Nightmares are not unusual for any of the team, not with lives like theirs. It’s considered a good night if only one of them awakes clutching their chests and gasping for breath as if they’ve just erupted from the depths of the ocean. Even Nile, who’s seen less than the others but still too much, finds herself waking with tears in her eyes far more often than she should.
But it’s still frightening and painful when she awakes to a scream filled with so much grief and pain that it can only belong to one person.
By the time Nile climbs out of bed, Joe and Nicky are just forcing the door open. They look around wildly for a moment, Nicky with a gun in his hand and Joe with a knife, until their eyes land on a figure huddled in the corner of the room.
“Fuck,” Joe whispers and tosses the knife carelessly onto Andy’s empty bed. “Andy? You ok?”
Even from the other side of the room Nile knows the answer to that. She can hear Andy’s sobs, so violent and forceful that it’s like she’s punched in the chest. She can see the rapid heaving of Andy’s muscular shoulders and how Andy is hugging her knees to her chest so tightly that her knuckles are bone-white. She’s never seen their leader look so vulnerable, even when she was literally dying from a bullet wound to the gut.
Nile glances over to Joe and Nicky, waiting for one of them to do something. But they seem to be just as shocked as her, looking almost like startled children - Nicky’s hand tangled in the back of Joe’s shirt does nothing to help that image.
So they haven’t seen her like this either, probably not in a long time.
“Andy, can I come over there?” Nile calls, willing her voice to steady. Asking is definitely the best thing to do when it’s Andy they’re dealing with - the last thing they need right now is for her to panic and accidentally break someone’s neck.
Andy doesn’t answer. It’s like she doesn’t know they’re there, so lost in her terror and grief.
Nile approaches slowly, her hands held out a few inches from her body. She tries to put some weight behind her steps to make sure that Andy knows she’s coming, but it’s difficult with bare feet even on a stone floor. “Hi Andy,” she says when she’s about a foot away from Andy’s huddled form. “Can you talk to me? Tell me what’s going on so that I can help.”
“She saw Quynh. It’s always Quynh,” she hears Joe whisper. And then, as if the sound of his own voice has startled him, he’s suddenly out of his shocked stupor and moving up so he’s next to Nile. “Andy. Andromache, it’s alright. It was only a dream.”
But Andy doesn’t hear them. Her breathing only speeds up and she’s shaking even harder, her hands moving from around her legs to pull on her hair. A panic attack, Nile realises now. She’s having a panic attack.
She hates herself for it, but Nile immediately turns to Nicky. “What do we do?” she asks. He has these, he should know what to do. There’s a little part of her brain that tells Nile this isn’t how it works, just because Nicky has panic attacks himself doesn’t mean he knows what to do when someone else has them. But she’s exhausted and she’s scared and she doesn’t think she’s ever felt this helpless, and she just needs someone to fix this.
Nicky doesn’t move. He’s watching Andy with eyes like a frightened animal, arms wrapped around himself in a hug.
“Nicky, what do we do? Tell me what to do!” Nile snaps, and is overcome with guilt as soon as she realises that she’s just shouted at Nicky. Nicky, who is nothing but kind and considerate and currently looks so helpless and angry with himself.
She forces herself to take a deep breath. “Sorry Nicky,” she whispers, ignoring Joe’s clenched jaw as she turns back to Andy. Slowly, she crawls forwards and places a hand on Andy’s knee, forcing herself not to pull away at the violent flinch. “Andy, it’s Nile. You’re with us, with me and Joe and Nicky. We’re in Verona, in that nice little townhouse. You know, the one with the big kitchen? Do you remember? Nicky made babka yesterday, you asked him to and you told him that it was the best one he’s ever made. And he promised that you can have the last few slices. Do you want to go and get some now? Come on, let’s go and get some.”
Nile hates how frantic she sounds, hates how her hands shake as she touches Andy’s knees. But all she can think to do is talk about anything and everything in the hope that Andy will hear some of it and latch onto it enough that it’ll stop the panic attack.
God, this shouldn’t be this hard. She’s had panic attacks before, and she’s helped so many friends through them. But with Andy, it’s different. It’s just wrong that this is happening to her.
“He promised it to you? Nicky you traitor,” Joe grumbles. “Do you think we can get him to make more?” He’s speaking to Andy, not Nile, and she realises that he’s taking her lead. He reaches out and detangles Andy’s left hand from her hair, and starts to stroke her fingers.
They keep talking about anything and everything, and finally Andy’s breathing starts to slow. She uncurls bit by bit until one leg is sprawled in front of her and her head is flung back against the wall. For several minutes she said nothing, just closes her eyes and breathes steadily. Finally she opens her eyes and studies each of their faces, her gaze lingering on Nile for longer than the others.
“I need a fucking drink,” she finally sighs and walks out of the room without a look back.
And then it’s only Nile, Joe and Nicky left in the room. Nile lets out a long, shuddering breath and sits back against the bed.
“You did well,” Nicky says quietly.
He runs a hand through his hair and stares pointedly at the ground. “I’m sorry, Nile. I should have done something. I should have been able to help.”
“It’s fine.” She doesn’t look at him. Her stomach is still twisting with guilt. “Having a panic attack is different from helping someone else through one, right?”
Nicky hesitates. “I…during mine, my mind isn’t really thinking. I don’t remember how I’m feeling or thinking during them, I just feel…like I’m suffocating. And I tried to think about what you all do to help me but I…my mind was blank,” he finally says.
“It’s fine,” Nile says again. “Really. I shouldn’t have expected you to know what to do.” Then she turns to Joe. “You aren’t going to kill me, are you?”
Joe shrugs and offers her a smile. “Nicky can handle himself,” he says with a snort, glancing at Nicky. His smile grows to a smirk.
Nile finds herself smiling too, albeit weaker. “We should go check on Andy, right? Make sure she doesn’t drink herself to death?”
“Yes,” Nicky says. “We should do that or all of the drink in the house will be gone. Even my wine.”
And just like that, the tension is gone. And Andy will be fine, Nile knows that. But she needs to see that for herself because seeing Andy, the strongest person she knows, looking so vulnerable has shaken her up more than she’s willing to admit.
Andy must know that too because for once, she doesn’t turn them away when they join her - instead she pulls three more glasses from the kitchen cupboard and pours each of them a glass. They spend the rest of the night like that, watching over each other and pretending that everything is fine.