Michelle Pichette


Chapter 14




* * *

     Harper had spent the day doing what he’d done for most of his life, worked like a dog for no reward.  Okay, so he had forty eight dollars to show for all the cars that had appeared from seemingly nowhere in Dom’s driveway, so there had been a little bit of reward.  At first, all the strangers had made him fearful, the alien’s threats again ringing in his head.  However, Mister O’Donnell had been chatty with most of them and had been chatty with him when he wasn’t so friendly with the owner of the car Harper was working on at the time.  In the end, Harper had loosened up about the state of affairs, realizing that the people getting their cars serviced barely acknowledged him, that he was merely ‘O’Donnell’s mechanic.’

     Mister O’Donnell had given him beer and food and clapped him on the back cheerfully a lot and told him about how he was going to see to it that Harper had the best mechanic’s job ever.  It was worrying at times, but Harper had managed to actually fix everything that had been brought before him, though some of it had been pure guess work at first.  He’d gotten the hang of it though and felt confident that he could repair anything brought to Dom’s driveway now.  Once the onslaught was done, Harper had raced around like a maniac, cleaning up the driveway and Dom’s tools, then his clothing and himself so that there wouldn’t be any evidence of what had gone on all day.  Now that he had finally finished everything, he was tired and sore and hungry and wishing he could think of some better way of making a lot more money.  He had just collapsed in the living room, only wanting to sit quietly for a few minutes.  He’d just laid his head back on the sofa when he heard Dom’s garage door opening.

     Letting out a resigned sigh, Harper forced himself to get up and he put on a perky smile as he dragged himself into the kitchen.  Thinking of the money he had stashed in his room and that maybe it would stay his room if he could keep doing what he’d done today, he told himself that it was all worth it.  He’d been fantasizing earlier about sharing a room, and a bed, with Dom, but he knew that it would stay just a pleasant daydream, that she wasn’t interested in him that way.

     “Honey, I’m home!” Dom said cheerily as she came in, which made that whole line of thought trip in his head.  Before Harper could respond, she got a frantic expression on her face and looked wildly around the kitchen.  Harper almost panicked, thinking he’d forgotten to clear away some sort of incriminating evidence, but then Dom got a relieved expression on her face and laughed out, “Thank heavens.  For a minute there, I had the terrible thought that you might have tried to make us dinner.”  She went to hang up her car keys.

     Harper winced.  He should have thought of that.  Oh, well, he consoled himself, there was always tomorrow, provided he actually managed to finish up earlier than he had today.  “I would have, but I didn’t think you wanted to come home to a house full of smoke, then be subjected to charcoal briquettes masquerading as food,” he said nonchalantly.  Then he thought about his surprise for her, which he’d finished yesterday when Dom had been out with Ro.  Suddenly all the tiredness he was feeling was gone and he was smiling for real.  “But I didn’t sit idle,” he chirped, going into the garage to get it.  Dom was giving him a questioning look as he all but bounced back into the kitchen and handed her the cd player.  He grinned at her and said, “Go on.  Open it!”

     Dom gave him one last wary look, then flipped up the lid.  A little light blossomed up out of the player and formed a dragon, tiny but detailed.  Dom watched, seemingly mesmerized as the little image reared up, took flight a few inches above the player, roared, breathed fire, then settled back down to the player again, then repeated the cycle after a short pause.  The roar was a little tinny and the image was all one color, red, but Harper thought the whole thing had come out pretty well, given the resources at his disposal.  “See,” he said, going behind her and putting an arm around her and pushing the rewind button.  The dragon did a little backwards flip in mid flight.  “It does a few tricks when you push the buttons.  Do you like it?”

     Dom looked back at him, her mouth slightly opened.  She closed it with a snap.  “You made this?  With the junk in my garage?” she asked, not seeming to believe it even though she was holding the end result in her hands.

     “Yeah.  I sort of borrowed a bunch of pieces from the old computer in there and some of the other things I couldn’t fix,” Harper admitted sheepishly as he backed away from her.  He hadn’t asked permission.  He hoped she wouldn’t be angry with him.

     Dom looked back at the dragon and pushed a few buttons tentatively.  She then poked finger at the image, which rippled and faded above the imposing digit.  “How did you do this?  It’s wonderful!” she gushed and Harper felt a sudden surge of pride and happiness.  “I can’t believe this is made out of trash!”

     “Aw, it’s nothing,” Harper murmured with a shrug.  “I just wanted to make you something so you’d know how much I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, that you’re still doing.  A little toy just doesn’t seem to even begin to do that.”

