Michelle Pichette

Chapter 21



* * *

     Ro was in Circuitry, again, and not happy about it.  What was with this boat today?  Hadn’t she been down here, this morning in fact, rewiring the same board she was now rewiring and putting in new relays to replace the ones that had burnt out?  She had other things to be doing, but circuitry continued to be a pain in her posterior.  She felt like smacking something around and the fact that her best friend was off doing something totally stupid wasn’t helping things.  Ro snarled at the board, angry about the whole thing.

     It had been bad enough when Harper had been living at Dom’s house, but at least that was supposed to have been temporary.  It had been sort of a weird relief when Nelson had laid claim to the odd little homeless man.  Harper had to be pretty bright to make the hologram, after all, and Harper living over at the dorms was infinitely better than him being alone at Dom’s house all day, not to mention a few yards down a hall from her at night.  Then, this afternoon when Ro had taken a short break from the Seaview’s annoying circuitry, she had run into Dom.  That was usually a good thing, a relaxing thing, but her best friend seemed to have taken it into her head to be just as frustrating as the Seaview’s electrical problems.

     “Months of not seeing anyone and he is what you pick?” Ro grumbled under her breath.  “Not one of Lee’s Navy buddies.  Not one of the crew.  Not even Kensington.  No, a homeless man that freaks out at the word ‘doctor.’  That’s what gets you out on a date.  Dominique Bernadette Babin, you are trying to drive me insane right along with this electrical board!”

     “Talking to yourself.  That can’t be a good sign,” came Lee’s voice from behind her.  Ro felt like whacking her head against the board she was working on.  Letting her boyfriend catch her babbling was the last thing she needed!  “Neither is you being back here in Circuitry.  I thought we had rewired everything already,” Lee commented as she turned toward him.

     “We did,” Ro told him, “But obviously we have a bad breaker or resistor or something somewhere, because our wiring keeps shorting out.”

     Lee frowned.  “It’s not Portman’s virus, is it?”

     Ro rolled her eyes.  “Heaven forbid.  No, it’s something mechanical.  I’m sure of it.  I just haven’t figured out what yet and I’m afraid to run current through anything for any length of time because then we’ll have more rewiring to do!  Aaurgh!  This is so annoying!”

     Lee smiled.  He had an incredible smile and it took the edge off Ro’s annoyance.  “So you were cussing out Circuitry, telling everything to behave, were you?  I thought I heard you mention Dom’s name and half expected her to be in here with you.”  And with that, Ro’s frustration was back, full force.  “What?” Lee asked with a laugh, obviously seeing it on her face.

     “Well, she couldn’t very well be here and out on a date with Harper, now could she?” Ro sniped, not feeling a bit bad about ratting Dom out at the moment.

     Lee’s smile fled with alarming speed.  “What?!!”

     “Apparently he was an employee for the Institute for all of five seconds before he asked her out,” Ro groused.  “I can’t believe she accepted.  I mean, you’ve met him!  How does he rate when she says no to Kensington and Riley and Portman... okay, forget Portman, but really!  Half the guys on the Seaview would kill for a date, but she goes for the short, skinny, weird guy!”

     Lee stood there, looking to be a loss, then seemed to get angry.  “Does the Admiral know about this little development?”

     “I can only assume he does.  He spent the afternoon with Harper after all,” Ro said, crossing her arms over her chest, feeling pretty vexed herself.  “Of course, the Admiral thinks that Harper is... how did he put it?  Quirky but amusing, I believe were his exact words.  He probably doesn’t mind that the two of them are out together!  He might have even encourage it!”

     “I think the Admiral is still in his office.  I’m going to go talk to him about this,” Lee said, but Ro caught his arm as he turned to go.

     “You can’t,” she told him, when he turned back to her.  “You know that you can’t.  He’ll tell you it’s none of your business and he’d be right.  I’m not happy about it, but then I haven’t liked most of Dom’s boyfriends.  The thing is, they usually are reclassified as ‘ex’ in fairly short order because they don’t live up to Dom’s rather high standards.  Harper probably won’t last long either.”

