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Slow Turn
(Prompt: Delirious)


The first time he'd said it, she'd responded by saying he must be delirious.

That was Julia, always assuming he wasn't serious. Not that she didn't have reason of course, but he'd meant it when he'd said it. Still, they'd had plenty of time to argue it out; it was a long trip to New Pacifica. Heck, she might even have been right to dismiss it. So he'd laughed, and ignored the tiny little pinprick of pain in his heart.

The second time he'd said it, he probably was delirious. Some sort of odd, cold-like bug had been working its way through the camp. It was ultimately harmless, but the fever that came along with it was so high that some of the lighter-skinned members of their group had actually been burned. Alonzo had tried to brave it out when it was his turn, but he'd never been very good at things like that.

Julia had smiled, with a mixture of skepticism and indulgence in her expression, and replaced the cool cloth on his face.

The third time he'd said it, he definitely hadn't been delirious. They'd been on the beach at what they'd thought was New Pacifica. Her only reply had been to turn away. Later, in the caves, when she let him kiss her in public, he'd thought she'd finally decided to believe him.

But when they got back, Julia never mentioned the exchange and she insisted on keeping their interactions light and playful. "It's for both our protection," she'd said when he'd asked. "To keep us from getting hurt when the time comes." And he'd realized she still hadn't believed him, after all.

In a group this small, it wasn't always the best idea to unburden your soul to someone else. Secrets are best kept when unshared. So Alonzo kept the hurt to himself and focused on other things. Nobody would notice.

Even though winter was waning, they still weren't quite ready to break camp and that meant long stretches of time with nothing to do. Julia, of course, had plenty to keep her busy. He tried to help, but sometimes things were so far over his head that he was really more of a hindrance. Not wanting to be a problem, he'd stay away, and in those times of enforced boredom he'd sometimes get to thinking. It wasn't always easy to push the hurt out of his heart.

In time, he came to believe that his truly delirious moment was when he'd thought that she might one day believe him.

Then one day Bess looked at him with an odd expression. "Alonzo, keep giving it time. She'll come around."

"She will?"

"It was hard enough for you, wasn't it? It's even harder for her to believe you." She smiled. "Six months ago, you were counting the days, minutes and hours until you could get off this planet."

He looked at her sideways. "Sometimes I wonder if she is still counting."

"She isn't. She just doesn't know it yet." Patting his arm, she headed for another part of the dome, leaving him wondering just how many more times he'd have to say it before Julia believed him.

I think I'm going to stick around.