A Cup of Coffee
Disclaimer: All characters of references to Andromeda belong to Tribune Entertainment, not me.
Story Rating: PG-13
Summary: Three years before the Eureka Maru crew rescued the Andromeda, Beka had smashed up her ship and had crashlanded on earth. When she goes looking for an engineer, her life is changed forever.
Beka sighed as she dropped the enormous tangle of wires she held in her arms.
She slowly drew a bandaged hand through her blond hair as she groaned.
"Rev?" she called over her shoulder, not taking her eyes off the tangle of torn wires at her feet.
"Yes, Beka?" he called back from where he was standing, trying to pry open the airlock.
Beka sighed again. "Answer me something, will you?"
"How the fuck are we going to fix this ship?" she exclaimed, tears starting to brim her eyes.
She had never seen her ship so badly smashed up.
She heard Rev grindge behind her. She sighed again. She knew how much the Wayist hated swearing.
"I'm sorry Rev. Didn't mean to swear. It's just—" she swallowed hard, closing her eyes.
Rev let go of the mangled airlock and walked over to her. Gently, he put a hand on her shoulder.
"We'll find a way to fix her. Don't worry," He said quietly, noticing the tears in her eyes.
She sniffed back her tears and threw up her hands.
"How?" she demanded. She extended her hands and swept the entire interior of the smashed up ship. "Does this look fixable?"
Rev chuckled. "What is it that you always say? Where there is a will, there is a way." He gently squeezed her shoulder. "Don't worry, Captain Valentine. We'll fix this ship if it takes us until next year."
She nodded firmly and took a deep breath and blinked a few times. She slowly regained control of herself.
She scowled at the wires and kicked them.
"Rev, next time remind me to get out of the way when two gliders are playing chicken beside us."
He chuckled. "I will try to remember."
Beka stepped over the wires and walked over to the airlock. She stood in front of it, staring at it for a while.
"Rev, I think if we both pull on this side—" she pointed at one side of the dented door. "—we can haul it open. If not, then we're stuck here."
Rev walked over and grasped the edge of the door.
"One, two, three—" They both tucked on the airlock, gritting their teeth.
With a groan, the smashed up door opened.
With sighs of relief, they stood back, gasping for breath, and stared out at the docking station they had managed to land in.
The night before, the mangled, smashed ship on which they were standing had been quietly flying through space. Beka had been flying and had been laughing about something with Rev, who was standing behind her, leaning on the railing.
They were on their way to Infinity Atoll, where a prospective customer was waiting to inform them of a small ship he had left somewhere dead in space, which he wanted them to retrieve for him.
They quietly flew along, their thoughts on the gorgeous views and amazing restaurants which Infinity offered.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, their sensors picked up two small gliders hurling through space at insane speeds towards each other.
Right away, Beka realized they were playing chicken with each other, and when she noticed that the Maru was right between them, she urged her ship to pick up speed. She, for one, did not want to be in the middle of those two gliders when they smashed together.
When she had safely flown out of harms way, she slowed down again and glanced up to the screen, wondering which one of the gliders had chickened out.
The gliders continued flying towards each other, hurling through space so fast that Beka was positive they were going to vaporize each other if they did collide.
But fortunately, both of the flyers were chicken. At the last possible moment, they both turned their gliders slightly, thinking that the other flyer would continue going straight.
Unfortunately, the universe had a twisted sense of humor.
Seconds after they had both altered their course, they were speeding towards each other again, only this time, the Maru was between them.
Beka had been so busy chuckling over the fact that both of them had chickened out, that she didn't realize that they were going to smash into the Maru, until they did.
With a roar and a sickening crunch, the two ships slammed into the Maru, indenting the sides until the walls were nearly right beside the pilot seat, wires ripping and metal crunching.
The alarm started screaming as Beka lost control of the ship. As she desperately tried to keep her hands on the shaking controls, with smoke pouring out of the screen in front of her, she realized that they wouldn't make it.
She screamed to Rev that they were going to crash, and that he should try and keep their main systems functioning. He yelled back that all systems had been destroyed by the impact.
She quickly glanced over her shoulder and saw that the entire control panel where Rev usually stood was smashed to pieces, the metal crunched together so hard that it was impossible to tell where the wall ended and the controls began.
As the Maru began careering downwards, Beka gritted her teeth and nearly tore the controls out of the floor as she hauled the ship around. She forced the ship to pick up speed, and after a lot of shuddering and groaning, the ship obliged.
In the next five minutes, she managed to locate a nearby planet and a docking station where she spied an empty port.
Not caring about the protesting hails she received from docking patrol, she forced her shuddering wreck of a ship to slowly sink into the port.
Only when she had managed to cut what was left of the engine did she untangle her hands from the controls which she had been clutching so hard that its marks were imprinted in her hand.
It was only then that she noticed her hands were bleeding.
She frowned. How the hell did she get so cut up?
Oh, well. No time to worry about that now.
She turned around and quickly checked Rev over. Although slightly shaken, the Magog was in perfect health. As soon as he caught sight of her bleeding hands, he dragged her over to the medicine cabinet and dressed her hands, ignoring her protests that they had more important things to do right now.