     “And what, exactly, makes these boyfriends ‘ex’s?” Lee asked, obviously looking to hurry Harper down that path.

     “Usually they do something she doesn’t like.  Lying to her is a good way to get bounced.  So is picking on her faith, which goes hand in hand with trying to get around ‘no’ as far as sex is concerned,” Ro said.

     “So the fact that he’s homeless and penniless and that no one really knows anything about him means absolutely nothing,” Lee surmised.

     “Ah, but you forget, Harper isn’t homeless anymore because he lives at the Institute.  I’m pretty sure the Admiral pays his engineers here extremely well,” Ro reminded him.  “And he and Dom spent lots of time together the past few days, and most of that they spent talking.  If anyone knows anything about Harper, it’s Dom.”

     “If he told her anything even close to the truth,” Lee said, plainly thinking the opposite was the case.  “I think I’m going to give my friend Barry at ONI a call and see if he has better luck than Dom’s sister with looking into Harper’s past.”

     “Look, I think Harper is strange and I think Dom is nuts for going out on a date with him, but that doesn’t make him a bad person,” Ro said, suddenly regretting, at least in part, giving Harper a rough time behind his back.  “Don’t get carried away with this, Lee.”

     “I won’t,” Lee promised.  “But I still think Harper is hiding something.  Something major.  Believe me, if Barry comes up with anything unsavory about Harper, it’s better that everyone finds out about it now, before people start getting too attached to him.  I have the feeling that things are not going to go well for Harper tomorrow.  Not well at all.”  He kissed Ro on the cheek, then left Circuitry, probably to go make his telephone call.

     Ro frowned as she watched him go.  He was going to get carried away with this, she just knew it.  Sighing, she turned back to the board she had been working on.  When Lee was as sure about something as he was that his instincts were correct about Harper, he just kept going at it.  That meant that Harper was not going to have a very good day tomorrow whether Lee’s friend found anything or not.  She could feel a headache coming on.  Maybe the date wouldn’t go well and then Dom wouldn’t be in the middle of things, making it worse.  No, she thought, tomorrow was not going to be a good day at all for anyone.

* * *

     Harper’s boots were tied together and hanging over his left shoulder as he and Dom walked barefoot along the wet sand not far from her house.  He was a little cold because he had given her his shirt to keep her warm in the wind, so he was only wearing his undershirt, but he didn’t mind the chill in the air.  Her left arm was around his waist, his right around her shoulders, and her warmth and closeness were making him feel almost drunk despite his not having touched a drop of alcohol all night.  He couldn’t remember ever having been this happy and the best part was that this was only the beginning.  He couldn’t believe how much things had changed since the first time he’d walked over this very sand not so very long ago.

     They had gotten some food at a sidewalk cart that served the best tasting Japanese food that Harper had ever had.  Dom had told him about her first days at the Institute, as if to compare notes with his, not that he had gotten to tell her about his day before they finished eating.  They had walked a bit more and had found a place that had swing music played by a live band and Harper had been in his glory.  They had danced until they were both exhausted.  After that, they had gone back to Dom’s house to watch a VCR tape that she had rented, but Harper had been too excited and happy to sit still, so they had gone for a walk under the stars instead.  He told her about his day, finally, as they strolled leisurely along, complete with embarrassing doctor visit and landing on his face in front of Portman, then programing and car driving lessons and the Admiral’s praise.

     Harper found himself wanting to tell her everything about himself again.  It was beginning to bother him that she didn’t know the truth about him, the whole truth.  It wasn’t like he had lied about anything other than when and where he’d been born.  Dunwich didn’t exist in this time.  He’d checked.  Still, it was starting to feel like he was lying in not telling her more and he didn’t want to do that.  He was starting to agree with the many times that Beka had told him that he had never really known what love was.  He thought maybe that was changing and he didn’t want it to end because he’d done something stupid.