     Dom turned and looked full at him for a moment as if seeing him for the first time and she liked what she saw.  Harper forced that notion out of his head.  Dom was not all turned on by a little hologram toy, it was just him wanting her to be that he was seeing.  “Toy?” she asked, then let out a little laugh and shook her head, looking back at the hologram.  “It’s like magic in a box!  Thank you so much, Seamus.”  She kissed him softly on the cheek and gave him a warm hug, still holding her toy in one hand.  It was totally unexpected.  The last couple of days, Dom had been nice to him, but there had been no hugging or even innocent little pecks on the cheek.  She had looked like she had thought about it a few times, but decided against it.  Harper thought maybe he’d been a little too needy in her garage that first time, that she was trying to think of some nice way of telling him that he didn’t get anymore hugs because he clearly liked them a little too much.  Now he was getting one and all Harper could feel was joy.

     Harper wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her gently to him, getting the faint scent of raspberry pie as he breathed in, wishing that the look he’d seen could have been what he’d foolishly thought for a moment.  It was all right, he told himself.  Dom was his friend and she liked her present.  That was enough.  Part of him railed that it wasn’t, but Harper forced that voice to be quiet so he could enjoy his hug while it lasted.  Please, he begged the Divine, just a few more seconds.  He knew he’d pay for it later.  He never got good things without something bad happening to him to sort of even things out.  He didn’t care.  He wanted this no matter what it cost him.  He wanted it for forever, but he wasn’t stupid enough to believe that would ever happen.

     Sure enough, Dom loosened her hug and Harper let her ease away from him.  She was standing in front of him, playing with her toy and he smiled as he watched her.  He’d made her happy.  That was all he’d really wanted, wasn’t it?  The rest was selfish and more than he deserved anyway, he told himself, struggling not to frown at the thought.  Dom was nice and sweet and kind and pretty and compassionate and smart and funny and fun to be with.  She could have anybody she wanted.  Hadn’t she rolled her eyes while telling him about the gazillionaire that had tried to whisk her away to Australia?  She had rich, powerful men chasing after her and she turned them away as unworthy.  Why would she ever want him?  Again, he forced those thoughts away.  He had made Dom the present to make her happy, to make her feel appreciated, not to get himself laid.  As he watched her play, he knew the toy was doing what he wanted, what he’d made it to do.

     “This is just amazing, Seamus,” she told him, seeming sincere in her praise.  It made him feel better and he shook himself out of his funk.  “I can’t wait to show it to Ro in the morning.  Her eyes are going to pop out!”

     Harper shrugged and grinned a little at the thought of what Ro’s reaction might be.  “It’s just a toy.  I’m glad you like it.  I did a little sprucing up on your computer too.  Got rid of all that Windows junk and put in an operating system that you can actually work with.  Should even be faster for you now.”  He had finished the operating system he’d been working on this morning and had gotten rid of all that Windows garbage before Mister O’Donnell had showed up with the first car to be serviced.  He made sure that it would work with all of Dom's programs that had been fooled into believing that Windows was actually helping them and anything new she added.  He'd been happy with the outcome.  Compared to before, the computer fairly flew.  “So, do you want me to give dinner a whirl?  It won’t be pretty,” he joked.

     “When do you do anything less then spectacularly?” Dom asked, giving him another peck on the cheek and went to the cupboard where the pots were, probably to start dinner.  Harper set a hand lightly over where she had kissed him and closed his eyes, savoring the moment.  Then the phone rang and Harper dropped his hand before Dom could turn and see him.  “Hello!  Hey, Toni!  Yeah, he’s here.  Hold on,” Dom said after lifting the phone receiver, which she then held out to him with a smile.  “It’s for you.”

     Harper knew that Toni was Dom’s lawyer sister, but he hadn’t spoken to her before and couldn’t imagine what she wanted to talk to him about.  Dom always did all the talking.  Toni hadn’t been home when Dom had called yesterday, so he supposed she was calling back.  He took the phone tentatively and held it to his face saying, “Hello?” uncertainly.

     “Seamus Harper, I take it,” a no nonsense, feminine voice came from the small speaker by his ear.

     “Yes,” he said, suddenly a bundle of nerves.  Dom’s sister sounded ticked off about something in a major way.  What if there was some other Seamus Harper in this time that had done something horrible?  What if she was going to tell him there was nothing that she could do to get him the Social Security Number he seemed to need so badly and to stop wasting her time?

     “I had to ask.  It seems you don’t exist,” the voice told him.  “You never went by another name, did you Mister Harper?”

