"Capa, you coming?"

Capa looked up; Searle.

"All work and no play makes Capa a dull boy," he insisted. Capa looked over the computer screen and glanced at the paper beside him, looking at numbers he'd run over again and again. It never got dull, not once he thought about the final result, the sparks, the detonation; the ultimate explosion and the beauty it would be. Assuming his numbers were right. Assuming Payload worked.

"Who's going?" he asked warily. He didn't want to go out, get drunk, play darts, or get involved in inane conversations that he'd hate himself for in the morning. Or whatever going out entitled. Usually he declined.

Usually Mace was out with them.

"Everyone except Kaneda," Searle said, taking a step closer, hands in his pockets. "He's got a family thing."

Capa pressed his lips together. There was that feeling that 'Yes! Of course!" was what he should say, that eager feeling of compliance that comes with being asked out socially after spending the entire day alone, maybe exchanging a few words here and there only to get things done. It was a compulsion he'd never been able to cure himself of, and it'd been there since high school. Though, it wasn't an entirely bad idea to go out.

All work and no play makes Capa a dull boy.

"Yeah, alright, just give me a few minutes to clean up here," he conceded. Head doctor knows best; so what if Mace was going? It wasn't as though there wasn't a whole bar's worth of space, and it wasn't as though he couldn't just leave if things got out of hand, like they usually did. And there was always the rest of the crew.

"Good, I'll meet you out front, we can go together."

Capa nodded and began to collecting his papers and saving files. The mess worked outwards and about ten programs were open at once on the taskbar, something he didn't notice as he was working, usually only focusing on whatever was up against his nose at the time.

He stepped out of the centre, walking towards Searle, who was looking up at the sign.

"We have testing in a few days again," he said thoughtfully as though the sign and him had been having a very spiritual connection and such information had been communicated. He often said things with that tone, as though there were something behind everything, something that he didn't understand, but simply enjoyed the mystery of. Maybe there was something. Sometimes Capa liked to entertain the idea that there was too. But then he always ended with thinking of numbers and elements; solid things. Things he didn't have to imagine, things that he knew were there and would stay there and if they weren't, he'd know that was a formula to explain why there wasn't. Sometimes, maybe because of the backgrounds of science they all had, he caught Searle snapping out of his moments with what he assumed were similar thoughts to his own, a vein of cynicism that sometimes stamped out the mystic's tone that filtered out.

"Fun," Capa said dryly, thinking of the endless running, swimming, toss this, jump there. And the competition. It really only mattered that they passed the standards the centre set, but it always degraded into a competition, where some competed more nicely that others.

"You'll beat him eventually," Searle assured, coming back down to earth and clasping Capa over the shoulder and turning him out towards his vehicle. Capa hummed a dubious response and rolled his eyes. Searle was referring to the way that Mace had singled out Capa to rub it in his face how he'd bested him (and everyone else, but especially him) in the tests. Trained as a physicist, Capa wasn't certain what Mace thought that he was achieving by singling him out and beating him in arenas Capa had never cared much about. Maybe it was because out of the men, he often competed with Trey for the lowest and that somehow offended his idea of 'manhood'. But he never bothered Trey about it.

Mace is a bully, Capa reminded himself. It was a simple explanation, but it didn't really help his spirits to think of it. Even if Mace was a bully, Capa couldn't shake the feeling that it might only be because he'd gone and made himself a prime target simply by being there.

He sighed, he tried not to care; it wasn't like this was high school, or even university. Mace was just someone he had to work with, another asshole in a long list of assholes he'd encountered in his life.

They drove out over the highway and through the streets, the soft hum of electricity, snow and pavement lulling Capa to sleep. Driving always made him feel slow and sluggish, primarily why he let other people do the actual steering bit. He couldn't imagine how he'd feel on Icarus II in three months time. Maybe he'd be comatose until they reached the sun. If only he'd be so lucky. He'd been told that they wouldn't even notice the movement unless they were making turns or something hit them.

