to reach the entrance to the command centre. Peering out from a corner, Emily can see straight in, thoughts wandering briefly again to the question of why the K'larn don't seem to have actual doors - just archways leading from room to corridor to corridor to room. Bradley lifts Emily's pack from her back, takes out the charge, sets the timer, and hands it to her.

Emily presses herself flat against the wall and, taking small sideways steps, edges into the command centre. There's a pillar directly to her right and she crosses the open space in a few steps. The charge sits at the base of the pillar, the timer stuck on top. Everything in the K'larn ship is white so the brown charge is definitely visible, but it's small and on the ground and hidden from sight of the main space. Emily checks one last time that the timer is correctly set and then inches back to the wall and out to the relative safety of the hallway.

The journey back to their exit is even less eventful than the journey in and Emily can't help but think it's all been too easy. She knows she's right when Garcia's frantic voice comes over the radio to tell them that she can't get that part of the shield down, and Emily finds herself wishing that she hadn't left it until the last minute to kiss Kate.

"They've changed the frequencies or something," she says, voice high and worried, "You need to go around and meet Hotch's team. Go to the right and follow the edge of the ship."

They get back into their line and Morgan goes out first. K'larn patrols have often been seen guarding the ship from inside the shield and whereas inside, there were places for them to go, on the outside of the ship, there are no hiding places. The ship has never seemed so big to Emily and it seems to take forever but finally, they can see Hotch and the rest of his team crowded around an exit. They run the last few feet and are almost there when one of the K'larn appears on the other side of the exit and raises its weapon. Emily instinctively drops to the ground and can hear the others doing the same around her. That now familiar sound of a K'larn gun, some kind of laser weapon, rings in her ears, and then there's a far louder noise from above. Still on the ground, Emily rolls over and sees a ship overhead. It's not a K'larn ship, at least not of a type that she's ever seen before, and then it registers with her that the ship is firing at the K'larn.

"The shield is open," Garcia's voice tells them from the radio, "Go now."

***

Chapter Six:

And the aftermath, open up your eyes
You're so alive


They're not that far away really, just across the river, and when the ship goes up, the sky turns red with flames and the rising sun. From the roof of the hotel, Kate has an incredible view of the K'larn ship exploding. It's hard to tell with all the smoke but she can just about make out a few small shapes disappearing away in the sky and makes one more mental note to get in contact with Colorado and thank the team inside Cheyenne Mountain - she doesn't know who else it could possibly be.

And now it's a waiting game, stressful and full of fear, as they wait for people to come back across the bridge. Kate counts the small figures as they rush across, alone or in small groups. She can see a couple of people being carried and her heart sinks. She hurries away from the crowd on the roof, down the stairs and out of the hotel, going straight towards the hospital. It's full when she gets there with people back from the raid and people checking to see where their friends and family are. She goes from bay to bay, room to room, until she pokes her head around a curtain and finds Emily sitting on a bed, looking down at the floor.

"Oh god," Kate says, heavy on an exhalation, and the words are beyond her control. Emily looks up from the floor and offers her a slightly shocked smile.

"We blew up an alien spaceship," Emily says, eyes wide and voice trembling slightly.

"You did," Kate confirms, sitting down beside Emily on the bed. Emily leans against her and Kate can almost feel the adrenaline fading from her body. Kate knows that feeling well, the come down after the mission, and feels it herself now, though probably not as strongly as Emily is.

They sit in comfortable silence, exhausted by the events of the last few hours. Behind the curtain, nothing else matters except the fact that they're both still here, both still okay, both still alive. It doesn't take long for one of the doctors to come around.

"I'll wait outside," Kate offers, standing up from the bed, but Emily grabs her hand.

"Stay," she says, and Kate does.

She stands beside the bed as the doctor runs through the basic examination and standard questions Kate remembers from time in the field. Emily's lucky: a few scratches and a couple of bruises are all she has to show from the destruction of the alien ship. While the examination is taking place, Emily asks about the people they brought in injured, and the total they lost to the attack is up to three, but the others are expected to make full recoveries. It's awful that they've lost people, but they all know it could have been so much worse.

The crackling of Kate's radio, clipped to her belt, interrupts them and Kate excuses herself, stepping around the curtain.