"Rebecca, right now what is most important is our health. Next, we can worry about the ship. Besides, you won't be able to fix much of this damage if you're bleeding to death, now will you?"
Beka sighed as she stared out into the docking station. And now, here they were. Rev had checked around and had determined that they had ended up on earth.
She gritted her teeth. Great. The one time she smashes her ship to smitherines, they crash land on the biggest trash pile in the known universe. Fat lot of good this dump would do for her.
She ran her hand through her hair again.
"Okay. Here's what we'll do. First off, are you hungry?"
"Yeah, me neither. Somehow, seeing the Maru like this, it ruins my appetite." She shook her head, her eyes still skimming around at the various people walking around the station and the small ships which lay docked around them.
"Anyway, it neither of us are hungry, I'll go and look for an engineer who can help us fix this. It would take the two of us ages to do it ourselves. Me with these bandages, and you with those claws. It's impossible." she hopped down and smiled up at Rev. "Anyway, I'll go find someone and you entertain yourself somehow. There's a Wayist retreat center around here somewhere. Don't ask how I know. Anyway, you might as well head over there and entertain yourself. It'll be awhile until we're out of here."
Rev bowed and smiled.
Smiling, Beka turned around and walked through the crowd of people around her, shoving her way through until she reached the entrance of the station.
She took a deep breath. "Okay. Here we go." She crossed her fingers and prayed that she'd be able to find someone who would actually put her ship together and not destroy it or overcharge her to hell for it.
Then she snorted. Who was she kidding? She was on earth. No way in hell she'd find an honest worker around here.
Harper yawned as he buried his head into his thin mattress. Shit, he had a headache.
He must be hungover. Or maybe not.
He had no idea. Thinking back over last night, the first thing he could remember was going out to a bar with Brendan and the gang for a couple of drinks.
The last thing he remembered was Brendan dragging him up the stairs while he sang some really obscene song at the top of his lungs and Brendan laughing and swearing at him to shut up.
Some blond chick had walked upstairs with them too.
Who the hell had she been?
He turned his head slightly and spied a blond head sleeping beside him.
Oh. Mystery solved.
He yawned again. Shit, he didn't want to get up. He was so damn tired.
But he'd have to get up soon. Keeler would come up and beat the crap out of him if he didn't.
Never mind the fact that he'd catch the blond chick too. Then he'd be in even deeper crap than before.
He'd been working for Keeler for two years.
After digging around in the dumps for years after his parents had died, finding junk and fixing it and selling it on the blackmarket, Keeler had found him and asked him to come work for him.
At first, it had seemed like a good idea. He'd get regular, good work, fixing ships and other junk that people had lying around, and he got paid for it too. He had to give half of whatever he got to Keeler, but in return, he got to live in a room above the bar which Keeler owned. It had sounded like a sweet deal. Money, a bed, and work too.
Then, the bonus had arrived.
Harper groaned, then quickly shut up when the blond stirred. He didn't want to wake her up yet.
The thought of the bonus had occurred after Harper had opened his mouth too wide. As usual, the trouble had started after he had opened his mouth. Why the hell couldn't he learn to keep his mouth shut from time to time?
He'd come home and had complained to Keeler that he could hardly get his work done, since half of his female customers spent the entire time staring at him with such wide, greedy eyes that he found it impossible to concentrate on the machinery he was supposed to be fixing.
Right away, Keeler had smelt money. His eyes had flashed greedily, and that damn wide smile had stretched across his ugly face.
Right away, Harper knew he was screwed.
Keelers idea was that a little bonus package would be offered to any customer who came through the door. Harper would not only fix things for them, but for a little extra money, he'd sleep with them too.
He hated it.
Hated it beyond belief.
Out of all the things he'd done in his life to get money, he'd never turned into a hooker.
Now, he was one.
He hated it.
Especially when Keeler 'generously' extended the deal to include not only women, but men too, and not only humans, but any damn filthy alien thing that dragged themselves to him.
He yawned again.
What damn time was it? He blinked and stared around. He had no idea. Oh, well. Keeler would be looking for him soon.
Until then, he could get more sleep. Without another word, his eyelids dropped shut and he drifted off to sleep. His last thought was whether his headache would be gone by the time he woke up again.
Somebody was shaking him and whispering something in his ear. He groaned and mumbled for the person to shut up.
In response, the person shook him harder.
"Shay, you's gots to get up!" an urgent female voice whispered.
"Go away." He mumbled into the mattress.
The girl shook him harder and ripped the thin blanket off him.
"Shay, I ain't joking. You's gots to get up! Keeler will be up here any minute now, and he'll kill ya if you aren't up. Get up, Shay!" she whispered, shaking him harder.
He groaned again, his head still pounding. "What fucking time is it?"
"It's 0700 you idiot! Why else do ya thinks I'm shaking you?"
He slowly stretched. 0700? Cool. Slowly, his eyelids dropped shut again. Just for a little while. He'll get up soon. Just not right now, after all, it was only—0700!?!
His eyes flew open and he bolted up.
