I'm going to do this now so I don't take away from the ending with my ramblings.

This story has taken me forever and a day to complete. I started it on February 22, 2004 and here I am, over a year later. Yikes. To everyone who hung in there, chapter by chapter, I make a promise now to never post a fic until I'm completely done with it. I've learned my lesson with this one. :)

I've been revamping my oldest Andromeda story "TBFTGOG". If you haven't read it, by all means head over. Still sans beta, but that's my next mission. One thing at a time.

Now, a big shout out to the reviewers. You know who you are. Whether the comments were short and sweet, flame filled or even Homeric epics, they meant a great deal to me. You guys make this fandom great. If you ever want to chat outside the review page and you have a LiveJournal, my username is ewanspotter. I always love new friends.

Thanks to Echo for the prodding.

And lastly, many, many thanks to Gene's Andromeda for giving us five years of Seamus Harper and the gang. It's beenquite ajourney.

Now, on to the story. No wait, one more thing. (Har har!) Remember to leave a review. Tell me you hate my writing. Tell me you like Jedi robes and moonlit walks on the beach. Tell me you want to have my babies. Just tell me something and make this past year of my life worth it.

Chapter 16

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

-William Shakespeare "The Tempest"

After his second full day on Med Deck Harper was released into his own custody. Next to Earth, this was the most eager he'd ever felt to leave a place.

Though many of his bruises were deep and would last several weeks before fading, they were far from life threatening. The cracks on his ribs were healing but tender, his shoulder felt fine, and the internal damage was now repaired. The fracture he had tried his best to conceal on his wrist was fused with the help of the quick acting medical nanobots. Trance, however, still insisted that the bone was fragile and needed to be contained in the sling for a few more days just to be safe. He wore it just long enough to get off Med Deck.

Harper could tell it was against her better judgment to let him go, but his physical injuries were healing nicely and there was no medical reason to keep him any longer. And he sure as hell wasn't making good company. Since waking almost three days ago he had remained taciturn. He hadn't been in the mood for idle conversation, no matter who tried to initiate it. Tyr was the only one of his friends who hadn't come to see him chattering away with fake cheerfulness, probably because he was confined to his bed until his body finished healing. Then again, Harper couldn't see Tyr showing up randomly anyway. It wasn't in his nature to look that concerned for anyone but himself.

Beka had come to see him several times of course, each visit turning into a chance to ask why he was so shut off. He'd tried to explain. Tried and wanted to tell her how he felt and give her a clear picture of his emotions, but every time he looked into her face he saw a traitor. Out of everyone, her betrayal, her willingness to drop him like a bad boyfriend, was the worst.

He would have never given up on her, but now it seemed like when the chips were down, Beka Valentine was very willing to leave him high and dry.

Harper threw down his spanner in disgust. He'd been fumbling with this hydropump for the past hour and it refused to be fixed. Either that or he wasn't in the mood to repair anything. Harper clenched his shaking fist. Maybe he just needed to eat something. He'd been ignoring his stomach for a while now because he hadn't wanted to go to the commissary during peak hours. He didn't really care about any of the regular crew but he wanted to avoid the other crew if he could keep from it.

Oh, he'd be friendly and pleasant enough, but the smile would be false. Harper was sure that given time he would begin to stop thinking about the past few weeks and move on. There were far more important things going on in the galaxy to not just let this go, but he wanted to hold onto his bitter mood for just a little while. Just a bit longer, and then he would push it back with everything else and bury it.

Harper unclipped his tool belt and let it fall onto the nearly empty table. He ran his good palm across his forehead a few times as if to wipe away all his bad thoughts. At least his stay on Med Deck had allowed him to catch up on sleep. It had been real sleep too, not the nightmare filled kind he had initially expected. It seemed as if his brain was just too tired to fabricate any new terrors for him the past few days. Eventually they would come again, but for now he was thankful for small miracles.

He walked to the ship's enormous mess hall with no hurry in his stride. He passed several High Guard crew members he knew but didn't bother to offer any words of greeting, just a trite nod of acknowledgement as he walked by. The commissary, like he had expected, was nearly abandoned.