What cheery thoughts, he mused, rubbing his thumb and fingers on his temples as he stepped out of the car, shaking the sleep off of him and rubbing it out of his eyes. He looked at the sign to the place, a cheap piece of painted over pressboard. Above it was an old sign, one that would be lit up if the bylaw's weren't in place to restrict street lighting to the street lamps in an attempt to save energy. Looking down the street, it wasn't busy; this was just another drop in the bucket bar.

"You take me to all the nicest places," Capa sighed. It wasn't the furnishing he saw as he stepped in that dampened his mood, or even the thick smell of smoke and booze trapped by poor ventilation; the place was cramped, a hopeless maze of cheap metal chairs, small tables and a few pool tables, Mace planted right in the middle of it all. That, and as they came in, he was staring straight at him, the good humoured smile slowly dying as Capa followed after Searle.

"Hey, Capa," Trey greeted, seated at a uneven table, nursing his drink and looking as miserable as Capa was beginning to feel. Capa quickly defected from Searle, who'd quickly fallen into conversation with Mace and Corazon.

"Hey, Cap'."

He glanced over into the corner, spotting Cassie, who'd been otherwise obscured by someone standing near the table. Taking the free chair, Capa heard it scrape across the metal with a tingling screech and settled with an uncomfortable creak.

"I'll order another round?" Cassie asked. Capa glanced at Trey, who looked like he'd already had enough for the night, but was already nodding. It was that agreeing before thinking thing again, digging him into holes that he couldn't politely excuse himself from. Cassie grinned.

He'd known that she'd had a thing for him since they'd met.

"How're you tonight, Trey?" He probed, curious to find what'd brought Trey into searching for things at the bottom of glasses. Trey grimaced, gesturing at the ceiling or nothing in particular.

"Just…people," he answered helplessly, his voice thick. "Fuck."

Capa nodded as though he understood, and he did a little, just not the specifics of what Trey was currently in contestation with.

"His mum scared off his girlfriend," Cassie offered quietly into his ear, her breathe moving his hair and creating a tickling sensation. Capa raised a hand to brush off the sensation and nodded, studying Trey and deciding whether or not it was time to call him a cab. He'd heard the reputation of his mother. A traditionalist, strict, opinionated and loud. Words to those effect, though more potent with acrimony, had been used to describe her by Trey, but Capa had never had the pleasure of meeting her himself.

Capa sidled his drink over his lips slowly, talking with Cassie in short phrases, watching over Trey; hardly there at all. He watched the others play pool, putting down money, listening to well-natured jeers and challenges. Even Mace seemed to have forgotten that Capa was there, the grins and drunken movements of his hands genuine and self satisfactory.

"Want to play?" Cassie asked, taking his attention as indication to desire. Capa glanced over at the empty table; it'd be a good distraction from the evening, a better one than sitting with his drink, playing nanny and listener.

"Yeah, alright. Trey?"

Trey shook his head no, "Calling a cab."

Probably a good idea, Capa thought, watching Trey's face illuminated by the light from his comm. screen. Behind him a picture was moving, a woman in red, coaxing a finger. He hated empathy portraits. Looking above, he saw the video capture, that would read his face, and thought of the software that'd made her single him out. He frowned; she pouted, a speech bubble formulating over her head; 'thinking of someone else?", it read in capitalized comic book font. He turned away, the camera moved, seeking someone new. It made for good decoration, but it was one of those things that technology had brought that he couldn't understand why money would be put into such frivolity. Because there's money to be made from it, he reasoned. Occam's razor; the simplest explanation is the best. He knew that; numbers and calculations were his forte.

He hated technology made purely for money. With all the things going wrong with Earth, there were people still just out there to make a quick buck, people who couldn't care less about the importance of things like the Payload. People who didn't see truly beautiful things and couldn't see where beauty and necessity could coincide.