"Kate Harper," she says into the little speaker.

"There'll be a briefing soon," McNally says without introducing herself, "We're still waiting to hear from the west coast and there's no point getting everyone together until we know exactly what's going on, but be ready to get here as soon as we hear from everyone."

"Yes, Ma'am," Kate replies, but the static she hears tells her McNally is already gone.

She just clipping the radio back to her belt when Emily pushes back the curtain.

"I'm good to go," she announces with a grin, and it's less shaky than before.

"Briefing should be happening soon, but we don't know exactly when yet," Kate says as they head towards the exit, "We don't know yet what's happening on the west coast and McNally doesn't want to give a briefing when we don't have all the information we need."

"So I guess we have some free time then," Emily says.

"I guess we do," Kate agrees.

"I'm sorry," Emily says after a few moments of awkward silence, "About before, I mean. I don't usually go around just kissing people, but I was afraid that..."

"Did you hear me complaining?" Kate points out, lowering her voice a little as they walk past another group of people coming into the hospital.

"I'm just saying it doesn't have to mean anything if you don't want it to," Emily says, as clear a get out clause as Kate's ever heard.

"And if I do want it to mean something?" Kate asks.

"Then...dammit," Emily exclaims as her radio starts to crackle. It's McNally, calling them up for the briefing.

"We can talk about it later," Kate suggests.

"Later," Emily echoes as they speed up towards the hotel.

***

The view from the rooftop is so different now: no huge ship, no distant reminder of everything that's gone wrong. Even with the haze of smoke still hovering over the place where the ship stood, just a few hours earlier, it almost looks as if nothing ever changed.

"What are we supposed to do now?" Emily asks. She's staring straight at where the ship had been, arms folded on the cold guard rail that surrounds the roof terrace.

"We rebuild, I guess," Kate offers.

"We have the parts," Emily intones in a low voice, "We can rebuild."

Kate smiles and nudges Emily's shoulder with her own.

"I just can't believe this is all real," Emily continues, "I mean, we destroyed an alien spaceship this morning and now we have to try and find a way to rebuild an entire country...an entire world, for all we know. How are we supposed to do that?"

"We just have to try," Kate says, "That's all we can do."

She pauses a moment and then asks, "Why didn't they ever attack? After the early raids, I mean. Why did they just sit there?"

"I guess whatever they were counting down to could only be done at that specific time," Emily suggests, though they both know neither of them has any real answers, "Maybe the team down in Colorado, the ones who managed to translate the language, maybe they'll be able to tell us something. I think we just have to be grateful though," Emily adds, "If they'd kept going as they started out, we would all have been wiped out in a month. But for whatever reason, they couldn't, and so we survived. We got lucky. We did some things right too, but we got lucky."

Kate hates the uncertainty of it all, though she's grateful of course that despite everything, humanity seems to have come out on top. But she hates not knowing the reasons why, hates that there are elements of what happened that they just can't explain.

"Do you think we would have met," Emily asks after a long pause, "if all of this hadn't happened?"

"Maybe," Kate replies, "Maybe at some government thing, or maybe in a bar somewhere."

"So I guess this is where we have a deep and meaningful conversation about where this is all going," Kate says a few moments later.

"Let's not talk about it. I think we just try," Emily says with a smirk, "That's all we can do."

Kate elbows her in the side but she's grinning too now, because just a few days ago, she was still in hospital, still unsure of what was happening in the world outside, still uncertain that she wasn't dreaming it all. And now there's all of this - possibility and hope for the future and things that she would have rolled her eyes at before all of this. It's not that she believes that because they've destroyed a few ships, they've finished saving the world. The work they have ahead of them is probably more than any of them can imagine but it's better than what they had yesterday. And there's Emily...Emily about whom Kate knows almost nothing except that she likes her, and apparently Emily likes her back. There's something to be said too for relationships formed in the heat of battle.

"What are you thinking about?" Emily asks.

"Just about how different it looks without the ship there," Kate says, "How different everything looks now."

"Looks a lot better now," Emily says and Kate agrees.

She takes Emily's hand and squeezes it, and Emily squeezes back. They stand, side by side, and watch the smoke start to fade.
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calleigh_j

December 2010

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