Bar Fights and Tears

AN: While quite happy to enjoy S5, I have to say the one thing I really regret about this series is the complete decline in Harper and Trance's friendship. So I wrote this, set during 'The Eschatology of our Present', while Trance is stil amnesiatic and vulnerable and Harper has just taken over the running of the bar. Please read and review!

Discalimer: Don't own the characters, ain't making any money, yadda, yadda, yadda.

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"You know Trance, you are not good for business," Harper told his golden companion as he counted his takings, the bar now empty for the day, "half price drinks? Come on! It's gonna take me weeks to make that up!"

She tipped her head to one side, curiously, "weeks?"

"Yes, weeks, Trance," Harper brandished a handful of paper notes at her, "a long time. You know? Days? Seven? In a week? Seven sevens? A lot of time?"

She gave him another blank look. "Time?"

"Yeah, time," Harper shoved the notes away and picked up another bundle, "a concept that should really be ingrained somewhere into that mysterious sparkly noggin of yours."

She only blinked at him in a somewhat confused seeming manner, swinging her legs from her perch on the end of the bar. Harper sighed. Trance was unnerving when she was like this. She could break up a fight in a bar (albeit with an extremely expensive solution), but didn't know what the word 'time' meant. And she had serious trouble holding onto certain information. He had had to introduce himself to her over thirty two times in one week before she had finally committed him to her long term memory. Apparently, it was getting better. Beka had had to tell Trance her name about ten times a morning for nearly a month before the alien finally caught on.

Harper stowed the last of his money in it's security safe (under the floorboards behind the bar), and grabbed a bottle of beer from a crate at the back, "you want a drink, Trance?"

She twisted round to look at him, "drink?"

"Beer?" He held up the bottle, "you used to have quite the taste for alcohol… 'course, that was when you were purple… though you could still down it pretty fast when you were… uh… well, before we were here, but after that."

She stared at him, "I was purple?"

"Yup," Harper grinned and cast around for something to demonstrate with. He discovered a piece of coloured glass from a smashed spirits bottle, and held it up for her to see, "you were about this colour."

Trance covered her mouth and giggled, clearly not quite believing him.

"So," Harper continued, "you want a drink?"

She shook her head, "just water."

"Water, huh?" Harper swiped a fairly clean looking glass and filled it from the tap, "that what you drink on the Andromeda?"
She nodded, "and milk."

"Milk?" He raised his eyebrows, incredulous.

"The Andromeda synthesises it for me," she shrugged, "I like it. And Dylan says it will make me stronger. He says I need to keep my strength up."

"Dylan says…" Harper muttered, shaking his head. "Does he give you honey, too?"

"Honey?"
He waved her off, "never mind. Here's your water."

She took the glass, and sipped, stoically, continuing to scrutinise him from her perch. He raised an eyebrow, "what?"
She shook her head, "was I really purple?"

Harper almost laughed, "yup. And there are pictures to prove it. Ask the Andromeda, next time you're up there. She'll fish 'em out of the archives for you. Here," he offered her the shard of coloured glass, "just about that colour. Careful, though. It's sharp."

She took it with curios fingers, and turned it over. "Dylan doesn't like me touching sharp things, either."

"What?"

"I cut myself, the other week," she continued to examine the glass, "it was an accident. I didn't know what the knife was for. Dylan said he didn't want me to touch sharp things again for a while."

"Great," Harper raised his eyebrows.

"He's trying to take care of me," Trance went on, as if feeling some need to defend her protector, "he wants to protect me, and keep me on the Andromeda, because he thinks it's safer there. But it makes him sad, I think. He wishes I could still take care of him. But I can't. I can't take care of myself. I can't help it."

Carefully, she placed the piece of glass aside, and sipped her water again, twisting a lock of tarnished-gold hair round her fingers.