"What?" he exclaimed, leaping out of bed.
The blond was already up, pulling her pants on.
Harper wildly ran around the room, locating first his pants and then his shoes, both of which he pulled on while hopping up and down.
Just then he heard the familiar voice of Keeler yelling up the stairs. "Harper! Get your fucking ass down here!"
"I'm coming!" he hollered back. His eyes frantically ran around his room. "Where the hell is my toolbelt?" he asked.
He heard somebody clear their throat by the window.
Running a hand through his blond hair, he quickly glanced up.
The blond was leaning against the window, staring at him with raised eyebrows. In one of her hands was his toolbelt, and in the other was his shirt.
Sighing with relief, he leapt over to her and reached forward to grab his shirt.
With her eyebrows still raised, she yanked it out of his reach.
Harper frowned with confusion, until he finally understood what she was thinking about.
He smiled. "Open the little box hidden underneath the bed when I'm gone. You'll find eight thrones in there."
She smiled and tossed him his shirt and his toolbelt.
He threw them on as Keeler screamed upstairs again for him to hurry up. He yelled back that he'll be right there.
He spun around, kissing the blond on the cheek and buckeling up the old toolbelt around his oversized shirt.
Quickly, he ran towards the door, ripping it open and running down the short hall, dogging the naked lightbulb which hung from the leaky ceiling, and hopping down the rotting stairs. He quickly leapt over the board which had a hole in it and reached the bottom in record time.
Running a hand through his hair and gasping for breath, he ran towards the kitchen and leapt across the floor and then pushed the bar door open, running through it so fast that he nearly fell over the bucket of filthy water which stood in front of the door.
Arms flailing, he grabbed hold of the counter next to him to keep himself from falling into the bucket.
Looking up, he glared at Keeler, who was broadly grinning at him.
"Who was the dumb ass who left a bucket right in front of the door?" he asked angrily.
Keeler continued grinning at him with that you're-so-dead-for-being-late-and-you'll-pay-for-it-later look on his face. With an elaborate arm sweep, he motioned at the tall blond woman standing on the other side of the counter.
"Harper, meet Beka Valentine."
It hadn't taken Beka as long as she thought it would to find someone who could help her. She'd walked around in front of the docking station, asking people where she could find the best engineer around.
A lot of the people had just stared at her, not answering, but the ones who had answered had all automatically said that she should go to Keelers.
It had taken her forever to find the place. Nobody seemed to know how to give proper directions, so all she got was general hand waving and mumbles of "Over there, somewhere."
By the time she had finally found Keeler's bar, she wanted nothing more than to go back to the Maru, have a good cup of coffee and sleep forever.
On the way there, she had wound her way through hundreds of dirty streets covered in fallen down rusted buildings, most of which looked to be abandoned, but when she saw a mother pushing open a door of one of these wrecks and walk in with five thin children following her, she discovered otherwise.
She'd passed countless groups of junkies who sat in the gutters or in doorways, leering at her or swearing at her as she passed. Drunks lay passed out in the gutter or lurched past her, yelling insults or comments to her which made her skin crawl. She'd just shoot them dirty looks and keep going. Starving youngsters huddled in doorways, clutching rags around themselves and staring at her with big eyes as she passed by.
God, how she hated planets. Especially this one.
Finally, she had found Keeler's bar.
She shoved open the door which hung half off its hinges and stepped into the dimly lit room. It stank so strongly of liquor and urine that she nearly puked. She wove her way around broken chairs and tables which lay in clusters around the bar, and walked up to the bar.
She was going to have a seat on one of the stools, when she saw a rat eating the stuffing from the seat beside her. She decided that standing wouldn't kill her.
She glanced around the deserted bar, looking for a bell or something on the filthy countertop, but couldn't find one.
The only things she saw on the counter were a half empty glass of some dark liquid which was covered with a slimy green layer and an empty syringe.
Tearing her eyes off it, she called into the back kitchen.
"Hello? Keeler? Anybody home?"
After waiting a few more minutes, a man pushed open the kitchen door and walked over to her, wiping his large hands on a dirty yellow apron he had tied around his enormous waist.
His face was covered in dirt and deep scars which made him look quite unappealing. Especially combined with the immense lack of hair on his head and the rolls of fat which suffocated his neck.
He grinned as he caught sight of her, revealing rows of black and missing teeth.
"Good morning, good morning, my girl. How's you doing?" he said.
The closer he got, the stronger the urine and liquor smell of the bar seemed to get. Beka suppressed a strong urge to cover her nose.
"I'm not too great—"
"Aww, that's too bad. But, we all have shitty days now and then, don't we?" he laughed as he nearly spat in her face. A wave of the alcohol and urine smell hit her face.
Beka swallowed hard. "Yeah, I suppose we do. Now, I understand that you might have some people around who can fix ships. Engineers."
His grin widened. "Engineers? Of course I do!"
She faked a smile. "That's great. Now, that you understand, my ship is in very bad condition and I—"
"You meaning to say that you want the best I have?" he nodded, that grin never wavering. "Well, my girl, the best you want and the best you'll get."