     “No... no ma’am,” Harper stuttered out nervously.  He was shaking now.  Something bad was about to happen.  He was sure of it.  He had been so happy a second ago.  Was he going to have to pay for it already?

     “Don’t ‘ma’am’ me, boy,” the voice snapped at him.  “I want you to understand a couple of things.  I’m doing this for my little sister, who is too soft hearted for her own good a lot of the time.  If you do anything, I mean anything to hurt her, I promise you that I will show you pain and suffering the likes of which you have never dreamed imaginable.  Do you understand me?  Just say ‘yes,’ and don’t look at her.  She cannot protect you from me if you piss me off.”

     “Yes,” Harper said meekly as he turned to face the wall.  He knew in no uncertain terms that Dom’s sister was not anyone he ever wanted to cross.

     “Now, is there anything that you should be telling me?  Anything that I’m going to find, and I will find it if it’s there in your past, that is going to anger me and make it necessary to visit terrors beyond your darkest nightmares on you?”

     That voice had Harper wanting to confess every bad thing he’d ever done in his life to her, almost sure that she would find out about them even though they wouldn’t happen until centuries after she was dead and dust.  He swallowed down his fear and murmured, “No,” just the same.

     “You’re sure about that, Mister Harper?  Be very sure.”

     “I’m sure,” Harper replied, trying very hard to sound sure.

     “Good.  Then we might just get along.  You will treat my little sister like the saint she is and do whatever she asks you to until we speak again.  At that time, provided I am not seeing you in person to show you what hell on Earth is like, you will have a Social Security Number and all this mess you seem to have gotten yourself into will be gone.  This will not be quick or easy and if you’ve left out anything that is going to make my job more difficult, you will pay for it dearly.  Do you understand?”

     “Yes,” Harper almost whimpered.  Nietzcheans had nothing on this woman.  Magog would cower from her.

     “Good boy.  Now, hand the telephone back to my sister, then go wash the sweat off your face and hands.  Change your underwear if you need to.  When you get back, you will tell Dom that I told you that everything is going to be just fine and that you’re ever so grateful for all the trouble everyone is going through on your behalf.  Are we clear?”

     “Yes.  Crystal,” Harper told her, realizing because she had said something that he was sweating buckets.  He couldn’t believe someone three thousand miles away could frighten him this way.

     “Why are you still talking to me?  Go!” the voice ordered.  Harper turned, almost threw the phone at Dom and fled to the bathroom.  Thankfully, he didn’t need to change his underwear, but it took him a couple of minutes to stop shaking as he splashed cold water on his face.  How could Dom, who was the sweetest, nicest person he’d ever met, have a sister that was that terrifying?  He was finally pulling himself together just when there was a soft knock at the door.

     “Seamus, are you all right?” Dom asked from outside.  “Toni said that everything that came back so far was encouraging.  Did she tell you something that she didn’t tell me?”

     Harper felt like telling her that her sister was scary as hell and had threatened him with a fate worse than death, but he didn’t want to think about what Toni might do to him if he did.  He opened the door and gave her a sheepish look.  “No,” he fibbed, “I just started shaking because... I was so relieved!”  Dom gave his a tight lipped, dubious look.  “Really!  She said that as long as I wasn’t hiding anything bad, and I’m not, I swear, I swear, I swear, that she can straighten everything out!  She’s just kind of...” frightening beyond all reason, he thought, but continued, “terse.”

     Dom was still giving him that close, assessing look.  “She scared you, didn’t she?”  Harper opened his mouth to deny it, but Dom raised a hand and said, “Don’t bother.  Just about all of my male friends that have gone in for private talks with Toni have fled her in terror.  Boyfriends that did usually never returned.  What does she do exactly?  I’m just not seeing it.  She doesn’t seem scary to me.”

     “Yeah and you swim with sharks for a living and say they’re perfectly nice if you treat them the right way,” Harper replied, then horror blossomed in him.  “Oh, freakin’ hell!  I just compared your sister to a shark!  She’s gonna kill me!”

     Dom laughed softly, patting him on the arm and pulling him out of the bathroom.  “How would she ever know?”

     Harper shook his head in denial.  “She’ll know.  People like her always know.  I’m so dead!”

     Dom shook her head, still smiling.  “I’ll protect you,” she said as she wrapped herself around his arm as she lead him away.  Harper couldn’t help but think about what Toni had said about Dom not being able to protect him from her wrath and he sincerely hoped that he would never have to find out.  “Come on, let’s go out and celebrate the good news.  We’ll take the Harley up the coast.  I know this place with great steamed clams.”

