Title:: Hard to Handle

Author:: Lokaia

Rating:: PG

Summary:: The title sucks. None of my songs fit. Radu/Bova angst slash.

Disclaimer:: if it was mine, my life would be a hell of a lot more interesting.

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It seemed like the time for reminiscing. Like it was the natural thing to do when you only had a few hours to live. It seemed like the perfect time for Radu to retire to his quarters, relax as much as he was able, and think about his life.

Or rather, the best part of his life.

They had eventually left the Christa. She had left them at the Starcademy, and even Thelma had professed a certain regret at seeing them go. Harlan had volunteered what they were all thinking first.

"Can't we just pretend you never dropped us off?"

Apparently that wasn't the Christa's plan. Thelma merely shook her head. Her former crew mates said goodbye and watched that beautiful ship fly off into the dark, now familiar expanse of space.

How easily the Christa had become home, and now that they were back, how much the Starcademy, the Sol System as a whole, felt like an extended vacation.

[A vacation of ten years] Radu thought with a smile.

Commander Goddard's charges were dropped, and that was completely thanks to the Christa and the records she had been keeping on them all since they had boarded her. Goddard was able to give enough evidence of his innocence to not be court-martialed, at the very least.

He still had no future in the military, but he wasn't in jail, either.

The Starcademy had hired him as a teacher, and the last time Radu had heard from the man, he seemed to be enjoying it. Radu guessed he was secretly hoping his students would board a strange, alien vessel when he wasn't looking.

Ms. Davenport's firing remained, but she was re-hired. Not as vice principal as before, but as a teacher. She and *Professor* Goddard had established a friendship that kept them both sane in what now seemed like an incredibly boring environment.

Suzee, as far as Radu knew, was still searching for a way to switch back with Cat. When they had arrived at the Starcademy, she was immediately whisked away for questioning. After proving that she was indeed nothing their scientists had ever seen, the STARDOGS offered her a team of scientists and whatever else she needed for her research. Suzee was ecstatic.

Catalina was fairing well in Yensid, Suzee said. She had become a productive engineer. At least, that was what Radu *thought* she was. It had been so long, he had trouble even remembering the simplest things about Catalina: how tall she was, the sound of her voice, the order of colors in her hair...

It also astonished him how much he didn't seem to mind his indifference to the Saturnian. He had only known her for a year, true, but technically she had been with them all along.

Still, it didn't disturb him at all to continue reviewing his life without a second thought to her.

Rosie had, unsurprisingly, been immediately accepted to a medical graduate school. She had graduated from that within the year and was now aboard the most prestigious medical ship in the galaxy. After she'd been *there* only two years, she was promoted to head doctor.

Not a single member of the Christa was surprised.

Bova had gone on to graduate school as well, also graduating early. None of this was accreditted solely to him, however, as he hadn't really *tried* to do any of this. Most of it was thanks to the Christa again who showed how competent he had been as her Tactical Officer and scientist. He was one of the best in his field and five years earlier had been transferred to Radu's current ship, the Vernet.

Harlan had flourished to a surprising degree. Within four years, he had graduated from the military and been promoted to Captain. Two more years and he had made Commander, transferring to the Vernet with both Radu and Bova. It was the closest relationship they had had since their days on the Christa, and Radu personally had loved it.

However, when Harlan was offered a position to own and pilot an official STARDOG ship, there hadn't been a second thought toward what he would decide. There were goodbyes, of course, but reflecting on it, Radu realized it hadn't been nearly as sincere or heart-wrenching as when they had initially seperated from the Christa.

They had all grown apart, and depressing as it was, it was also to be expected.

Radu himself had done exceptionally well. Thought not officially "exiled" from Andromedan society, he had been politely asked never to return. Radu surprised himself by how much he hadn't minded.

But he was accepted to a STARDOG graduate school, trained to be a navigator and was a natural. The Vernet was an incredibly well-accredited ship and when news had reached Radu that the ship needed a new navigator, he hadn't wasted a moment applying. The rate at which he was accepted had surprised him, though since his credentials from both the STARDOGS and the Christa had been sent to the Commander of the Vernet, it probably shouldn't have.

They had all lead good lives. True, they had grown apart but there had been other friends, and those seven years on the Christa had done them all a world of good.

It was almost enough to console him now.

It had been a retrieval mission. A STARDOG ship sending out an S.O.S. from uncharted space, and the Vernet had replied. No one had expected to come out of hyperspace and directly into an asteroid field.

Radu supposed it was just extraordinary "luck" that the first barrage of asteroids had taken out their engines, the second going for their weaponry.

The S.O.S. ship arrived shortly after and somehow, Radu hadn't been surprised. Perhaps it was from growing up so soon after the Spung/UPP war and all the fear still surrounding the race, but he had always thought in the back of his mind that he would die at the hands (or claws) of the Spung. He hadn't seen Warlord Shank and accredited that to the fact that the Warlord didn't know two of the crew of the Christa were onboard.

Either that or Shank was dead.

So far as he knew, Elmira had been dead for years. He had last spoken to her during his fifth year on the Christa and then, suddenly, her messages had simply stopped.

He had been heart-broken at the time, but it seemed so ridiculous now. It wasn't as if they could have had any future together, and it didn't take long for his grief-ridden heart to understand that either.

With the Spung ship monitoring all out-going calls, Radu had left messages to all of the former crew of the Christa. Speaking with them wouldn't help, he thought, and it didn't really matter. He had been a good soldier to the STARDOGS. Perhaps a mediocre Andromedan, but a good friend to those who needed him, and he supposed that balanced him out.