He helped Trey out of his chair with Cassie, and they waited outside with him till the cab came; it was taking a lot longer than it should have, as par usual. Eventually, Searle came out to check on them, but decided to call it a night and drove Trey home himself. As they pulled out, Capa scoffed as a cab pulled up beside him. Cassie went and told him that the guy got a ride; polite, apologetic even. She didn't have to do that kind of thing, but she always did. Sometimes Capa admired it, sometimes it drove him mad.

When they got back in, the empty table was taken; which if he'd realized before he'd walked in that direction, would have been a good cue to go back to the table inside of standing there like an idiot, attracting Cora's attention, and getting involved in a four person game, men against women; Capa and Mace against Cora and Cassie.

Fuck.

That being said, he wasn't fairing too badly, given that he felt Mace's eyes burning on the back of his neck every time he leant over the table to take a shot. Glancing over the table top as he aimed his shot he stared at Harvey, who was across the room and was supposed to have been taking the shot, not him. Instead, he was chatting up some brunette. Stripes, Capa reminded himself, repositioning his aim, vainly doing his best to ignore Mace's eyes boring a hole into the top columns of his spine in an attempt to paralyze him from the neck down.

"It won't happen," Capa muttered.

"Pardon?" Cora asked, perplexed.

Capa shook his head, tossing his hair out of his eyes, "nothing."

He aimed, pushed the cue forwards, hit the ball, ball rebounds, hits another, in the pocket; impeccable. He'd played this all throughout university; his game was picking up as he felt the fight in him flare up brighter the longer that Mace made his silent challenges.

"Dammit, this is what I get for playing against a physicist," Cora groaned. Capa assumed that she was thinking of the hundred dollars she had riding on the game and offered a faint, bemused, apologetic smile. When he turned to face Mace though, it'd only become more pronounced and all apology disappeared from it as Mace's face stared back at with open annoyance. He didn't like being bested and Capa knew that it wasn't a good game to play against Mace, challenging his position as the alpha male, but the taste of winning was just too good to pass up. He didn't get this too often. Besides, in a couple of days, they'd go in for their tests, Mace would win like he always did, and everything would be back to normal.

In the end they won, Capa having to cover for Mace's increasingly wild shots. Cora parted with her money, as did Cassie and it was getting late so they called it a night. Harvey had disappeared, and so had the brunette. All these departures left Capa alone with Mace, in a dingy dive bar, with a quickly dispersing clientele.

"Um…buy you a drink?" Capa asked, fingering the new bills in his pocket from their game of pool; Mace hadn't put any money on it. It seemed like a good time to perhaps get their relationship up to tolerable, seeing as they'd be spending literally years cooped up in the same space craft together.

"Yeah, sure," Mace shrugged. Maybe he was thinking the same thing; maybe that was too hopeful. All I ask for is tolerable, Capa cast out. At least no could say that he didn't try if things went badly (which they always did).

He ordered their drinks, they took a couple of seats at the bar. As they waited, Capa wondered what he'd been thinking, all this socializing; he couldn't think of a single thing to say. He'd gone and done it again; hospitality, amicability and good-intentions sweeping over him and suffocating him into positions he didn't know how to get out of.


It could have been easy enough to simply finish their drinks and leave, but three rounds later, both of their tongues had loosed and, dare he think it, Capa was reasonably certain that he was enjoying himself and that the night hadn't turned out so badly as he predicted that it would. Except for maybe the hangover that was going to happen in the morning. For all the science of the last hundred years, no one had a cure for the morning after.

"You're military, right?" Capa asked, leaning on one arm, face rested on his palm. Mace swallowed the last of his drink.

"Yeah, my dad's dad, his dad and his dad before that. Military…shit."

Capa frowned.

"Shit?"

"Didn't want to go," Mace confessed. That, is most interesting, Capa mused through leaden thought.

"No?" he probed.

"No. But I never had a choice, not with history like that," Mace explained, his voice moving slowly as he articulated himself.

"What did you want to do?"

Mace looked at him directly in the face, leaning in closer than he should have, making Capa shift uncomfortably, and his free hand raise up to move his hair out of the way again. It was tangled and his fingers got caught, making him feel even smaller as he tried to get it out of the way.

"What you do."