A man he didn't recognize sat in the far left nursing a steaming cup of something and reading intently from a datapad. At another table was a technician who looked to be in a hurry, shoving a fork full of greens into his mouth. The guy's name was Talis something, Harper knew. He'd worked with him a few times. Smart, quick with a joke once he got to know you. Harper, however, wasn't in the mood for jokes today and made a point to sit as far from the man once he got his food

He approached the counter where the mess bot stood waiting for orders. He asked for his usual, a kreller fish sandwich on white bread and a Sparky Cola. So far, kreller had been the closest thing to tuna fish could find on his adventures across the universe. Of all the things about Earth he missed, tuna was the third, just after Harleys and 4th of July. Harper felt himself smiling suddenly as he stood, waiting for the robot to produce his meal. He hadn't felt like smiling in days but something as silly as the memory of a tuna fish sandwich has made him feel better. Wonders never cease.

Kreller fish and Sparky in tow, Harper sat at the table farthest in back, away from the hotdrinksippingman and Talissomething. He half heartedly bit into his food and took a swig of tooth decaying liquid heaven.

He ate alone but it was a solitude he chose for himself. No one, no matter how hard they tried, could take that from him.

As uneventful as his walk to the commissary was, the trip back was just as mundane. He got back to the workshop and finished the hydropump's repairs within the hour, his concentration back on the task at hand.

Twenty minutes later he was in the middle of nanowelding sheet metal for his next project when someone called his name. Realizing he hadn't heard the door because of the hissing of the tool, Harper yanked off his protective goggles and turned to see Rommie standing patiently a few feet behind him. Anyone else and he might have very well stuck his goggles back on and kept working. He wasn't sure exactly why he could tolerate her more than the others. Maybe because he remembered she was still mechanical, all wires and intricate programs. She was forced to follow Dylan's orders, and if her captain wanted her maker incarcerated in a rubber room, she could only nod and give a clipped, 'Aye, sir.'

"Hello," he said mildly, dropping the eyewear onto the table.

"How are you feeling?" she asked kindly.

"Peachy," Harper answered. He could tolerate her more than the others true enough, but it didn't mean he wanted deep and meaningful conversation.

"Harper…" she began but paused, wincing a bit out of… pity perhaps? He couldn't tell. "Lately you've been aloof."

Harper raised an eyebrow. "Have I now? Why would I be aloof?"

Rommie frowned. "I don't know. You're angry perhaps. Upset. We know something happened to you on Sinti."

Blue human eyes narrowed icily. "I know exactly what happened to me on Sinti. My so-called friends sent me on holiday to a nut house. Not that I didn't enjoy the company. The guy next to me was a lovely fellow. Insisted his right leg was actually a broomstick. So, yeah, something happened on Sinti, Rommie. Rom Doll. Roma Doma Ding Dong."

The avatar looked a bit stricken as his tone. Almost as if he'd slapped her.

"Harper, that's not what happened. We did what we thought--"

"Was best? Good job. One mention of insanity and woah! That's the answer! Old Harper was just waiting to snap like a toothpick. Let's toss him in."


"That's my name," Harper murmured, snatching up his goggles again. He secured them onto his head and went back to welding. Boring conversation anyway.

Though he didn't know it, Rommie did not leave. Instead she stood staring sadly at his back wondering how exactly things had gone so wrong. Human emotions could be so volatile sometimes, for good or bad. What Harper was really feeling had been so buried beneath his exterior that none of them had truly gripped what was going on within him. They knew he was upset. They knew he dealing with something painful. But they hadn't suspected feelings of outright betrayal. Had they betrayed him?

Rommie looked harder at his rigid back and wondered to herself if they had been too fast in diagnosing him and leaving him behind. They hadn't wanted to do any of it, but at the time he had been too beyond sanity to see their struggle.

Rommie looked down at a nearly empty workbench. The only thing it contained was a pile of blank flexis. She reached down and pulled the top one off the group and lay a hand on it. Inside Rommie's core processor, she found her link with Andromeda and began searching for what she needed. She only hoped it would work.

