A Just Cause

Nathan softly gripped the metallic door handle and paused for a moment. The handle was freezing against his exposed palm; a reflection of the cold fear deep in his heart. It wasn't his first time visiting this room, but every time it got a little harder to open the door.

Nathan took a deep breath in a desperate attempt to stop his lips from quivering. He had to keep his emotions in check. He had to stay strong for her. He looked down at his hand grasping the door handle, which was now white with tension. He took another deep breath and forced his hand to relax. Reluctantly, he pushed the handle inward, and the door opened with a light click.

The room was always the same as Nathan left it. It was small, with nothing but a medical station, a fold-out chair, and a bed next to a criminally small window. The rest of the room was painted a stark white that made Nathan strangely uncomfortable. He closed the door carefully behind him and approached the bed as he felt his stomach drop in dread. This part was even harder.

In the bed before him laid a sickly woman in a state of comatose, tucked tightly under several blankets. Nathan shuffled to the bedside and knelt to get a better look at the woman. Even now, though pale and thin, she was as beautiful as ever. He reached out and ran his fingers through her vibrant auburn hair. The strands parted flawlessly despite their messy, tangled appearance; a physical quality he had always admired.

Nathan held his breath as he moved his hand from her hair to her cheek, like he had done so many times before. Her skin was cold to the touch, but still smooth, her elegant facial features well preserved. Nathan's eyes began to water as he watched her chest rise and fall at irregular intervals as she struggled to breath.

After a moment of silent observation, he stood up again and dropped his arms to his sides as he looked up at the blank ceiling with a torrent of anger and sadness in his soul. He took a shaky breath and somberly closed his eyes, allowing a single tear to roll down his cheek and come to rest in his neatly shaved beard.

"Anna…" he managed with a painfully hoarse voice. "Anna, my love."

The words would not come easy. They never did. Nathan wanted so badly to look into her eyes again and see the unwavering attention she always gave him, but it had been months now. Sometimes he wondered if he would ever see into those sharp brown eyes again.

He shook his head in an attempt to suppress these thoughts and slumped into the nearby fold-out chair. He fussed silently to himself as he remembered not to crease his Alliance uniform and carefully straightened his jacket and pants before turning his attention back to his wife. His brow furrowed while he organized his thoughts, and tried again.

"Anna…" Nathan put his hand over his mouth for a second, then stroked his beard while shifting in the uncomfortable chair. "I miss you," he started. Some days that's all he could manage to say, and that was okay. He knew she would understand, but today was different.

"I um…" he stammered, not sure how to proceed. "I decided to go through with the plan," he said quickly, as if the words were taboo. He glanced down at the Alliance pin attached to his chest. "I've been assigned as captain of an exploration vessel, as I had hoped."

Nathan fell silent again. He knew he was doing the right thing. One last ditch effort to save the person he could not live a single day without. However, that did not stop the overwhelming guilt from flooding his heart.

The captain removed his uniform hat and set it on the bed next to his wife. He ran his hand across the top blanket, feeling the texture of the soft fleece. He had made this blanket himself and gave it to Anna for her birthday. It seemed only fitting that it was here now to comfort her when he was not around. He leaned forward and buried his face in his hands, allowing strands of his brown hair now free from the restrictive hat to fall down over his forehead.

Nathan remembered the shock upon discovering Anna had collapsed in their cramped apartment. From then on, she had been comatose, unable to wake as the sickness spread. No one knew where the disease came from, and Anna's condition baffled every doctor and scientist that examined her. A real life Martian even payed a visit, a representative of the infamous Sol Labs on Mars, and even he could not find answers. Whatever it was, it was alien, and there was no known cure. After confirming that the disease was not contagious, Anna was admitted to the nearest general hospital where she has stayed ever since.

Nathan lowered his hands and looked over at his wife again, so sickly and yet so peaceful. The disease was extremely slow to act. Doctors estimated that Anna would likely last several more years before the sickness finally takes her life. But, she would be in a coma the entire time. Nathan shuddered at the thought. Years of solitude in your own head, slowly being drained of life. That wasn't living, and it wasn't an option.

Nathan could not bare to watch the love of his life suffer, and losing her was out of the question. If she was to live, something had to be done. The captain was already a pilot for the Alliance's domestic forces; a peacekeeper of sorts. He knew that in order to save his wife, he had to travel into the depths of space to find the origin of the disease, and bring back the cure. After putting in the paperwork and cashing in on a few favors, he was bestowed the rank of captain on an exploration vessel.

"I hate to leave you like this…" said Nathan. He wasn't sure if she could hear him or not, but he had to get this out. She had to know why. "I'm going to find a cure. It's out there somewhere. I know it is."

He cleared his throat as his sense of duty began to override the fear in his voice. "I will return to you, Anna. I will come back, and everything will be okay. I-" He paused as he realized the gravity of what he was about to say. "I promise."

Those two words would become the driving force that fueled his mission. There was no going back now, and failure was unacceptable. Nathan stood up again and swept up his hat which he quickly secured atop his head.

He leaned over his dying partner, and admired her peaceful beauty once more. This would be the last time he would see her for a very long time. He soaked in the image of her face, vowing never to forget it.

"Rest well, Anna," Nathan whispered. "Some day you will see me again, and it will be with your own eyes." He kissed her gently on the forehead and caressed her cold cheek one last time. "Farewell, my love."

With that he straightened his jacket and strode purposefully to the door, which he opened swiftly. He briefly glanced over his shoulder at the still body beneath several layers of blankets. He would succeed. He would heal her. He had never been so sure of anything his entire life. With that spark of sheer will deep in his bones, Nathan finally turned and closed the door behind him.

The white hospital room fell into complete silence. Anna laid perfectly still, wrapped in the blanket her husband had made for her, a single tear creeping down her cheek.