"You used to take care of Dylan," Harper said, softly, "you used to take care of all of us. You remember that, right?"
She giggled, though there was something distinctly… melancholic about it, "I used to try. You all got into so much trouble so much of the time… You always got sick and Beka always got shot at and…"
Harper couldn't help a grin, "yeah. We… we were a little accident prone, weren't we?"

"So many possibilities," Trance shuddered and hid her face in her wrists, suddenly looking frightened, "you all kept dieing, over and over and over… I saw you all… one by one, as you just fell away from me and I could never do anything, until I found the right piece, the right branch, and every time, just managed to get everyone out, every time it came closer and closer to one of you falling… every time I felt you stop breathing… still… breathing… breathing. Process of aerobic respiration whereby the organism takes in oxygen from surrounding environment to convert into energy within the blood stream; process is vital for the majority of mammals within sixty seven thousand, four hundred and thirty eight million realities; failure to continuously respire leads to death, whereby the organism fails to function and… cannot be revived."

Okay. This was one of those times when he wished there was someone else around to help deal with Trance's freakiest moments. He'd seen episodes like this once or twice before, but both had been with Dylan around to take her to one side and calm her down. She seemed simply to become too frightened by her own thoughts to keep… thinking, so she started spouting facts, odds, definitions.

"Trance?" He put aside his drink and hesitantly took a few steps towards her. She had curled herself into a tight ball, her legs drawn up to her chest, head down, rocking a little, still muttering about 'aerobic respiration' and 'sixty seven thousand, four hundred and thirty eight million realities'.

She shook her head, jerking away from him when he tried to touch her, "Trance, if Dylan comes in here and finds you like this, he's gonna kill me. Come on, calm down, it's okay. You still saved us, right? We're still here, we're alive, everyone's breathing perfectly normally."

Trance shuddered and shook herself, trying to dispel the half-forgotten demons which haunted her, knotting her fingers together. "I had to… protect everyone and… keep everyone safe and now… now… I can't… I can't do it any more because I lost… I can't remember how… how… I can't remember…"

Tears glistened in her charcoal coloured eyes, and Harper felt a blinding flash of panic. Don't cry. Please don't cry. Dear God, don't cry!

But she seemed determined to terrify him, because she buried her head in her knees and began to sob, pitifully.

Oh God, Dylan is gonna gut me if he finds out about this…

"Trance, I am begging you now, as a friend and a helpless crew-mate, don't do this to me!"

No response, his only reply being more heart-broken weeping.

"Aw, crap," Harper moaned, "okay… okay, Seamus, think. Think! Greatest genius in the universe but you can't keep one mysterious alien babe on the straight and level emotional plain."

Trance continued to whimper, her shoulders shaking, head buried in her knees. Harper looked at her helplessly for a second, then felt galvanised into action. She was his best friend, always had been, always would be. He couldn't stand by while she sobbed so desolately.

"Alright, Trance, okay, come on," he sighed and clambered up beside her on the bar, then, cautiously, slid an arm around her shoulders.

It took no prompting at all for her to curl up against him, taking handfuls of his shirt into tightly curled fingers, her head pressed into his chest.

"See? You're okay," Harper murmured, patting the top of her head.

Trance snuffled something unintelligible into his shirt and huddled closer.

"I'm scared," she whispered, barely audible, wiping her nose on her sleeve beneath his elbow.

"Everybody's scared, Trance," Harper pointed out, honestly, "scared of life, scared of death, scared of this hell-hole… it's okay to be scared, Trance."

"Because everybody is?"

"Yeah. But nobody talks about it." Harper wrested his chin on top of her head and smiled, "Rhade's too drunk to string two words together half the time, Beka's too busy being hard-assed about the whole thing, Doyle likes to pretend nothing ever bothers her, Dylan's just… trying to be brave, I guess, and me… you know me, I mean, I'm always scared, why would I start talking about it now?"

Trance managed a half-hearted giggle. "You're a nice man, Seamus Harper. I'm sure you always have been."

"I'm the best, Trance," Harper sighed into her curls, "I'm the best."