Turning around, he hollered into the kitchen. "Harper! Get your fucking ass down here!"
A faint responding shout floated down the stairs. Beka couldn't make out what it was, but she guessed that the yeller must have been this Harper person.
She quietly crossed her fingers, praying that she'd get somebody who could at least turn a nanowelder on properly.
Keeler turned back to her. "Damn kid slept in late. You'll have to excuse him. Now, I don't suppose I can interest you in a drink while you're waiting?" he asked, gesturing over to the huge pile of dirty glasses which lay in a clogged up sink.
A rat scurried over the pile and disappeared into a hole chewed into the side of the counter.
Beka suppressed the urge to shudder. Instead, she forced another smile onto her face.
He shrugged. "Suit yourself. By the way, what's your name?"
She toyed with the idea of giving him a fake name, but doubted it was worth the trouble since he would probably forget it in the next five minutes. "Beka Valentine."
He continued wiping his greasy hands on his apron. With an irritated sigh and a mumble of curses under his breath, he turned back to the kitchen.
"Harper! Get down here!" he yelled.
"Coming!" came the answering voice of a person running madly around upstairs. Beka glanced up at the ceiling from where the noise was coming.
This guy had engineers living in his bar? An alarm went off in her head telling her to get out of there. A tiny flicker of hope lit up within her that she and Rev could fix the Maru by themselves. Sure they could. Piece of cake.
Before she had a chance to light it out of there, she heard the stomping of somebody running down stairs, and seconds later, the door of the kitchen was flung open as a short kid came hurling into the bar.
Not seeing the bucket of water which lay in his path, he nearly fell headfirst into it, but with flailing arms managed to save himself by grabbing hold of the counter beside him.
Gasping for breath, he angrily looked up at Keeler.
"Who was the dumb ass who left a bucket right in front of the door?" he demanded.
Keeler's never wavering grin looked a bit strained and Beka right away knew that the minute her back was turned, this kid would be in trouble.
As he quickly hopped over the bucket, an angry scowl still on his face, Keeler grabbed his shoulder in a not to kindly fashion and propelled him forward until he was standing in front of the bar, staring at Beka.
"Harper, meet Beka Valentine."
Beka was staring at him.
There was absolutely no way this kid was a day over twenty, and there was no way that he even knew what a nanowelder was, never mind how to turn one on.
His short blond hair stuck out wildly around his thin face. His face was so damn thin that his startling blue eyes looked out of place in it. Staring at him, she noticed how bloodshot his eyes were and the dark circles around his eyes. He must have had one hell of a party last night.
She quickly glanced him over. The kid was thinner than a frigging twig. Obviously Keeler kept himself fed a lot better than he kept his employees fed.
A shirt hung around his thin frame which was about five sizes too large for his thin, never mind short body. The sleeves hung past his elbows and he kept on shoving them up in an irritated fashion, as one who had gone his whole life wearing clothes that were too big for him. Slightly amused, Beka noticed his shirt was on backwards.
His pants were so wide on him that the faded toolbelt which hung around his waist was the only thing keeping them up. She quickly glanced at the toolbelt and was surprised to find some tools actually in there.
In complete contrast to the dirt and filth which covered his clothes, the few tools which he had in his belt shone as the dim light of the bar glinted on them. It was obvious he spent a lot of time taking care of them.
Well, he might know how to clean tools, but there was no way that this kid could fix things. Sure, he'd probably know how to tighten the screws in a chair, but how to fix sensors—no. Probably didn't even know what they were.
She crossed her arms and looked at Keeler who was still squeezing the kids shoulder. Beka noticed the pain in his eyes and clench in his jaws as he tried to keep the yelp of pain from coming out of his mouth.
"I was really thinking about having someone who was over the age of twenty." She said.
Keeler grinned. "Then you got the right person." He shoved the kid forward. "He's twenty-five. See? Even older than you wanted. Ain't that right, Harper?"
The kid nodded quickly. "Yup. Twenty-five. That's me. Going on twenty-six next month." He said casually.
Beka suppressed the urge to sigh.
"Kid, there is no way that you're anywhere near twenty-five."
His face fell as she realized he knew he had just lost a potential customer.
Keeler stepped up beside him and leaned towards Beka. That disgusting smell engulfed her again and she nearly coughed.
His grin was suddenly gone. "You listen here, lady. You said you wanted the best, and here you have the best. You ain't gonna find anyone better anywhere in this city. Now, will you take it, or will you leave it?"
She transferred her gaze from Keeler's beady little black eyes onto Harper's blue ones. She bit her lip.
Oh, what the hell.
She might as well. It would only cost her a couple of thrones, and who knows? Maybe the kid would actually know how to do a few things.
"Okay. Fine. I'll take him."
The grin immediately returned to Keeler's face as he opened the bar's side door and shoved Harper through it until he was standing next to Beka.
Without a word, Harper turned towards the door and wove his way through the tables and chairs.
"Come on. Let's go." He called over his shoulder, not looking at him.
With a frusterated sigh, she followed him.
Hours later, Beka leaned back against one of the Maru's indented walls and watched Harper work.
