After all the years of training, all the years of preparation for the journey to the sun, there were yet some crew members aboard Icarus II that did not sleep easily.
Cassie sighed as she shifted positions inside her small bed. The filtered halogen lights of Icarus II, which were dimly lit as always during the ship's night cycle, shed just enough light on the digital calendar on the wall by her bed. Five more minutes and it would be 12:00 A.M., November 18th, 2057….six months to the day since the crew of Icarus II had begun their flight towards the sun. Six months…how much of that time had she spent trying to avoid looking Mace in the eye? Every day, every moment they passed each other in a corridor, brushed against each other while going about the flight deck was a nerve-wracking moment for Cassie. If not for that one night, so many months ago she wondered, would she now be so uncomfortable in Mace's presence? Surely all the rest of the crew, save Searle, wondered at the tension between them in their day-to-day duties, Cassie was sure of this. How could they not? Cassie could not even bring herself to lift her eyes to Mace's face on most occasions, and when she did, all she saw were those deep brown eyes filled with a single thing: expectation. Cassie knew what Mace wanted, hoped for, even wished for: contact. Just a few small words, a nod, even a smile.
Cassie rolled over again, her mind replaying the events of last night's dinner. It had been Corazon's turn for the night's dinner shift, which meant good things for the crew. Cassie had never been a particularly dab hand at cooking, but she wasn't bad either. Her talent paled in comparison to Corazon, however; besides herself and the slender, quiet biologist, few else amongst the crew could be counted upon for decent cooking- Harvey, surprisingly, was skilled in the kitchen, as were Capa and Searle. Mace was merely adequate, Kaneda's meals were passable, and as for Trey, whenever it was his shift, the crew seemed to be strangely without their appetites. Last night Corazon had turned out a wonderful vegetable stir-fry, yet Cassie had barely picked at her food.
Cassie finished typing in the coordinates for Icarus's night cycle.
"Icarus, coordinates have been set for next twelve hours during crew's sleep cycle"
"Affirmative, Cassie. Icarus now transferring pilot control to ship computer for night cycle."
Cassie looked up at the ship's dashboard clock. Seven o'clock. Just in time for dinner. The rest of the crew would just be sitting down to eat.
A wonderful jasmine perfume was in the air as Cassie came into the crew's quarters. Aaah, of course- Corazon had kitchen shift tonight. Kaneda and Harvey were already at the table, deep in conversation. Capa and Trey were collecting their food from Corazon, and Searle was filling the cups. Mace was nowhere in sight. "Just in time" Corazon said as she passed Cassie a steaming plate of vegetables and noodles, Perfect, mused Cassie as she turned around to head to the table. Just enough time to sit down with-
Cassie collided with something tall and solid, stumbling backwards. A hand reached out, coiling around her waist, pulling her to his body and away from the floor. Mace. Mace, with his shirt now drenched in carrots, broccoli, noodles and of course, Corazon's savory jasmine sauce. Cassie slowly brought her eyes up to Mace's face.
"Nothing to be sorry about, Cass." Mace's face was calm and collected, his eyes boring back into hers. Cassie blushed, suddenly embarrassed at the closeness of their bodies as she felt Mace's arms around her. "You can let go of me now, Mace." Cassie said, fervently wishing she could find something else to focus her eyes upon.
"Sure thing." Mace's hands slid away, now occupied with picking carrot slices off his shirt. "I'm glad I made extra. You want a towel, Mace?" Corazon called from behind the galley. "Nah, I'll just change real quick. Cassie probably planned the whole thing just to get my shirt off anyway." Mace offered Cassie a mischievous grin before pulling off the stained garment, exposing his well-toned chest and abs. Cassie could not help but stare for long moment at the exposed skin, unwelcome memories flooding through her mind. Had it really been so long ago, before she learned to avoid him, that they had shared that one wonderful night?
"Cassie, help me clean this mess up, okay?" Corazon's voice brought Cassie back to reality as she felt a dishtowel being placed in her hand. Numbly, Cassie knelt to begin cleaning up the spilt food, her mind still on Mace. So much for avoiding him tonight… All too soon she found herself at the dinner table, facing Kaneda and Harvey, with Capa and Searle on her left and Corazon and Trey on her right…which left her stuck next to Mace.
Harvey was describing in great detail to the crew his honeymoon with his wife Michelle, and was being shamelessly egged on by Searle and Trey. It was a story that Cassie knew any other night she might have enjoyed, but tonight all she could think of was Mace. Sighing, she reached out across the table for a napkin and drew back, promptly colliding with Mace's arm, tipping her glass of water directly into her plate of stir-fry. "Shit" muttered Mace, grabbing for some napkins to mop up the quickly spreading puddle. "Clean up on aisle four" Harvey snickered, momentarily distracted from his story.
"I guess we're two for two now, huh Cass?." Mace offered up another cheeky grin.
"Yeah, I guess so." Cassie offered a wan smile. "You don't have to clean that up Mace. It was my fault…again. Let me do it."
"No, no, I've got this. I'll just get rid of this…" Mace stood up and tossed Cassie's ruined meal into the nearby sink before sitting back down. You'll just share with me." Mace slid his plate between them, and handed Cassie's fork back to her. "Dig in." Mace smiled, laying his hand on her shoulder. Cassie suddenly recalled a moment, months ago, of herself wrapping an arm around Mace as she passed him a glass of wine. No, she decided. Don't dwell on it. That's what got you into this whole funk. Sighing, she dug into her vegetables
Cassie shifted in her bed once more. The clock now read 4: 30 A.M. The day cycle aboard Icarus II didn't begin until 7:30 A.M., but what was the use of trying to go back to sleep? The night had been thankless enough already all she had managed to achieve was a few meager hours of rest, broken only by an extended trip down memory lane. Sitting up, Cassie groggily tucked a stray stand of hair behind her ear, resolving to get more sleep tomorrow night.