     “Okay,” Harper said, not in any position to deny her, especially since Toni had told him he’d better not.  Then he cheered up a little.  Hey, he’d just paid his dues for the hug she’d given him!  Maybe the rest of the night would be nice and relaxing.  And Toni had said that things were all going to work out in between all the threats and scariness.  Harper looked down at Dom, who was holding his arm, walking him to the garage, and he smiled.  Busy, tiring, scary as today had been, it really hadn’t been a bad day.  As he and Dom got on her motorcycle, he let out a soft sigh and hoped sincerely that tomorrow would be a little easier.

* * *

     Ro got into work bright and early, hoping to get to some of the major hull repairs today.  The amount of hull plating that needed repairing or outright replacing and what was in stores was dangerously close to the same and she had talked to the Admiral yesterday about requisitioning more, just in case.  More problems kept popping up, but she was determined that her estimate of three weeks for repairs would be met, even if she had to work herself and everyone else to death to do it.  She hated the amount of damage that the Seaview seemed to take, thinking she would never get to work on the upgrades she and the Admiral talked about if this kept happening.

     It was just past seven thirty, but Ro made sure her course would bring her by Dom’s office before starting down to the dock.  She was still stressed about Dom’s houseguest and the weird vibe she continued to pick up from him.  It was early and the Institute was mostly empty, but Ro knew Dom was an early riser and would be in.  Sure enough, as she rounded the corner into the Marine Biology wing of the Institute, Dom was standing by her office door, showing something to Doctor Lorn, who was looking at whatever it was intently.

     Dom looked up and saw her and smiled saying, “Hey, Ro!  Come see what Seamus made for me!”

     Ro kept her face neutral, but mentally scowled, wondering what this mysterious ‘surprise’ was going to turn out to be.  She couldn’t begin to imagine and what Doctor Lorn lifted into her line of sight was, indeed, a complete surprise.  It was the most amazing hologram Ro had ever seen.  “What...” she started to ask, then took the projector.  It was a cd player, or what looked to be an ordinary cd player.  Ro closed it, turned it in her hands, then opened it, the tiny dragon springing to life again.  She looked at Dom, who was smiling and giggling like a school girl, then back at the hologram.  “How did he make this?” she asked, totally at a loss as to how it was possible.

     “With some broken computer bits and other junk from Dominica’s garage apparently,” Doctor Lorn commented, but Ro didn’t look up at her, just at the puzzle in her hand.  “You know, Dom, I think Tom knows someone pretty highly placed at Hasbro.  Do you think you could talk your friend into coming around to meet him, maybe at my place over dinner.  I think that a lot of kids would find your present pretty interesting.”

     “You think so, Beatrice?”

     “Absolutely.  Look at Furby and those little handheld electronic pet things.  That dragon of yours might be next year’s must have for Christmas.”

      “Wow, I didn’t even think about that.  I’ll talk to him about it, Bea.  He’s kind of shy of strangers, but... Wow!  That would be awfully wonderful.”

     Ro looked up at the women, utterly confused.  “You think this is a toy?” she asked, wondering if either of the Marine Biologists had the slightest inkling as to the amount of advanced technology she held in her hands.

     Dom shrugged, grinning.  “That’s what Seamus called it, but I think it’s almost magical.  Isn’t it the neatest thing ever?”

     “Neat doesn’t begin to describe this.  Can I borrow it?” Ro asked, thinking she wanted to take a closer look at this ‘toy.’

     Dom shrugged again.  “Okay, just don’t break it.  Want some help with Olivia, Bea?  I’ve got a few minutes.”

     The older woman smiled, saying, “Thanks, Dom.  Olivia will be thrilled.  She’s taken a real shine to you!”  The two of them walked off talking about Doctor Lorn’s octopus as if it were one of her grandchildren, Ro shaking her head at the conversation.  She looked back at the hologram, closed the player again, then hurried to her own office as the two Marine Biologists disappeared in the other direction.

     When Ro got to her office, she found a small screwdriver and carefully opened the cd player.  “What in the...” she murmured as she looked beneath the casing.  What she saw there was like nothing she had ever seen before.  Tiny, hair thin wires connected things that shouldn’t even work together.  Half a dozen times she lifted her screw driver or considered going to get some other tool to take the ‘toy’ apart, but every time she reconsidered because she was unsure if she could put things back the way they were.  Frowning, she reattached the back to the cd player, knowing that in this instance, there was just one thing to do.                                  

* * * 




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Belonging, Chapter One
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