"…oh."

Mace leaned back, and signalled to the bartender for another drink. The man seemed to have no limit. Since Capa had gotten there earlier that night with Searle, he'd seen a constant stream of liquor ingested by the man.

"It doesn't matter though. I'm not smart enough. I only get to operate the things that people like you make work."

What am I supposed to say to that? asked Capa blankly.

"You're plenty smart enough," Capa offered earnestly. He believed that. He really did. As much hell as Mace put him through since they'd been training and working on the Icarus project for, he knew for certain that Mace was not all brawn and no brains. Calculative, and bequeathed with a keen sense of practicality, Mace was as sharp as they come. That's what made it so easy for him to get under Capa's skin.

Mace laughed, derisive.

"I can design things even, you know? But I can't invent new things. The numbers are too big, formulas to complicated, and no one taught me how to use them. I can make things for, here, for Earth I mean, but not for up there. I could never have made Payload. The numbers are too big."

"I don't even know if it'll work," Capa reprimanded, shutting his eyes for a moment to block out the idea of failure. But it was right there, even behind his eyelids. That's where it lived, that nightmare, an endless loop of falling, falling into the sun, as impossible as it was for him to be that close to it. He opened his eyes again, watching Mace, trying to pin him to the spot through the world's smudges and keep him still.

"It'll work," Mace said simply, picking at the bar with his nails. It wasn't the time to argue, so Capa just muttered that he hoped Mace was right. After that he didn't speak. Mace's image kept shaking through his line of sight; he dipped his head lower, massaging his head with his palm. It was going to be a very bad hangover. Occam's razor.

"I'm a man of the Earth," Mace mused aloud, drawing Capa's attention back to him. "But you, you belong up there."

Capa stared, looked away, didn't agree or disagree, didn't really know what Mace meant about anything he was saying, put the money down for the drinks, which took a big cut of his winnings, pulled out his comm. screen, called a cab, went home, slept, and didn't think properly until the hangover had worn off, and didn't think to much on what Mace had said under the influence the copious amounts of alcohol.


So Mace was jealous of him. That through his bully theory out the window and explained why he treated everyone else equally. He'd only singled out Capa out of envy.

And it was right back to being a jerk come the morning they went in for their tests.

Mace beat him at the running, beat him at the swimming, the tossing, the jumping. Beat him at all the endurance tests, all the reflexive sparring, ex cetera, ex cetera, and rubbed it in every moment of the way. He didn't even have to say anything to do it was the most infuriating part of the exercise. The same way Capa had ruled the pool table, Mace dominated in the arena of the physical. All Capa could do was glower back at that damn sneer, plug away and do the best he could, his scientists limbs too gangly, too thin, too clumsy. He did alright in the swimming though, he took some heart in that, even if Mace still beat him in the end.

Like his reflexive politeness, Capa found it maddening, how easily, how willingly he'd descend down to Mace's level, join in on the game, take up the challenge even as he knew that he'd lose. It wasn't even as though he cared about the actual winning of whatever the format of the competition was, it was simply that he was being challenged and taunted; all very juvenile.

Capa bent over, hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. It didn't make sense. They all did the same exercises, the same routine, but Mace still won even as Capa was sure that he put in just as much effort.

But it looked like Mace hardly put any effort in at all and excelled anyways.

"He wants to be as good as you."

Capa straightened; Searle again. How did he do that, always appearing without ever being heard until he wanted to?

"Well, he's just gone and showed me all the ways he's better than me," Capa said breathlessly, throwing an arm out to indicate Mace all the way across the track, still breathing easy, still moving at an even pace.

"And you're trying to show him all the ways that you're just as good as him," Searle continued, apparently oblivious to what Capa had just said. Frowning, Capa knew that Searle had heard exactly what he'd just said, but that he was ignoring him because he wasn't really talking to Capa. He was studying him.

"What a predicament," Capa commented scathingly.

"Yes."

Sometimes, Capa thought that he could strangle Searle without regretting it. He felt that way about all people who tried to get into the heads of others; it was nothing personal. Searle was a good guy, had a good mind.