A few moments later she slipped out of Harper's workshop.

As the door shut behind her Rommie saw Tyr coming down the same corridor. She knew Trance wouldn't be happy to see him up and about, though he had insisted he was fine.

Tyr's eyes meet hers as he approached, his face set in a mask of determination.

She opened her mouth in greeting but closed it when he took hold of her upper arm and said evenly, "I need your expertise."

Eventually Harper shut off the welder and secured it to his belt. He pulled off his goggles and winced as a few drops of sweet ran into his eyes, burning them with their salty makeup. He wiped his face with a nearby rag and dropped it and then his belt onto the workbench beside his project.

He couldn't say exactly what time it was, but he'd bet dollars to donuts it was past time for him to be asleep. Not that he cared what his body wanted. He was too antsy to sleep. He would just lie there looking at the ceiling and counting ewes. He might as well be doing something useful.

Deciding a beer was in order, Harper turned and headed toward the refrigerated unit he keep in the room. He could almost taste the alcohol on his lips when an alarm sounded. It wasn't the kind of warning that said the ship was under attack or that something had gone horribly awry. It was soft but insistent and coming from his workshop somewhere. He followed the beeping to one of his empty tables. No, not empty, a few flexis lay strewed across its surface, so thin he had barely noticed them from a distance. The beeping was coming from one of them. He ran his eyes over them until he found the culprit. One lone flexi lying near the far edge.

Harper picked it up. It must have been programmed to go off at a certain time, though he didn't remember ever setting it. There had to be a malfunction or something. Harper pressed the blinking red button and hoped it would stop the alarm. While the maddening sound ceased, the flexi did not remain quiet. A small image appeared in the main screen and Harper pulled it closer to his face. A little figure was talking, its image grainy. Was that the conference room?

"No. Nonononono, and oh yeah… NO!"

"Beka, you have to accept the possibly that Trance could be right."

Harper felt his throat close up. This was security footage. The datestamp on it put it at almost twelve days ago.

The figure of Beka stood suddenly, her chair tipping precariously backwards for a moment.

"It all sounds fairly theoretical to me and I refuse to just accept it. Doesn't anybody think it could possibly be stress? Huh? He's been working like a Bandomeerian racing dog trying get those new upgrades installed on Andromeda for the past week and a half."

Harper watched the next few minutes with sick curiosity. He heard Dylan try to convince his second in command to sit down and help plan their next course of action.

"I know our next course of action. I take Harper on a long, soothing holiday away from here."

The debate continued and the more they talked, the more hostile Beka became. Harper was shocked to finally see Trance slam her hands onto the table and yell at the blonde pilot.

"Do you think I want to be saying this, Beka? Do you think I take pleasure in giving this diagnosis? I damn well don't!"

Harper swallowed hard as the images continued. He watched them discuss schizophrenia and possible options for their ailing engineer. He witnessed the looks of horror, of disgust, of unrest on their faces. Even Tyr appeared less hardassed than usual.

Suddenly he saw himself on screen attacking Beka, screaming about a parasite that wasn't there. Next she was pacing Med Deck like a caged animal, then sitting near his bed as he slept, and finally there she was crying, encircled in Tyr's arms. He saw Dylan telling Beka that the doctors on Sinti would find something to help. More images of the crew appeared with confused faces yet words of hope. They seemed concerned. They seemed… scared. One final scene appeared before his eyes.

It was Andromeda's Command Deck. Beka was covering her face with her hands, Dylan standing nearby.

"Dylan… what we did… to Harper I mean… it's…"

"It's what we thought was best for him, Beka."

"I know that, I do, but there's another part of me that… feels guilty. I really don't know if we'll be… okay when this is all said and done."

He saw Dylan smile and approach, putting a hand on her arm.

"Harper loves you. You just have to trust that he'll remember that when this is over with."

The flexi cut off in his hands and Harper looked down at it in shock. He threw it across the room and backed himself into the nearest wall, sliding down to meet the flooring with jarring force. He felt suddenly ill.

