Beka stopped in the door of the plush, airy, sun-bright room. Harper was sitting up in the bed, legs stretched out on top of the covers, wearing the soft loose clothes that all the patients here wore. He was scowling, working one of his logic puzzles wrong handed and obviously getting frustrated with himself. His smart hand, wrapped firmly in a pressure-cast, kept twitching every time he made a mark on the flexy.
The surgery had gone well. There had been a slight infection in the tendons that had extended his stay, but that was gone now, too. She had gotten the good news from his surgeon as she arrived this morning. He was officially ready to be released. He would still need some PT, which Rommie had already decided to monitor, but he would be back, home and whole this afternoon.
She had long since given up being concerned about the relief such news brought.
It was strange. So many things had changed in her life since that first run with Harper… and yet, somehow, in some basic way, neither of them had really changed. Maybe that was bad. Maybe they should have changed, especially in the last few months when being on the Andromeda. The jobs were bigger, now. The worries different. The decisions seemed to be more important, more lasting. Surrounded by the remnants of a society that was so much bigger, so much stronger than anything she had ever dealt with… it sometimes seemed like she should have to change to fit. The Rev had. Trance, well, Trance seemed to have been half expecting it. And Tyr seemed to feel he had somehow found his rightful place, and would eventually take it from Dylan. But she…there were just sometimes when she felt like she was on her own. And she had to fight the urge to load up in the Maru and just get the hell out of Dodge. Not because of the danger, not even because of Dylan's over-control issues. But because she had an ever growing suspicion that people like her wouldn't be welcome in this new order that she was supposed to be helping Dylan build. And honestly, she was torn as to rather it was better to stay in the plush comfort of the High Guard ship, or to take off and quit even paying basic lip service to creating a universal order that would never have her as a member.
And, just when she would feel the most lost, the most alone, she would run into Harper. "Beka," he would say. "Of course we wouldn't fit there…the whole Commonwealth was way too shiny for the likes of us. And even if Dylan manages to recreate his perfect utopia – which are never perfect, by the way – I'm pretty sure we will have corrupted him enough by that point that we can still move around the fringes. Maybe we can, like, manage the secret police, or something."
"I'm pretty sure that'll be Tyr's job."
"There ya go," he said. "Look, Beka, This new Commonwealth idea has about as much a chance of happening as the Restors have of owning shares in Pangalactic. You know that and I know that. But if, by some wild stretch of the imagination, Dylan actually manages to reestablish the Commonwealth, well, I'll be the first on the Maru so we can get the hell out of the sanity. Until then, I plan on just sitting back, taking advantage of the unlimited hot water, and enjoying the ride." He hesitated, looking at her with suddenly wary eyes. "We're good, right, boss? I mean, we're clear on the fact that if you go, I go."
"We're good." She'd say, both reassuring and reassured.
It was a common conversation between them. That being a little rough around the edges wasn't always bad. That the gleam of 'civilization' wasn't always as bright as the love and respect between … people.
She pulled that reassurance up now, looking at him. She could appreciate how nice his surroundings were, appreciate how the careful, clean medicine was useful; and she could clearly see how uncomfortable he was with both.
If she ever had her doubts about whether he should come with her if she left, moments like this reassured her.
He was one of her kind, one of her pack. He had been from the first moment she met him. He always would be.
And she was glad of it.
She stepped into the room. "Hey, Seamus."
He looked up, and brightened. "Hey, boss. Thought you guys were gonna just take off and leave me here, it's been so long."
She rolled her eyes. "It's been one night."
"Yeah, but one night alone in this Stepford town is one too many."
"I'm sorry we frightened you by leaving you all alone on this plush, expensive medical facility where you had nurses and janitorial staff to cater to your every need." She put down his shoulder bag with it's change of clothes, and pulled out a smaller, plastic bag.
"And boy, did my nurse cater to my needs," he waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Beka snorted, knowing that he'd spent most of his two days here either sedated, whacked out of his mind on pain-killers, or throwing up because of a reaction to his meds. "Whatever, you stud of a man, you. Push over."
"Don't you forget it," he said, sliding over on the bed, carefully holding his injured hand up. She joined him, stretching out on the bed next to him. She opened the bag she'd brought with her, and pulled out the container of chocolate ice-cream and two spoons. His eyes lit up.
"Awesome! What'd I do to rate this? Am I dying? Did they give me some weird infection and I'm dying and you have to break it to me? Not that I'd mind, 'cos, you know, ice-cream."
"Nope. Just… I was thinking of when we first met. Got nostalgic. Got a sweet-tooth. Got stupid and decided for some Devine only knows reason that I wanted to share with your grubby self."
"You do have these odd moments of shear genius, and/or total insanity. Gimme."
"I do have some news for you," she said, licking her spoon.
"Oh yeah?" he sounded disinterested, trying to reach across himself with his stupid hand and spoon ice-cream.
"Yep. You're out of here. Officially discharged. They're filling out the paperwork now."
He looked up, and she was taken aback by the relief in his eyes. "I'm sprung? That's the best news I've had since you opened that bag."
"What, you so excited to give up all this splendor and return to Zen and the art of ship-maintenance?"
"I'm just… I'm ready to go home, Beka." And the truth of it was in his eyes.
She wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "And home is more than ready to have you back. She's told me so at length. Now eat your ice-cream."
He smiled. Head butted her affectionately. She hugged him in response.
"Hey," he said suddenly, pulling away. "You know how Rommie has that that cool way she manages her plasma ejection? Feeding it back through the stabilizers before it vents?"
"Yeah," she said hesitantly.
"I got this idea. We could do something similar with the Maru, but, see, we'd run it through hot."
She frowned. "But that would cause a mini explosion."
"Exactly. And give you a four minute boost of speed that could beat just about any ship out there."
"And blow up the ship," she said, taking another bite of the ice-cream.
"Ah, but only if you just feed and feed it. If you keep it to a short burst, you could theoretically use it safely. Like nitro on a car."
"I'm not liking the theoretically."
"But it will only be theoretical until I prove it retical."
"Mmm," he agreed, swallowing another bite. "Technical term. Anyway, what do you think?"
She shook her head a little. "I think life is sweet sometimes."
He met her eyes, and smiled with real, deep warmth. "Yeah. Yeah it is."
And they both knew that those were the only times that really mattered.
And they ate ice-cream and schemed and joked until the nurse came with his discharge and kicked them out.