"Have you caught your breath?" Searle asked, as though addressing him for the first time. That's just how he is, Capa mediated between his anger and his logic. He nodded, and started to plod onwards once again, Searle beside him, apparently just as spent as he was, which only enforced the reason for Mace's harassment as being purely out of envy. He was just as good at this as Searle, just as good as Trey or Corazon, but Mace was jealous of him. Though much of his life was spent searching for reasons and answers, the idea that answers only led to more questions seemed applicable to nearly everything he discovered. A life of constant dissatisfaction.

Mace was certainly a source of constant dissatisfaction.


He threw himself into work, not because he needed the quiet roar of it in his mind to separate from the conscious life, but simply because it was what he did. They all did it; they made isolation a group activity, making them the perfect crew for the Icarus II.

The only time he'd thought of Mace that day was when he'd woken up with the prospect of having to go to work, and after that, he'd simply thought about work. The strange thing about their contentious relationship, at least for Capa, was that though he thought about it every day and sometimes more than others, was that it didn't actually happen every day. There were days where he wouldn't even see Mace. In fact, the only time they did ever cross paths was in training, group classes and the rare social occasion outside of work. And yet, there it was, every morning when he woke up and he'd think about what could happen, what words they'd toss at each other, wonder if they'd simply launch themselves at each other, eventually ending with Capa being the more injured of the two but not without a few good inflictions himself.

He thought about normal work offices, and how people would be fired for that sort of thing. But it was the future of humanity that was their true occupation, so no one got let go; it was much to late for that. Instead, they'd just let him and Mace take shots at each other like a set of old western villains, interceding only when things got a little too out of hand. Because it always got out of hand, it was just knowing where to draw the line that was the concern.

Shortly after they'd first met, hardly knowing each others face for a week, they'd gotten themselves into a full out brawl in the middle of one of the group functions designed to get to know one another better (as though they wouldn't have time during the voyage).

To explain shortly, Capa had said something about the arrogance of the military and the way they trained the soldiers to be vicious, heartless pricks out for the pleasure of the kill and Mace responded with something about how he'd lost friends, and how Capa couldn't ever understand because he was some pencil-pusher scientist who'd never know what it was like to be out there and see your friends lose limbs, lives and minds. It quickly spiralled into an argument Capa knew he shouldn't have bothered with and ended with Mace planting a nice good one right on his face and knocking a tooth loose.

Capa still maintained that Mace should have paid the bill on that one and knew for certain that neither of them had won the argument and never had since. The only places that they could define whether or not one had won, was with Capa's calculations and Mace's victories on the field. Everything else; no man's land.

There was that one thing though, that one, rare, civil, exchange they'd had the night that Mace confessed why he hated him so much. Actually, Capa recalled, he never said that he hated him. It shouldn't have been enough, and logically it wasn't, but that realization was enough for Capa to admit that he wouldn't say that he hated Mace either. Just as it's said that people don't have to like each other to get along, Capa found that he didn't have to hate Mace to not get along.

So there was hope enough that they could tone down their contemptibility for each other yet.

Opportunity knocked, and that night everyone was heading out for dinner (not some dirty dive bar, but an actual dinner that Kaneda thought would be a good idea given that the holidays were approaching). Everyone on what would be the crew was going, and Capa felt the familiar ambivalence towards the outing. Socializing over dinner was even more difficult than socializing over a drink, made him feel even more out of place as there were certain codes of civility to uphold in somewhere as purpose driven as a restaurant. He even had to dress up for it, which wasn't a problem in itself, just that it gave a certain air of finality that he wasn't used to. For a man who played with numbers all day (or thought about playing with numbers all day when other living functions interfered), formal dress wasn't a high priority.

He considered calling ahead and saying that he'd accidentally double booked and was going over to visit his sister, which he hadn't been doing enough as it was.