It had only taken them ten minutes to reach the station. Harper had wound them through a series of shortcuts, through buildings and back alleys, reassuring her that this way was much faster, and much safer. She hadn't argued, just followed him.
As soon as they had arrived, he had stood in front of her ship and had let out a low whistle.
"Wow. You did a great number on this one." He commented, staring at the smashed up airlock.
Beka grimaced. "Thanks."
"You know, compared to this wreck, Keeler can almost be called good looking. Although, I wouldn't take that too far. Almost is all I'll say." He said dryly.
She burst out laughing.
Man, if nothing else, this kid could make her laugh.
After they had forced open the airlock, they had climbed on board and Beka had right away started running through a list of a million things that needed to be done.
Completely ignoring her, he walked over to the Maru's main power source and pried the lid open. A cloud of smoke engulfed him and he waved it away with his hands while he coughed.
He peered inside.
Without a word, he grabbed hold of the sides and hauled himself inside of it.
Beka's eyes nearly fell out of her head.
"What the hell are you doing? Get the hell out of there! You'll fry yourself to death!"
A laugh came out of the box as the banging of metal reached her ears. "Trust me, there won't be any real electricity in here for quite a while. And until I get this thing working again, you can forget about the rest of this wreck. It's like a fish on sand right now."
After those words, a slow feeling of calm descended around her. Slowly, she was starting to relax.
Not only was this kid funny as hell, but he actually knew what he was doing.
Crossing her arms, she settled back to watch him work.
Hours later, he had gotten the power supply to start working again, got the main engines fired up, and had hooked the sensors back on line.
Beka had gone to the kitchen and had made herself a cup of coffee. As she stirred some milk into her cup, she listened to him banging around in the Maru's slipstream portal.
The kid's height had proved to be a blessing around the ship. He could crawl into any small tunnel, squirm his way into any little nook or cranny, and could worm his way around the very bowels of the ship, never getting stuck along the way.
As she listened to him work, she heard him yawn.
She smiled as she remembered his bloodshot eyes. Kid must have a headache still.
Grabbing another mug, she made another cup of coffee.
She walked over to the slipstream portal and stuck her head inside. She spied him hanging off a bar beside hundreds of wires, patiently welding the torn ones back together.
"Coffee?" she asked.
He grinned at her. "Man, that's the best freakin' idea anybody's had all day."
He hopped off the bar and turned off the soldering wand he had borrowed from her. He crawled over to the opening and eagerly grabbed the cup she was holding out to him.
She sat down outside of the portal and he settled down in the opening. Both of them stared off into space, sipping their coffee.
"So, where're you from?" he asked.
She smiled. "I don't sound like the locals, do I?"
He shook his head. "No, you sound like us, alright, but you ain't act like us."
She stirred her coffee. "If you want a definite planet as where I'm from, then I don't have an answer for you."
He frowned. "Then where the hell do you live?"
She smiled. "You're sitting in my home."
He smiled as he sipped his coffee, then he sighed. "You're lucky. I've always wanted to live on ships." He said, staring into his cup as he swirled the coffee around. "I mean, I see them all the time. You know, fixing junk on them, and I get to fly them too, but I never get to stay on them for more than a few hours." He sighed. "It must be so cool to live among the stars. You know, not standing down here, barely seeing them through the pollution and the smog, but to actually fly in them." He shook his head. "Man, would you listen to me droning on and on."
He set down his empty mug.
Beka smiled. "I know what you mean. I love it. Flying around, living up there my whole life. I can't blame you for wanting to be up there." She glanced at him. "Especially when you live on this trashpile."
He grinned and pulled the soldering wand out of his belt. "You gotta love it."
She could see a hint of sadness in his blue eyes, but it faded as soon as it had come.
"Well, gotta get back to work." He said cheerfully, pulling his head back into the portal as he disappeared amongst the piles of machinery.
Shaking her head, she picked up their mugs of coffee and went to bring them back to the kitchen.
Beka was actually getting used to Keeler's smell. This time when she'd entered the bar she hadn't even smelt the disgusting alcohol and urine. Only when Keeler had walked up to her and had started laughing about something had a wave of it hit her face.
She crossed her arms, forcing that fake smile to stay on her face as she listened to Keeler drone on about something.
"So," she said, casually interupting him. "Where's Harper?"
Keeler chuckled and waved a dismissive hand. "Don't you worry about the lad. He'll be right down."
Beka raised an eyebrow. Keeler was much more tolerant about Harper's tardiness than he had been yesterday.
But as soon as the kitchen door opened and Harper dragged himself in, she realized why.
Apparently, what she had suspected yesterday had happened.
Harper had been 'dealt with' for being late yesterday morning.
She had to stop her eyes from widening in shock when she first saw him.
A dark bruise colored one of his cheeks and his bottom lip was cut up, a small trickle of dry blood going down to his chin. One of his eyes was nearly swollen shut and was turning a dark shade of purple.
Not looking at her or at Keeler, he pushed open the side door and walked over to her side of the counter. Still not talking to her, he walked out of the bar.
