A/N: One from the vaults, from way, way back. Found it while cleaning up archived files on the eldest Mac. Fluffy and affectionate: enjoy!
They looked almost nothing alike. Whereas his cheekbones were high, almost fantastically sharp, his wideset eyes an unearthly clear blue, her face was slender to the point of caution, her eyes a deep brown just a touch lighter than Cassie's. Brother and sister had brown hair of a similar shade, and that seemed to be the extent of their resemblance. Onscreen and at first, they appeared to be unrelated.
Then, as Rosa Fischer talked to Capa, her brother Robert, homebound from saving the sun and, by extension, all life on Earth, Cassie began to see elements, shared traces, in their features and mannerisms. A deceptive delicacy, running counter to the intense focus of expression on the face: smiling or serious, it didn't matter. An absolute openness, of a kind that inspired in Cassie both a heartshaking urge to glance away and an elemental, nearly fierce protectiveness, in the eyes.
She was sharing, on his invitation, his latest call Earthward. It was a live feed now, not a recording. They were nearly home. "Nearly," as in "under two months out." Rosa was saying, affectionately and wryly:
"You're telling me you weren't afraid."
She saw the cracks starting, Cassie did: Capa's expression, ever so calm, was giving way.
"Not at all—" Rosa prompted drolly.
Capa pursed his lips as he shook his head. "No."
"The sun was right there. Right there. And you weren't afraid."
"Mm mm." through the teeth behind those full, pursed lips.
"You're a damned liar, Robert, and you know it."
Capa surrendered with a wide, sheepish grin. He gazed out at his sister with his eyes the color of the vaulted heaven of the Sistine Chapel. He nudged Cassie gently, nodding toward the screen. "Yes, I know it. And, Cass, I'm sorry, but she's the only sister I have."
"Meaning—?" prompted Rosa, with a perplexed but affable frown.
"The future Mrs. Capa will, unfortunately, be unable to pick and choose when it comes to sisters-in-law."
Rosa's eyes widened. "The future Mrs.—"
Capa leaned forward, reaching for the transmission-termination toggle. "Think Mace is at the door, Rosa —"
"Wait. Robert — Don't you dare —"
" — and you know how tetchy he gets when he can't use the phone —"
"You're getting married?"
"Gotta go," Capa said. "Love you, Rosa."
He winked at his sister, ended the transmission.
On live feed then.
Live-live now. The three of them walked in muddy-soled boots and spring coats through a sodden but awakening park in Sydney, Australia. Capa, lucky man, had a girl on each arm. Ahead of them in the clumping tireless tumble of those younger than ten ran Tilly and Sam, Rosa's kids. As Cassie watched, Tilly with a cry of "Tag!" tackled Sam to the splotchy re-grassing ground. Full-contact tag, obviously.
"Hey, Tilly!" Rosa called. "Easy, there!"
But both children were laughing. No damage to Sam, save to the last hitherto unmuddied inches of his jacket and trousers.
"One for the wash," Rosa muttered.
"Good tackle," Cassie observed.
"She's already planning to make her mark in the WFA. Once she's done making her mark on her brother, that is." Rosa glanced wryly across Capa to Cassie. "Bet he told you he had two nephews."
"Wha — who?" Capa, mildly absent up until now, focused in. "I did not."
"Oh, really? Hmm —?" Rosa prompted Cassie. "He's never kept it straight."
"Two nephews— No." Capa looked sharply at Cassie. "I most certainly did not —"
Cassie laughed. "Oh, yes, you did."
"Christ. I did, didn't I?"
"You're a damned liar, Robert," Rosa intoned, affectionately. "A damned lousy liar."
"And you're a rotten uncle, too," Cassie added. But she eased closer as they walked, squeezed his arm.
"Think I'll be a rotten father as well?" he asked softly.
"Think you should get used to being a husband first," Cassie replied, snuggling closer to him. They were billeted in an under-eaves room of Rosa's house, well up in the attic. Cozy. Peaked ceiling, one small square window, a pane of shiny blue-black behind a white lace curtain, just feet from the foot of their bed.
"You're accustomed to tight spaces, aren't you?" Rosa had said, passing Cassie a pile of pillows and folded pillowcases and towels.
"I — we wouldn't feel comfortable with too much room," Cassie had replied, honestly. "Not just yet."
"Good." Rosa smiled, leaned across the linens, and kissed her on the cheek. "Welcome to the family, Cassie."
— as something downstairs crashed to the floor, and Sam yelled, "Tilly —!"
"Or to the madhouse," Rosa muttered. She gave Cassie a beleaguered smile, went down the stairs. "G'night."
She awoke to a soft wet pattering overhead. For a moment, she was confused: a leak in the pipes, maybe. One of the conduits running to the Oxygen Garden. But as she lay in the dark, she realized it wasn't falling onto her, even though, by the sound, it was falling. Something beyond the bulkhead but under the influence of gravity — how —?
"Robert —" she whispered.
He was awake; he'd been listening to it, too. He squeezed her. "It's rain, Cass."