Who would have thought that a project like saving the world would have come with strings like these attached, thought Capa as he evaluated his outfit in the mirror; crimson button up shirt, the nice pair of jeans that he kept in reserve in place of dress pants which only made him feel overdressed and pompously formal. Throw in those brown shoes his sister bought him because she was tired of seeing his old beat up high-tops, and he was set.

He stepped out to wait for the cab, the cold of the solar winter immediately making him regret leaving behind his gloves and scarf. It was only five-thirty, in what should have been the late summer, and it was getting dark out. He didn't really ever remember it being any different, except back when his sister was still a baby, but it always struck him as unnatural. Light patterns were so ingrained to the human genetics code, that even after years like this, everyone knew that it wasn't what'd served as the norm since…literally the creation of the sun.

The cab pulled up from the twilight, honking it's horn; he hadn't noticed it at all, watching the sun sink into the orange reflections off the buildings windows.

He arrived and saw that he was the last to do so; his hand was forced to sit directly next to Mace. At least he wouldn't have the vantage point of being across the table from him, which would have made for many more noticed and then unnoticed glances. Unfortunately, it also meant that if they did end up catching each others eye, it was much closer than either of them would have liked.

Capa excused his lateness, took his seat, placed his order and listened to the conversation at the table. He laughed in the appropriate spots, offered a word here and there when anything was directed at him, and tried to ignore that he was sitting at a crammed table full of people that he didn't hate, not at all, but just felt terribly distant from despite the hundreds of hours they'd spent together in training. That and that Mace kept bumping him with his elbow. It was entirely unavoidable, and it probably would have made more sense to put another table onto the end of theirs if they weren't already so settled in, but it was there reminding him the whole night of who he was sitting next to. Searle was bumping him too, to be fair, but that was Searle, and even if he did habitually pick their brains even off the clock, he liked him.

Each time Mace bumped him, he thought about the night Mace had been drunk enough to act like an actual human being towards him, and for the first time, wondered if Mace remembered it at all. He had had a lot to drink that night, and it was entirely possible that the last thing Mace remembered from that night was watching him walk through the door with Searle.

The only way to find that out was to get him that drunk again, but this time with witnesses. He didn't see that happening any time soon.


"You know, I got messages from him almost right up till they entered the dead zone," Mace said through drunken lucidity. Capa shifted in his chair, feeling guilty for accepting Cassie's invitation to go out for drinks after dinner with Harvey, Mace and her. It didn't feel right, knowing something like that about Mace, especially when it was Mace telling him. Them, Mace was telling them.

"What did he say?" Cassie asked. Mace leaned back in his chair, reminiscing, formulating how to quantify it into words.

"He was always saying how incredible it was, that I should try it. He said…he said that it was like being in a room, only it was all of space, but how no matter where they were, he felt like they were the last people in the universe, not lost, but not having any direction; like they were being taken in and taken apart at the same time. That's what he said in the last message he sent."

Cassie eyes were sympathetic. The Icarus I had been assumed dead two weeks after they were scheduled to have exited the dead zone; Mace's brother had been on the voyage. That could be the entire reason that he'd entered the program; as tribute. Was that what he'd meant when he said that he didn't belong up there? That's Searle's department. Knowing who's art it was didn't stop Capa from wanting to understand what Mace meant though.

"That why you're going up there?" Harvey asked. For a communications tech, he wasn't too bright when it came to deciphering what other people said.

"Yeah. I guess so. I don't know. I want to know what he meant."

Mace hit the table with an open palm, making Capa startle.

"Sorry," Mace said. Cassie and Harvey's eyes snapped from his hand on the table up to his face.

If Mace were not drunk, if he were completely sober, what normally would have followed after hitting the table like that was that he'd zero in on Capa for jumping at the noise. He'd be macho, he'd be a dick, he might mutter a few choice words and things would go on from there. That's how easy, how simple it was for them to get into a fight.

Cassie and Harvey looked over to Capa to see his reaction to the apology. However small, it was something entirely unheard of. Mace always apologized, in his own way, but never actually said the words. He's just avoid Capa for a while, bite his tongue and stay quiet for a while. He'd do this until they were forced back into the same room together by schedules for too long, or one had been invited for the same night out without the other knowing. Capa shrugged.