Beka opened her mouth to ask Keeler what the hell he had done to Harper, but when she looked at him, she found him glaring down at her.
He pointed at the door, that grin having vanished from his face. "I suggest getting out of here, little lady. Your engineer is appearing to be leaving without you." He growled.
Beka abruptly shut her mouth and spun around and walked after Harper.
Before she had slammed the door shut, she heard Keeler yell after them:
"Don't you fucking dare forget to tell her about the bonus!"
Harper only nodded, but didn't reply as he walked down the street, keeping his eyes on the gutter, rather than on her.
As soon as they got to the Maru, Beka dragged him over to the medicine cabinet despite his protests that he was fine, and she disinfected his cuts and held an icepack over his eye until the swelling had gone down.
"I won't have you die of an infection in a few hours without having finished fixing my God damn ship." She mumbled, dabbing the cut on his lip with a coton wad soaked in disinfectant.
He grinned, some of his humour having returned. "I didn't know you cared."
She laughed and swatted him over the back of the head. "Get to work."
Smiling, he walked off.
Humming, she walked down the Maru's corridor towards the sounds of metal banging. In her hands she carried two cups of steaming coffee.
When she reached the front of the ship where Harper was digging around in her wall fixing an AP valve or something, she set down the cups on a control panel.
After staring at him hanging half way out of her wall, she cleared her throat. The banging stopped and he glanced at her over his shoulder.
"Coffee?" she asked.
A grin spread across his face as he hopped out of the wall and grabbed his cup. "You're the best, you know that?"
He sat down in the wall opening, leaning against a whole bunch of wires, and she sat down on the floor.
They both sipped their coffee in silence.
Beka was watching a few people walking around the station through the front windsheild while she sipped her coffee. Finally when she couldn't stand the silence anymore, she looked up at him.
"Harper, why did he do it?"
Harper stared at her, his eyes blank. "Do what?"
She scowled. "Don't be dumb. You know what I'm talking about."
He shrugged as he sipped his coffee. "He just hates it when I'm late. Especially when there's customers waiting. Says its bad for business."
"And beating up employees isn't bad for business?"
Harper held up his hands. "Don't ask me to figure out what's banging around in that empty nutshell of his."
She took another sip as she watched two men argue over the prize of some metal appliance outside the window.
"How long have you been working for Keeler?"
A short silence. Then: "About two years."
She whistled. "Kid, you aren't even old enough to work now, never mind two years ago."
He shrugged again. "Hey, you gotta work to stay alive. You can't eat without having money, and you can't get money without working. Sure, stealing works sometimes, but the whole complicated mess you have to go through to steal just two thrones without getting caught ain't worth the trouble. So, working is the only other way to go."
She swirled her coffee around her cup. "So, you've always been running around and fixing things?"
"Pretty much. Used to steal junk from the dump which is about two blocks from here where my folks and I lived, fix it up and sell it on the blackmarket, but I could never get a lot of money that way. Damn swindlers down there always try to buy things right out from under you."
Beka laughed. "I know what you mean. Salvaging for certain people is almost as bad."
"So then Keeler found me. Told me that I could come and work for him. I thought it was a good deal. And it is, really. A few quirks here and there, but it's better than living in the dump."
She stared into her coffee. "And what's this bonus thing that he was talking about?"
A stony silence met this question. She glanced up at him and found him angrily staring into his cup. Something like shame burned in his eyes.
"Nothing." He mumbled.
She sighed. "Come on, Harper."
"Harper, whatever it is, it can't be that bad. Just spit it out. Besides, Keeler will pretty soon find out whether you told me or not, and unless you want to walk around with two black eyes, I suggest just telling me and taking the easy way out."
A silence followed this as he stared at the floor. Slowly, he put his cup down beside him and squeezed his eyes shut.
"The bonus is just a little package deal that comes with my helping you fix junk. It basically says that, when I'm done fixing everything for the day, that then I'd—" he swallowed hard, his voice going quieter and quieter. "Then I'd sleep with you for a few extra thrones."
Beka nearly spat out her coffee. She stared at him with wide eyes, hardly believing her ears.
But looking at his lowered head, the anger which lay hidden in his clenched jaw and the shame which burned in his blue eys, she knew that he wasn't kidding.
She opened her mouth and struggled to find something to say, but couldn't think of anything. My God, she thought. He wasn't even twenty years old. Some people didn't even lose their virginity by that age, never mind—Oh, my God.
She quickly gave herself a mental shake to regain control of herself.
She set down her coffee cup and looked over at him.
"Harper—" she started saying softly.
"Don't." came the angry mumble. "Just don't, okay? Go bring the damn cups back to the kitchen and pretend you didn't ever hear about the stupid thing, okay?"
She gave a bitter laugh. "And what if I just ignore it? You think that Keeler will be kind and considerate, letting it go 'just this once'? You want to voluntarily offer yourself up for another pounding session?"
"I'll think of something. I'll just go home and then I'll—" he abruptly shut his mouth as he realized he had no idea what he was going to say.
She got up and crouched down in front of him.
She stared at him for a few minutes, seeing the hidden pain and shame which lay buried beneath that blank look.