It couldn't be true. None of it. They had betrayed him. They hadn't cared about him, they hadn't fought like that. They hadn't cried over him. They had sent him off with a song in their heart and a smile on their lips. There hadn't been arguments, or discussions, or people yelling at one another over what to do.

He knew none of this could have happened because the others had told him so. The others knew what had really happened. The others had witnessed the betrayal. They let him see it too.

The others had told him damnit! The others had told him. The others had told him. The others had…

The crono at her bedside read 2:56 when her door chime went off. The sudden noise within the silence of the room startled her and Beka found herself sitting up in bed, her heart beating like a hummingbird on Flash.

The chime went over again and she groaned. Company at three in the morning? Did they have a bloody death wish?

She slipped on a pair of silk sleeppants she had lying by her bed and ambled to the door. As her palm went to slap the control panel she had an image of Harper standing outside, his hair messy from sleep, one side of his face red where it had been smashed into his pillow. His clothing was also rumpled and he was barefoot. This was what he usually looked like when he had a bad nightmare, too uncaring about his appearance to try and make himself look more presentable for the walk to her room. It happened rarely, and only when the nightmares were too terrible to be alone. Why she had this image of him, with her hand paused over the door controls, she didn't know. She damn well knew it wasn't Harper of all people standing outside.

Shaking her head and clearing her throat, she pressed the button. The door slid open with a hiss.

Seamus Harper stood outside.

At first her mind couldn't comprehend what her eyes were seeing. Not dressed in sleep clothes or barefoot of course, but there he stood. Though she had come to realize in the past day that her friend for all intents and purposes hated her, there he stood. She couldn't think of a single word to say so instead just moved out of the doorway, hoping he would take the hint.

Slowly, timidly, he stepped into her quarters and past her still form. The door shut behind him and they were bathed in darkness.

"Lights," she called and illumination swallowed the shadows.

He still hadn't spoken and she silently took him in. He was pale and his eyes seemed to be hollow and empty. No happiness or anger, no loathing in them. Just nothing. Beka didn't know what to say to him because she didn't even know what he was here for. She decided to start simply with his name.


He turned from her, staring at some of the old photos she had lining her wall.

"I think I hated you, you know."

She crossed her arms and resisted the urge to bite her lip. "Okay."

"A part of me hated all of you. Dylan, Trance, Tyr, Rommie. But most of all, I hated you. I thought you had betrayed me. Out of everyone, I trusted you the most and you sent me off to Uno and Dos."

Beka shifted awkwardly. She'd been waiting for this confrontation, the declaration that ten plus years of friendship were over because of what she had done. But his words weren't making any sense. "I'm not following you, Harper. Where is… Uno?"

He continued as if he hadn't even heard her.

"I was so angry at you that it never occurred to me why I thought any of this. Why the word traitor whispered in my head over and over again, even as I tried to save you. I didn't wonder why I suddenly hated you so much after you were free of the creatures. A part of me understood what you did. Why you did it. I was just so glad to be off Sinti I didn't care how I ended up there."

He paused and ran his hands roughly over his face as he turned toward her.

"I couldn't figure out why I felt so angry, but I just stopped caring when Trace found my injuries. That just snapped all the barriers I had in place. I accepted the hatred. It made things better to just hate you. But I've realized something tonight. I know why I despised you so much now. The others told me to. They told me that you betrayed me. That you didn't care. That no one cared."

Beka swallowed, her throat dry. God she'd kill for a drink right about now. Water, vodka, whatever she could find first. "I don't understand. Who told you to hate me?"

Harper smiled sadly. Eerily. It was as if a part of him just wasn't there.

"The others."

She stepped forward. "Who are the others, Harper? Who told you I betrayed you?"

"They told me when this all started happening that you'd put me away. And then you did. They told me that you'd leave me in that place forever and I… I believed them. They told me over and over again that my friends didn't care. They told me everything."

Beka came closer, her body inches from his. Carefully she put both of her hands on his shoulders and looked down into his face, trying to find those expressive eyes she had grown so used to over the years. "Harper, who told you? You have to answer me."