     And telling Dom the truth might be just the answer to the problem of how to break things to the Admiral.  After spending the day with him, Harper knew Admiral Nelson was a great guy, the best!  He just didn’t want Nelson to hear ‘I’m from the future,’ then have the Admiral shoot him on principle.  Neither of them would be happy about that in the end, he was sure.  Dom was the solution to the whole dilemma, Harper knew she was.  He’d tell her the truth and she’d tell him it was no big deal and give him that little head shake and laugh that she gave him when she thought he was being silly.  Then, tomorrow, she’d meet him at the Institute and she’d tell the Admiral and everything would be great.  He just had to figure out how to tell Dom and all his troubles would be over.

     “So, it wasn’t so bad seeing a doctor after all, was it?” Dom asked, hugging him gently as he finished his tale of what had gone on before they met up in the lobby, making other thoughts sink to the back of his mind for the moment.

     “I’m not in a hurry to do it again, but he wants me to go back in a day or two, after he’s had a chance to run some tests and stuff, so he can poke me some more.  He seemed to think that I was getting a cold or something because he said my lungs sounded funny.  I should have told him that they’re just natural comedians, but I was too busy trying not to faint,” Harper said, drawing strength from her embrace.  He still wasn’t thrilled with the idea of someone practicing what passed for medicine in this era on him, but it was all he had and it seemed to make Dom and the Admiral happy, so he’d endure it.  Doctor Jamieson didn’t seem like a bad guy, really.  He just had to keep the doctor away from his port and they’d get along great.

     “Hardy har,” Dom said, then squeezed him gently against her.  “Seriously, you aren’t feeling like you might be coming down with something?”  She sounded suddenly concerned.  It wasn’t the first time, of course, but this time, Harper hoped it was because his health had become more personal to her.  He thought maybe it was.  After all, Dom had been slyly slipping in compliments all night, like that he was a good dancer even in heavy boots, that he had the cutest dimples when he smiled, how intelligent he must be if the Admiral was so enthusiastic about his joining and staying at the Institute.  She had him feeling so up that he had kissed her once on the cheek when she’d said the last thing back at the food cart.  She hadn’t slapped him, which happened far too often in the past when he’d done the same thing under relatively the same circumstances.  Still, it wasn’t a real kiss in Harper’s mind.  He was still waiting for the perfect moment for that and if there was any justice in the universe, that moment would come soon.

     “No, I feel great,” Harper told her and it was the truth.  Usually, for a woman to be this close and cuddly with him, she either had to be drunk or wanted him to do something he normally wouldn’t for her.  Dom fit neither of those descriptions, which made Harper feel flattered and incredibly lucky.

     “You sure are acting that way,” Dom said.  He squeezed her gently and she returned the gesture and rested her head on his shoulder, making Harper feel even better.  They walked along the shoreline in silence for a moment, then Dom said, “So, even with the bad start, it sounds like you had a pretty awesome day all around.”

     “Sure did,” Harper sighed in agreement, forgetting about the tense moments and knowing that tomorrow would be even better once he told Dom the truth and all that got straightened out.  Life was going to be so freaking wonderful.  It certainly was at the moment.

     “So why was it only just about your best day ever?  Just because of a couple impolite comments and a physical.”

     “Nah.  That stuff didn’t matter.  It’s just, there was one thing missing.”

     “Really?  What’s that?”

     Harper stopped and turned to look full at her.  Dom smiled at him, her features soft and lovely in the moonlight as she waited for his answer.  He didn’t make her wait long, because he pulled her to him and kissed her tenderly.  When he didn’t get pushed away or socked in the gut, he hugged her closer and kissed her more deeply.  Finally, when their lips parted, Harper looked into her eyes, and he whispered, “Now it’s my best day ever,” and kissed her again.  That she kissed him back made what he’d said even more true.

* * *



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