He would never have that closeness with the Andromeda's crew again. No matter what they would endure together and what they had survived before this, they couldn't forget what he had hidden from them. He could feel them wondering sometimes if he was hiding something else. Promising them that he was their ally would do no good; one didn't have to like an ally, let alone engage in relaxed, teasing dialogue with one. He would miss that the most, and Beka's heated little glares when she thought he couldn't see. It had all been so honest.

Telemachus was no psychic; he fought for his beliefs with all his strength and knew others were doing so as well, but he couldn't say that he knew the ending to all this. Likely it wouldn't end, and the Dragans with their Commonwealth allies would threaten them until the day he died, but at least he was part of an alliance that would fight them for as long as needed.

Harper hopped down from his bunk to fall nearly atop Rhade. "Hey, where'd you come from?" He righted himself. "Er, that wasn't an invitation to grace me with your lineage."

"You humans never do appreciate a good familial recitation when you hear it. I returned from the cockpit where Captain Valentine was updating me on strategy."

Harper sat on the lower bunk and gripped the bars above him. "It's back to Captain Valentine, huh?" He sighed. "I hate it when people tell me they know how I feel, but I think I kinda know how you might feel. You never can go home." He nodded. "Believe me, I know what it's like to do something you think is for the good of everyone, and even when you succeed, it's never the same.

"You left the Andromeda for the Nietzschean Alliance, even if you never left your quarters, and I left Earth for the Maru. I was sure I'd come back and help one day… and I did. I don't know how much good it did, but it riled up the Dragans pretty good, and that's always a success, as found in the World According to Harper. When I did came back, I had on new clothes and cool toys, and I'd lost that sorta pale, pinched look that everyone in the ghetto gets sooner or later. There was always that distance between us after that, between me and the rest of the gang. Boston hadn't changed, and they thought I had."

Telemachus couldn't speak for a couple of seconds. "But you hadn't, not really. You were the same person who left them, but your friends looked a little different this time." He paused. "The World According to Harper?"

"Oh yeah." Harper grinned. "Great book. Pissing off the Dragans takes up a couple of chapters. You know, we really need to look into investing in a few dozen shrillers."

Rhade looked pained. "How about investing in a few dozen earplugs first? We may have new friends, but we're still allies."

Harper laughed. "Hey, that's your business. Isn't the Nietzschean motto something about always being prepared?"

"If I catch one of those things laying around, I will repay you the agony a shriller with the recitation of my illustrious lineage until your ears bleed."

Maybe he did have new friends now, but none of them could have appreciated this moment. A few days later, Telemachus returned to the battle with more optimism for himself and his allies than he'd felt in a long time. After all, the Dragans didn't have shrillers.


A/N: And that's all, folks! I know, I know, I suck at endings. My other Andromeda WIP, Where We Come From, is being dredged up after the travails of NaNo, so expect it to begin appearing again soon-ish!