He looked up at her with a clarity that sent a chill through her body.

"The Limvris."

As he said the name of the nine dead Nietzscheans, Beka felt the shoulders beneath her hands tense up. He continued to look up at her as something changed in his eyes.

"The Limvris told me. They told me you betrayed me." He repeated it again with more intensity. "The Limvris told me. The Limvris told me. I… I… believed them. Even when they were out of my body… even when they were gone… I believed them… oh God… even as I tried to save you from the same fate because I loved you so damn much, a part of me still hated you… oh God…"

He jerked from her grip and stumbled backwards.

"I hated you because those bustards who almost stole my life told me to! Figments of my mind told me lies and I ate them up like candy!"

He was yelling now, his voice rising with every word. Where only a few moments before his eyes had been empty, they now blazed with life. Tears streaked down his face and his cheeks were red with fury.

"Harper, please calm down," she tried softly, stepping closer. He only backed away.

"You don't understand!" he screamed, his anger not directed to her but something he couldn't fight. "I almost lost everything! I almost lost all I have left in this life. I would have been here physically, but that's it. I would have let go of any love I had to give. I would have lost your friendship, I would have lost Trance. Everybody else on this ship I care about. All because those stupid bugs used the Limvris to play on my worst fears!"

He looked at her with such affliction she felt her heart breaking for him.

"And the worst part… the worst part is that I let them win. I let them win. I believed with very fiber of my flippin' being that you betrayed me."

All the self-control he had managed to hold together until this very moment crumbled like the walls of Jericho under Joshua's infamous assault. He dropped to the floor, his elbows propped on his knees and his hands covering his face. The sound of erratic sobbing escaped through his clenched fingers.

For a moment Beka stood in shock. There were so many things she wanted to say, to apologize for, to thank him for. He had saved her life even when he'd been brainwashed to hate her. Life with Seamus Harper had always been odd, but it was a life she cherished above all other things.

Slowly she walked to his side and sank down on her knees next to him. Though he didn't appear to be paying attention to it, he did lean into the arms that wrapped around his shoulders and upper body.

"You're wrong. Those bugs didn't win. You beat them. You overcame your fear and destroyed them, even when you were hurt and in pain. You didn't lose anything. I'm still here and I'll always be. I love you Seamus Harper, and you'll never lose me. I promise."

She could hear the hitched breathing coming from under her chin calm, the body in her arms relaxing slightly.

"I'm so sorry, Harper," she whispered, rocking gently. "I didn't want any of this to happen. You have to believe me. We… I… thought sending you to get help was our best option. We didn't know what would happen. It was terrifying to see you sick, wondering if you were meant to spend the rest of your life… like that. I'm so sorry, Harper, so damn sorry for everything. If I could take it back in an instant I would."

There was a silence between them. Not uncomfortable necessarily, but definitely noticeable. The smashball was in his court now. He was still crying noiselessly, but suddenly she heard his quiet voice as clear as day. He only spoke two words to her, but they were enough.

"I know."

It seemed like they stayed in that moment for an eternity, the ace pilot crouched next to her eccentric engineer. His crying had subsided, but still there they sat. Neither made a move to get up. Eternity continued until Beka realized she had lost all sensation in her legs.

So startled that she couldn't feel her lower limbs, Beka suddenly toppled backwards, plopping down directly next to him. As her bottom made contact with her quarter's decking the pins and needles of flowing blood bombarded her. She looked over at Harper to see him staring. His eyes were dry. The only remains of his break down where the tracts of dried tears that lined his face. He looked better than he had in weeks.

She signed and put her hands behind her, leaning back. "We make quite a pair, don't we, Seamus?"

"Yeah," he answered slowly. A genuine smile slowly crept onto his face, and though it was still only a ghost of his usual grin, it was nevertheless a start . "Me still being the more attractive of the pair of course."

Some things, no matter the amount of glowing blue creatures or dead Nietzcheans, would ever change.

"Only in your dreams, Harper, only in your delusional dreams."