Gently, she laid a hand on his knee, but he jerked back out of her reach as if she had scalded him.
She sighed. "Harper, listen to me. Believe it or not, I know what it's like to have to do something which you're ashamed of. I've had to do things too that have left me unable to look certain people in the face ever again. But that doesn't mean that you have to push away every good thing that comes close to you. I know why you're getting all defensive now. You don't want me to become good friends with you, because you're scared over what I'll think of you. Well, I'll tell you something right now. Nothing you've ever done or ever will do will change the way I think about you. I'll admit I don't know you very well, but I can tell that you're one hell of a good person, on the inside and the outside, and no matter what shameful scars you have, those won't change that opinion I have about you."
She stared at him and saw that look of anger and shame slowly fading from his eyes. He blinked a few times and then looked up at her.
He gave her a gentle smile. Beka knew that that small gesture was the closest she'll come to getting a thank you.
Smiling, she gently punched him in the side. "You're welcome. Now, get back to work." She said, grabbing the empty coffee mugs and making her way to the kitchen.
She ran towards the airlock as she heard him hopping out of the Maru and onto the station floor.
"Harper! Wait a sec!" she called, running to the door.
She reached the airlock, gasping for breath. He turned around, smiling up at her.
"What? AP valves blew already?"
She laughed and held out her hand to him. Lightly, she tossed him a handful of thrones.
He caught them and stared at them with wide eyes.
"You don't have to pay me until I'm done with—"
She shook her head. "That money, my friend, isn't for the wonderful engineering services you've been generous enough to give me." She gave him a wink. "Go and tell Keeler that I thoroughly enjoyed all of the services his engineer had been kind enough to offer me."
Hearing that, he burst out laughing. "Oh, man, Beka. You really are the best." He laughed
She grinned and shooed him away. "Now get on home and make sure that Keeler gets that message."
"Oh, don't worry. It'll be the first thing out of my mouth when I open that bar door."
She had to clear her throat quite a few times to be heard above the roar of the nanowelder. She rolled her eyes. The kid was seriously deaf.
"Harper!" she finally yelled.
The nanowelder was turned off and the sparks stopped flying around him. He crawled out from underneath one of the control panels and pushed the goggles onto his forehead.
He grinned up at her.
"Coffee?" she asked, holding out one of the two cups she had in her hands.
Without answering her, he hopped up and stuck the nanowelder into his toolbelt.
"So, you have any parents?" she asked, glancing at him across her coffee cup.
He shook his head, sipping his coffee. "Nope."
She raised an eyebrow.
He gave her a sad smile. "They died about five years ago."
"I'm sorry." She said softly.
He shrugged casually. "Hey, stuff happens. Nothing you can do about it."
"You have anybody else?"
Another shake of the head. The goggles were starting to slip down his face and he shoved them up again.
"Used to. Used to have one hell of a family. Aunt, uncle, twin cousins, mom and a dad. I tell you, birthdays were the best times of the year. Followed only by Christmas." He chuckled and took a sip of his coffee. He turned serious again. "We used to live out in the country. Little town, not much. My parents thought it would be a safe place to raise us, you know, away from the Nietzschies. But, they were wrong. We had to learn the hard way. Just three years after we moved out there, a bunch of Magog came and raided the town. Killed my cousins." He was fiddling around with his toolbelt, rubbing the worn leather and tugging on some fringes. "So then we moved back to the city. Dump rather. That was where the refugee camp for folks like us was set up. Nietschies were kind enough to let us stay there. Under their generous protection." He gave a bitter laugh. "Yeah, right. When I was fourteen, they decided the camp was getting too crowded, so they grab a few machine guns and surrounded the camp and started shooting. Anybody who they could get, they shot and killed. My parents and my aunt and uncle were within shooting range. I wasn't." he shrugged. "I hid underneath a table in one of the shacks where we were living.The Nietzsche who came and looked inside apparently had really bad eyesight or something. Didn't see me."
She was staring at him, a lump in her throat. She forcibly swallowed it. Why the hell did she care so much? She hardly knew this kid. But for some reason—some reason, she just couldn't help feeling the pain which she saw in his eyes. The pain which never showed on that smiling face of his.
"And then?" she asked softly.
Another shrug. "Not much, to tell you the truth. Grubbed around in the dump for a couple of years, then went to work for Keeler. Not too interesting, mind you." He glanced up at her.
"You got anybody left?"
She nodded. "My brother. Rafe. Haven't seen him in years, though. My dad died a couple of years ago and my mom ran out on us when I was too young to even remember her face."
He smiled. "We're real family people, ain't we?"
Smiling sadly, she sipped her coffee.
Just before he left, Beka called after him again.
He glanced at her from where he stood in the open airlock, the dim lights of the station glinting off his blond hair.
Wordlessly, she tossed him another few thrones.
He grinned at her as he stuffed them into his pockets and leapt off the Maru. Without looking back, he ran off into the dark streets.
She stood at the door watching him go.
She sighed. For somer reason, she found herself trusting him. She'd only known him for a couple of days, but yet—there was just something about him that made him so easy to talk to, so easy to understand.
