It just wasn't fair. Jim caught himself thinking many times that next week. It just isn't.
How he had gone almost a week on the R.L.S. Legacy without noticing Clarie was beyond him. It seemed like every time he turned around now, he saw her out of the corner of his eye; carrying boxes, mopping, talking to crew members, even repairing the aft alterators on the same day he was assigned repair of the aft repulse emitters.
It just wasn't fair.
He hadn't been sleeping. Scrappy images of his childhood and earlier teen years with Clarie haunted him in his dreams and woke him in the middle of the night sweating... whether from passion or fear he couldn't tell, but he tried to think about the dreams as little as possible.
Silver tried to "help", but ended up making things worse. Jim was almost certain that Silver was the reason him and Clarie couldn't get away from each other.
"Jim." Clarie's flat tone came from behind him one day as he organized the ship's rope storage.
"Yeah." Jim replied, inwardly groaning.
"Assignment for us." Clarie said tiredly. "We get to clean out the L1 storage bay. Apparently whatever was in there went southwards."
"Fuck it." Jim said. "Just what I need." He coiled another set of stabilizing ropes.
"Let's just get it done. Sooner we do it, sooner you can go back to tying yourself in knots." Clarie said, watching Jim create a huge bowie knot in the stabilizers.
"Fuck it again." He said, tossing the ropes back and turning to brush past her. "Let's go."
The L1 storage bay turned out to be an utter disaster. When Jim managed to wrench the rusty shaft lock open, the wood door creaked open to reveal a dark bay completely filled with junk.
"What?!" Jim said. "I thought this ship was new!"
"Of course it isn't," Clarie moved forwards to begin sorting the first few boxes of crap. "This ship and everything on it were chosen by your dear friend Doctor Doppeler, and he obviously has no idea what he's doing."
Jim hit the light panel. Half of the row of cargo lights flipped on, the other half stayed eerily unlit.
"I'll fix the lights real fast. Then we can get this junk to the incinerator."
Clarie nodded, already elbow deep in a box of what looked like failed engine parts. Jim grabbed one of the lighter crates and dragged it into the hall so he could fiddle with the light panel above the door.
As he worked, Jim couldn't help but glance at his companion. She looked skinnier, her baggy clothes looking even more so. He noticed that her movements were slow and stiff, almost like she was in pain. And it was obvious that she was exhausted.
"Look, I know it's none of my business..." he began, pulling the cover off the light panel.
"I'm fine, okay? Whatever you may think about Range, he's fine. We're fine. It's all fine." Clarie said, cutting him off.
"Hey, I didn't say anything about Range, I ju-wait, are you two involved?" Jim asked, peering down through the doorway.
"No. Yes. Well, yes." Clarie said, sighing.
Jim leaned on the door frame, picturing Range. The overly muscular humanoid gave off quite the aura... he wasn't exactly anyone you wanted to mess with. He had given Shorty a black eye the other night at mess because Shorty had sat down in Range's usual spot. Jim was surprised Clarie was involved with him.
"How did you get tangled with him?" Jim asked carefully. "He seems... interesting."
"He was in the business with Dad, he saved our bacon a few times. He helped me get on the Legacy, and I guess I feel I owed it to him."
"Owed it to him?!" Jim asked, shocked. "You're tangling with a guy just because he got you a place on the ship?" He yanked on a wire in the door panel and the rest of the lights flickered on.
Clarie straightened up and turned around. Jim jumped down from his crate and barely stifled a gasp. He noticed for the first time a dark bruise creeping up Clarie's neck and dark circles rimming her eyes.
"Range is a good man, I've seen it. He may not be the gentlest son-of-a-wench there is out there, but he's all I have right now." She said, holding his gaze.
"Did he do that?" Jim asked, pointing at her neck.
"Nose out, Jim." Clarie sighed, turning back to her box.
Jim frowned but fell silent. He went back to the hall to replace the light panel cover. It was hard to ignore the gnawing emotions sloshing around in the pit of his stomach.
They worked in silence until the mess bell rang. Jim swore. Silver would have his hide for missing the dinner rush. He followed Clarie out the door but was stopped by a large form blocking their view.
"Where the hell you been?!" Range's unmistakable voice boomed. He practically filled the whole hallway.
"Special assignment from the captain, been down here cleaning all day." Clarie replied smoothly.
"Like hell I believe that when you're down here with this runt?!" Range swore and grabbed Clarie's wrist. Hard. She winced.
"Now, come on, Range. We were just w-" Jim grabbed the humanoid's hand and tried to pull it off Clarie's and was met with a fist to the face. He fell back on the floor, dazed.
"Jim!" Clarie cried. Range snorted and began dragging her away. Jim laid on the floor until well after they had gone, feeling the blood rolling down his cheeks until it stopped.