"I zoned out," Capa said, covering up the near singular attention he'd been watching Mace with. He hadn't zoned out. The only reason Mace was able to startle him so easily was because he was always paying very close attention and the sudden change in what he was watching caught him off guard, killed his ability to anticipate anything that might be coming; this sounds like not paying attention at all, but Capa invested himself completely in it and the focus was on a part of the picture that blinded him to the rest. Zoning out implied that he was not paying attention at all, quite the opposite of what he'd been doing.

"Space case," Cassie jeered lightly, bumping him on the arm. "Harvey, want to split the cab fare?"

And they were alone again, and now that Capa had had his witnesses witness what he wanted them too, he wasn't sure what to do with it. Or what to do with what was left. He worked on finishing his own drink, hardly touched and warm in his mouth; it was disgusting, but it was better than trying to fill up the quiet. He'd leave that to the speakers overhead.

"Why do you want to go up there?" Mace asked, interrupting Capa's slow intake of the warm glass between his hands.

"What?"

"Why do you want to be a part of Icarus II?"

Capa frowned.

"Because I should have been on Icarus I," he answered simply.

"Why weren't you? Payload's yours."

"I'm a physicist; they were in a hurry. It'd have taken longer to train me than it'd take me to train someone how to use the Payload."

Mace didn't seem to react at all to what he said and responded with nothing, unreadable. But there wasn't really anything to be said about the matter. Five years ago, he'd wanted nothing more than to be on Icarus I with his bomb, but it just didn't happen. He'd spent all his time designing the bomb; there'd been no time for anything else.

He'd never say it aloud, but the failure of Icarus I had been the best news he'd ever heard in his life. But apparently Mace made the connection for himself, sharp as a whip.

"So what happened to them was actually the best thing that could have happened for you."

Capa swallowed, not daring himself to move; but that reflective honesty already had him nodding and croaking out a yes. Mace didn't need to say what he thought of that, and anything that he might have would have been entirely true.


Capa had never claimed to be a good person, but doing things that made him feel like a bad person did the job on the conscious just as well as if he'd been striving to be a good person and been failing all along. He shouldn't have answered Mace. Should have been covering up his movements, offer some consolation for what'd happened to his brother.

But he hadn't done any of that. He just sat there, admitting to his selfishness and general apathy towards what'd happened to the scientists and astronauts that'd been on the ship. How could he care for people he didn't know? It was cold yes, and he knew it, and it might even be inhumane of him. But that still didn't make him feel anything towards other than the guilt of feeling nothing at all.

So he had another thing that Mace didn't; he still had his sister. Mace must have known that from the start, known so much more about him than Capa would have guessed, more than Capa knew about Mace.

Capa swallowed, trying to clear out whatever was obstructing his voice; he'd find Mace, and he'd apologize. He'd tell him what he'd meant, mince his words more properly, make them more presentable. It probably wouldn't mean anything to Mace.

He stepped in through the doorway, looking for Mace at his computer; he swivelled in his chair as Capa entered.

"Yes?"

The word was clipped, and if it weren't how Mace always spoke to him, Capa might have winced at the sharpness of it. Though he didn't, he still wanted too, but there were certain things about Mace that he had gotten used to.

"Look, the other night, after Cassie and Harvey left-"

"What happened?"

Capa stared. He quickly ran over how many drinks Mace had had, and he was reasonably certain that it hadn't been that much. The time that'd passed hadn't made it feel like that much. As he tried to run his calculations though, he found that he hadn't really been paying attention to the consumption of alcohol enough that night to have any solid numbers.

"…you don't remember?"

Mace rolled his eyes.

"I know what happened, but what are you apologizing for?"

I am perplexed, Capa thought flatly. It might have been better to simply leave, but he still felt as though he had to explain himself. Why, he'd never know, but he tried to even without knowing, which felt dangerous, unpredictable, and very dissatisfying. But Mace was a source of constant dissatisfaction, which he already knew very well.

