Old Friends, Part 18: Epilogue: The meaning of love

The two crews assembled in the airlock so say goodbye: the Shoulder of Orion had an urgent cargo of medical supplies to deliver, and had to leave immediately.

Dylan shook Mark's hand, "Good luck captain." Mark smiled, "Thank you sir. When you've gotten the Commonwealth back together, let us know: I'll be happy to help." Dylan nodded, "I will. You're a good officer, just what the High Guard will need." Mark's smiled broadened to a grin, "I look forward to that day Captain."

Orion took Rommie to one side, their backs to the others, "Now, three- hundred years ago you once told me you had feelings for Captain Hunt over there. Do you still?" Rommie blushed, "Is it that obvious?" Orion smiled and put an arm round his friend protectively, "If it was that obvious, he would have recognised his own feelings for you, and this discussion would be moot." Rommie was about to say something, but Orion stopped her, "I've had five-hundred years of watching people develop feelings for one another, and I'd like to think that I'm pretty good at knowing when they will. Hang in there: he'll come round one day." Rommie hugged her friend, "Thank you."

Harper and Mary stood in each other's arm, unwilling to part. Harper looked at Mary, "You can still stay: I've asked Dylan, and he says it's ok." Mary shook her head, "I wish I could, I really do, but I need time to think things over. I can't go on like I have: picking fights with every Nietzschean I meet. I've got to come to terms with that part of my personality, of who and what I am. I'll come back to you Seamus, I promise. I'll probably complicate your life incredibly, but I do love you." Harper kissed her, "And I love you to." Mary broke away from him, tears filling her eyes.

The airlock closed, cutting of the crew's view of their friends. Harper and Rommie stayed while the others walked off. Rommie put an arm around her chief engineer, "She'll be back. Orion told me that she's never been like this about anyone before. She loves you." Harper nodded, "I know, that's why it hurts so much."

Harper stood alone on the observation deck, looking out the window. In the distance, the Shoulder of Orion entered slipstream. He looked down at the photo in his hand, his only record of Mary: she was stood against the wall of his quarters, her light brown hair just reaching her shoulders, a few strands hanging over her face, and she was smiling. God he loved that smile! Just thinking about it made his stomach ache with the want of her. He knew she'd be back, but still the parting hurt.

The hatched opened, and Harper smiled through the tears, "I was wondering when you'd turn up." Rev Bem nodded, "It seems that my station on this ship is as much to mend peoples hearts as their body's." Harper nodded, "We all have our places in the universe, and mine is with her. But she had to leave. I know she did, and I know she'll be back, but it still hurts." Rev Bem smiled, "Maybe that's what love is: that felling for another. Goodnight, Mr Harper." Rev left Harper with his thoughts.

The End