A knock at the door of his quarters called him out of his reverie. "Come in."

The door slid neatly aside to reveal Bova. That wasn't much of a surprise.

Radu smiled. "I was wondering when you'd come down."

"Well, you could have come to see me," the Uranusian replied, crossing the room to sink into a chair across from Radu.

"I was calling. I didn't think you'd want to be present."

"You were right." Bova regarded him with a blank look he knew so well. They hadn't been especially close, either on the Christa or the Vernet, but Radu knew the Uranusian before him was the closest thing he had to a link to the past. "I only left them messages," Bova was saying.

"I did, too." Bova's only reply was to raise his eyebrows. "Did you do the same for your parents?" Radu asked.

Bova shook his head. "No, I spoke to them. They showed me the grave stone they'd picked out. It was nice."

Radu raised his eyebrows. "They'd already picked out your grave stone?"

"Actually, they give them to you when you're born, with your birth certificate. You fill in your death date later."

Unable to decide if Bova was kidding or not, Radu merely nodded. "Did they tell you how much time?"

"An hour, I think. The other T.O.'s thought we might be able to hold them off for a bit with our reserve weapons, but they were wrong. I--"

"Always knew it would end this way?" Radu supplied, smiling.

Bova made a face. "I suggested sending all remaining power to the core."

Radu cocked an eyebrow. "If we go down, they'll go with us?"

"God willing."

That surprised him. It was possibly the first religious reference he'd ever heard from Bova. Radu nodded again and the two men were silent for a moment.

"Do you regret anything, Bova?"

"Of course."

"Anything more than the rest."

Bova considered that for a moment. "Yes," he said slowly. "There are a few things I wish I'd done. If I have time, I might do them before we all croak. What about you?"

Radu averted his gaze, focusing on a film he had posted to the wall. Seven strangers, trapped on an alien ship, with a defunct android. So long ago...

"Yes. There are a few things." He turned back to Bova. "What 'things' are you going to take care of before we..." Despite his calm tone, Radu couldn't bring himself to say the specific words.

Bova shrugged, unbothered by the unfinished sentence. "One of them was calling, another was to talk to you. Those were the only ones I could think of."

Radu smiled. "It seems like we should be talking about something profound. Things that happened on the Christa or something."

"That's part of what I wanted to talk to you about." Bova's expression remained unresponsive to Radu's raised eyebrows. "There was a time... Harlan went through this phase where he wanted to play Truth or Dare all the time..."

Radu laughed. "I remember. I think he did it to specifically torture me."

"And me. He must have made us kiss at least eight times that year."

Radu grinned. "Suzee had a theory for that, but I don't think she ever had the courage to tell Harlan about it."

"She'd never tell. Anyway, the last time he ever made us, do you remember? You came up to kiss me and I pushed you away (or rather, pushed and stepped backwards myself) and told Harlan I didn't want to be a part of his sick games anymore."

Radu nodded. "I remember that."

Bova met his eyes and shrugged. "What I wanted to tell you is that I wish I hadn't pushed you away." He shrugged again at Radu's blank look. "I'd never have told you, but considering we're going to die soon anyway..."

"I see." They sat in silence for a few moments, neither willing to speak. An alarm interrupted them and the voice of their acting Lieutenant flooded the room.

"All hands to Obs Deck."

The command was half-hearted, as if already knowing that practically no one would go. It was one order that wouldn't be punished for disobeying.

Bova stood slowly. "I'm going to go. I'd like to see it."

Radu nodded. "I would too."

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It was actually surprising how many people had shown up to Obs Deck. Granted, it was less than half the crew, but it was ten times as many as Radu had thought would show. He and Bova stood together near the doorway, having come in late.

The screen was transparent, allowing the crew to see the ship before them. Weaponry was powering up slowly, slower than they needed to, Radu knew. He supposed it was meant to scare them, but looking around, it didn't look as if anyone particularly cared anymore.

And if Bova was right about the amount of power in the core, the Spung wouldn't be around long enough to care about how much the Vernet and its crew were tortured.

Green light crackled around the tips of the Spung ship. Everything about the Spung was green, Radu remembered. The only thing he remembered not being green was Elmira's slightly garish purple make-up and the "cattle-prod" Shank carried, which was red. But everything else was green. Just in case you forgot they were walking reptiles.

"Receiving message, Commander."

"What is it?" Even she sounded tired, almost bored.

"'Five minutes'."

The Commander rolled her eyes. "Going for effect, are they? Send a message of a counter. Set time at five minutes. Show them that we really don't give a damn."

Second turned into minutes, minutes turned into...well, more minutes. When two minutes was announced, Radu sighed.

"What's wrong with you?" Bova asked.

"Bova..."

"What?"

"Truth or Dare?"

Neither man was looking at each other, but Radu could feel the surprise radiating from the Uranusian.

"Dare."

He turned slowly, knowing the clock was set at a minute and a half. "Dare. Don't push me away."

In front of a considerable portion of the crew of the Vernet, a Spung ship, and their own awareness, Radu wrapped his arms around his crewmate, his friend, and kissed him.

There wasn't even a moment's hesitation before Bova was responding, his arms around Radu's neck.

Gazing into Bova's dark eyes, Radu saw the bright flash of green light. And didn't give a damn.

Then all went dark.

Truth or Dare.