"I agreed with you, when you asked if what happened to the Icarus I was the best thing that'd happened for me. Your brother was on that voyage."

"You don't need to tell me that."

Capa turned, covering his mouth with the palm of his hand, laughing disbelievingly. What the hell?

"Well, aren't you mad at me?" he asked. "Aren't you going to beat the crap out of me or something?"

Mace frowned, "Why would I do that?"

"Jesus, do I have to spell it out for you? Your brother was on the Icarus I, they died, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Your brother is dead, and I'm just happy to have a chance to launch Payload myself."

Mace leaned back in his chair, studying Capa. Capa didn't know what he was thinking, there was no algorithm to explain his expression, no formula to quantify what he was thinking. Where was Searle when he needed him? Hell, he'd even settle for Cassie's moments of poignant introspection. She was much better at reading people than he was. All he could ever see was when they were a threat, and all he could properly hear were their good ideas when they had them.

"Why should that bother me? There wasn't anything you could have done to Icarus I to make their mission a failure or a success."

Capa couldn't lift his limbs; he might have been dumbstruck into paralysis. Mace's mind really was that measured in plain logic. There was nothing Capa could have done to Icarus I, that was true, and though he might feel guilty for finding joy in whatever their plight may have been, it was entirely self inflicted; Mace didn't care, which was impressive, even for him.

Though that still begged the question of why Mace did hate him so much.

"If it's not that, then why do you hate me?" Capa blurted out.

"Why do you care?" Mace deadpanned back.

Capa wanted to groan, fall over on the floor, and die. He didn't need this. He should never had come here, least of all with the idea of apology in his mind. Mace was right; why should he care? Why should he make everything more excruciating than it really was?

"Well, most people care when someone is making it so clear that they hate them."

"I never said that I hate you."

Capa scoffed, "You don't need to."

Mace didn't react again, stone statue. When he wasn't taking shots at someone, or disagreeing with them, he was as impassive as a pool of water. Capa finally found motor skills functional in places other than his mouth and took a step back as Mace stood, ready to storm out angrily. Unfortunately they froze up again as Mace crossed the short distance, and while Capa was closer to the door now, he was no closer to exiting through it, pinned again in whatever game Mace was playing. The challenge was there; he couldn't leave now, the competitive streak in him making it impossible.

"I never said that I hated you," Mace repeated. Capa felt his throat go dry, the only thing he found himself capable of doing was to watch Mace move towards him. Distantly, he felt that the look wasn't the usual glower he reserved for Mace, and that it wasn't a blank look either; it was open puzzlement, something that he didn't like to show to anyone, but was showing to Mace. Something that he currently had no control over.

Mace was very close now.

"For someone so smart, you're a complete idiot," Mace told him. He wasn't sneering; he was simply stating a fact.

"…okay?" Capa felt his voice scrape out from his parched mouth. The feeling of having no control of the situation, or even just having no reaction was very disorienting. Although he knew that Mace was very close to him, he felt very far away. What the hell is happening? he asked, his mind's voice asked him as flatly as Mace spoke. He didn't answer the question in his mind.

Mace placed a hand on his shoulder that he couldn't shrug off. Mace put his hand on his back, which meant that he couldn't properly get away; in fact, he was shifted forward, closer again, by a pressure there that effectively locked him in place.

Capa liked when hands went through his hair, and figured that that was how he was tricked into tipping his head at the right angle. He liked especially when he felt fingers over the back of his neck, slipping upwards over the curve of his skull, and he assumed that that was why he didn't violently shove Mace away. Then there was the feeling of someone breathing over his skin, and the chill that came with the sensitive breathing of someone overtop his lips, and he thought that maybe that'd intoxicated him long enough so that he still didn't move away as Mace pressed his lips against his. It could have been that because he suddenly felt his body resume it's capability for movement that he kissed back so that he could test its facilities.

Or it could have simply been that he didn't hate Mace either.

He could still hate that he didn't though.