Giva Keenan arrived at the hospital at the usual early hour. Outside the brightening sky was just turning a lovely shade of purple. It would only last the shortest of moments he knew, and soon another busy day would come and go. For now, however, he would enjoy the peace of these few remaining minutes of dawn.

A passing figure saw him appreciating the morning and nodded to him curtly in greeting.

"Beautiful day, is it not?" Keenan noted.

The tall stranger paused a moment from his stroll and glanced up too. "Beautiful indeed."

Minutes later Keenan entered the building and signed in at the security booth, giving both guards a friendly hello. He stepped onto an empty lift and waited patiently as it took him to his office. There was no one about on the floor when it stopped and let him off. The night staff were preparing to leave and the patients would sleep until being served breakfast in a few hours.

The control panel on the wall scanned his palm and the door to his office unlocked. Keenan stepped in, placed his case on the floor, and then hung his coat on the hook on the wall. He slipped on the clean white medical one that was next to it and picked up his case. He walked to his desk and set it atop.

An unfamiliar object lay on his desk and Keenan frowned. It was a flexi, but it wasn't one of the hospital's standard designs. Carefully he pressed the activate button and found a waiting message addressed to him. Curiously he opened it.

On the tiny screen, security footage began to play. Keenan looked down at the barbaric images in dismay. The scenes switched several times and every time what he saw seemed worse. Keenan gripped the flexi tightly when it ended.

Calmly he commed down to the security desk and then a few minutes later briskly walked from his office down to the staff locker room. The area was empty and he frowned, pondering where he should go next. A thought occurred to him and he went back to the patient wing. The room he entered was unoccupied by a patient at this moment, though it didn't mean the room was empty. He didn't bother opening the tiny window to look inside. He somehow knew what he would find.

The door slide open and Keenan stepped inside. White padded walls met him and enveloped his vision on all sides but his back. His eyes quickly found what they sought and he took a deep breath. His two aides, Finas-Kal Grosa and Hel Mivera, seemed to have both found themselves in a precarious position. Bound hand and foot, both hung upside down by their feet. The extra rope holding them up seemed to be either nailed or pinned to the upper wall. Their dangling heads barely brushed the white flooring below.

Both aides sported matching black eyes and bloody crusted noses. Finas-Kal seemed to also have a small bleeding cut above his left eyebrow. A gag encircled their mouths and they began to mumble incoherently through the cloth when he entered. Neither looked pleased and wriggled more in their restraints.

Keenan came to a stop a few feet from the hanging twosome. He looked down at the mysterious flexi still in his grip. He couldn't explain it, but he had a feeling the dark stranger he passed this morning may have had something to do with this. The being hadn't been Perseid, but it wasn't uncommon to have offworlders at the hospital and Keenan hadn't thought anything of it at the time.

He once again turned the flexi on. Terrible abuse that angered him to his very marrow played on the small screen. Where the flexi had come from or how it had been obtained mattered little to him. He dropped it between their bobbing heads and saw their eyes open in surprise as they saw themselves. Both began to struggle in protest.

"I suppose I shall go find someone to cut you down. After that you can pack your things and never show your face here or any other medical facility again."

Keenan turned from his ex-employees and stepped into the sterile white hallway. He supposed he should go to his office and finish some much needed paperwork, maybe get some breakfast from the cafeteria and read the daily news. Then perhaps, if he had time, he'd go find maintenance to cut Finas-Kal Grosa and Hel Mivera down.

The door sealed shut behind him. A nearby window caught his attention and Keenan stared out into the morning sunlight, still blooming in the sky.

He took in the new day and nodded to himself. "Beautiful indeed."

in the dark the footsteps came for him.

sometimes in his dreams he could still hear their voices. shadowed, hideous faces calling his name. they wanted him. they wanted his soul.

but just as a bony hand reached for him in his dreams, another would grab his and pull him toward the light. he wasn't alone anymore.

though they were still coming, he only walked faster.

the footsteps faded…

the footsteps faded…

the footsteps faded…

-El FIN-