He didn't keep the wonder from his voice. Cassie, nestled with him in their tiny garret room, lay in her own quiet pocket of wonder and listened. As she slipped back into sleep, she realized for the first time, truly, since their arrival not just here in Rosa's big old gabled house but on Earth itself: We made it.
Morning. Down in the kitchen, Rosa was attempting to re-establish diplomatic relations between the sovereign states of Tillyland and Greater Samia, which relations, from what Cassie could hear, had buckled following a dispute over cereal preferences and related shortages. She and Capa cowered together cozily and listened. Not even the odor of good strong Earth coffee drifting up the stairs could tempt them closer to the fray boiling below.
"Not late to school as well." Cassie echoed Rosa. "Jesus."
"That'll be us in a few years," Capa said.
"No, it won't." She propped herself up, met his eyes. "I'm going to fly shuttles. You can stay home with the kids."
"Oh, no. No. That's it. I want a — Is it too late for an annulment?"
"Given last night — and the night before — and that afternoon in the room behind your lab at the base — I'd have to say 'yes.'"
"We'll have to get a divorce, then." Capa eased her onto her back, eased himself closer, kissed her. They had no set schedule for the morning; Rosa had told them they were on their own hours, as long as they remembered to lock the door when they went out. "Remind me later, okay...?"
Cassie, smiling, wrapped him in her arms. "Okay."
Later, they met her downtown for lunch. Rosa parked them at a window table in a busy, wood-trimmed cafe, where sunlight skirted the half-raised blinds and boldly streaked the menus, and they ordered pasta and salad and iced tea.
"So, how'd he talk you into it?" Rosa pulled apart the last breadstick, her friendly dark eyes on Cassie's wedding ring. "Not pregnant, are you?"
Capa coughed into his water glass. "No. I don't think —" He spluttered to a blanch. "We're not, are we —?" he asked Cassie.
"Listen to him bandying about the communal 'we.'" Rosa laughed. She wagged the greater part of her breadstick at Capa. "She's the one who'll be doing all the work, and you know it. Not to mention, you should get used to questions like that. You head out on your lecture tour, that's what the press will be asking."
"The press will be asking how we completed the mission," Capa said coolly, picking up his fork.
"Oh, will they?" Rosa met his eyes frankly. "We've had nothing but bloody 'complete-the-mission' for three years. Now we're not going to die off, we want to celebrate, and that means trotting out the tabloid questions for our poster-boy scientist-saviour and his wife, the beautiful and brave pilot. So stick your physics on the back burner and get ready for it, Robert. Anyway, then... are you?"
Rosa rolled her eyes Cassie's way. "Wasn't like this for the whole trip, was he?"
Cassie laughed. "No, thank God. And no: not yet."
"'Poster-boy scientist-saviour,'" Capa was muttering, past a last mouthful of ravioli. "Of all the ridiculous —"
On cue, a girl in a gray coat hovered to a halt at their table. She had ash-blonde hair and eyes that matched her coat; she was all of sixteen if she was a minute, Cassie thought. She had a messenger bag slung over her shoulder and a notepad and pen in her hands, and she looked at Capa with what could only be termed "shy reverence."
"Excuse me — I'm so sorry —" she said. "Are you Robert Capa?"
Capa looked at her a third blankly, a third bemusedly. The third third, Cassie could see, he was reserving for a frown. To the girl, she said, smiling slightly: "Yes, he is."
The girl blushed and beamed in equal measure. She looked over her shoulder; Cassie saw, behind her, a tableful of girls of like age, with books and bags and coats. "It's him," the first girl said, smiling.
They all rose in unison and headed over. Their girl returned her attention to Capa, whose one-third frown had been pre-empted by a mild look of panic, and shyly offered him the notepad and pen. "Could I get your autograph?"
Rosa eyed the advancing mob good-naturedly and got up. "Think that's my cue to get the car." She plucked a folding of bills from her purse, dropped it on the table, and made for the exit. Cassie nodded. She sat and casually finished her tea and watched her poster-boy scientist-saviour husband take his first tentative steps into the world of celebrity.
Later: work. Contacts, calls, messages sent and read. Data received, transmitted. Schedules set. Later, the Capas — Capa's and Rosa's parents — would be coming in. For now, tasks finished, Capa and Cassie had time for a run, a cleanup, maybe a bit of canoodling between the two.
Post-run, not "maybe": yes. Post-canoodle, smiling, languid, content, Cassie left Capa to finish what had started out as a shared shower. She toweled and dressed in their cozy attic room; she thought of what they'd touched on at lunch, topic-wise, and called toward the cream-colored bathroom door:
"I might have lied."
Through the door, the water just shutting off, Capa's voice called in muffled reply: "What's that, Cass—?"
From downstairs, well below, came the sounds of people entering the house, stampeding feet, cries of "Grandma!" and "Grandpa!" A "Mom —" from Rosa — and then a woman's voice, weathered, practical, emotional: "Where is he? I want to see— Where— Rosa, you didn't put them in the attic —?"
"Tell you later, sweetheart." Cassie smiled toward the tumult downstairs. "Your parents are here."