Shaking her head with a rueful smile, she shut the airlock.
Turning towards the kitchen, she headed off to wash their coffee cups.
"Coffee?" she asked, standing behind him where he was welding the airlock door back on properly.
He turned off the soldering wand and grinned at her.
Handing him a cup, they both sat down by the open airlock, staring out into the busy station. People ran by them, yelling and calling to each other. The hum of leaving or docking ships echoed through the loud announcement coming from a loudspeaker.
They sat in the open door, sipping their coffee staring out at the world around them.
"Kinda makes you feel guilty, huh?" he asked.
She stared at him. "What?"
"Sitting here on our asses while everyone else is doing something."
She burst out laughing, nearly spitting coffee all over herself.
"Oh, god, Harper!"
Three years later, Beka slowly walked down Andromeda's long corridor.
Trance had come to her a few hours ago, worried sick about Harper. Apparently, he hadn't been talking to anybody, refusing to even say hello to anyone and avoiding going to places where the rest of the crew was. Sometimes, he'd shut himself up for hours in engineering, not letting anybody inside, not even Rommie.
It wasn't the solitude that Beka was worried about. She knew that Harper had a lot to deal with. She couldn't begin to imagine what it would be like to have her worst nightmare come true.
She shook her head. It was so damn unfair. He'd had such a damn hard life already. Why couldn't he just be left alone for a couple of years?
But no, he had to be thrown another hurtle to clamber across. A hurtle which he had been terrified of for years. His worst nightmare.
Why did it have to be Magog? Why? Life was so damn unfair to him. Always.
The worst part was that he might not make it. She gritted her teeth. God knows with his damn Mudfoot immune system trying to fight against the Magog larvae, he didn't have a chance in hell.
Life was so damn unfair.
She shook her head, forcing herself to stick to the main task.
So, Harper had been avoiding everyone and refusing to talk to anyone. Fine. Wallowing in self pity, she didn't mind that. Hell, he had every right to wallow in self pity right now.
But the drinking was something she hated. It would kill him. Hell, the Magog larvae would too, but at least with the Magog, there was a chance. A slim one. But there was a chance.
With alcohol, and his weak, defenceless body, there wasn't a chance in hell.
Besides, there was no way in hell she was going to let Harper die all alone. No way.
She came to a stop in front of his quarters.
Quietly, she asked Rommie to let her in. There was a slight pause as she heard Rommie asking Harper if she should let her in. After a short silence, she heard an agreeing mumble and knew he was shrugging his shoulders.
The hologram of Rommie appearing in front of her.
"He said you can come in." she glanced down at what Beka was carrying in her hands. "Those are nearly cold by now. I could whip up a new batch for you in just seconds." She offered.
Beka smiled. "No, thanks, Rommie. It's not the temperature that counts."
The AI frowned for a moment, but then shrugged and disappeared.
The door silently swished open and Beka walked into the dimly lit room.
She blinked a couple of times to let her eyes get used to the darkness in the room.
He was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. Empty bottles lay strewn around the floor and on his bed. He looked like hell. His clothes looked like he hadn't changed in days and his blond hair wildly stuck out all over the place.
"Don't turn on any lights. My head'll explode." He mumbled into his chest as he kept his head hanging down.
Without a word, she slowly walked closer to him. When she reached him, she sat down next to him, shoving a couple of empty bottles aside.
Quietly, she stared at him, waiting for him to say something. When he didn't say anything, she gently held up one of the cups she was carrying in her hands.
"Coffee?" she asked.
For a minute, he didn't respond. He just kept staring at the floor. Beka didn't think he had heard her, but then he slowly raised his head.
He blinked a few times and stared at the cup in her hand.
His eyes were blood shot and there were dark circles around them. Beka smiled faintly.
She was remembering a much younger Harper whom she had once known who had looked the same.
He was still staring at the cup. She continued holding it towards him.
Slowly, as he watched the cup in her hands, she could see that mask slowly fading. That smiling face he always had on himself when the world wanted him to cry, and all he could do was laugh.
That pain which had always been hidden in his eyes now spread across his face as tears filled his eyes.
With a quiet sob, the tears spilled over and ran down his face as he quietly started to cry.
"Beka…I don't wanna—" he sobbed. "I don't wanna die."
Quietly, she set down the two cups she had in her hands, and reached over and drew him into her arms.
He clutched at her like a drowning man, sobbing in her shoulder.
She gently stroked his back as she held him. Tears filled her own eyes as she squeezed her eyes shut.
"I know, Seamus. God, I know." She whispered, the tears running down her face.
Together, they sat on the floor in the darkened room, holding each other and crying, their tears of pain coursing down their faces. His were tears of despair, hers were tears of grief.
On the floor beside them, sat the two cups of coffee, quietly getting colder and colder as the minutes went by.
As Andromeda quietly watched the two people holding each other, sobbing their tears of pain into each others shoulders, she suddenly understood.
Smiling quietly, she quickly sent a message to her central AI.
Seconds later, steam rose from the two cups as the coffee gradually grew warmer again.