Belonging

by

Michelle Pichette

 

Chapter 45

 

 

* * *

     Dom had taken a long, hot shower and a short, but much needed nap before heading back to the Institute to check on her ailing boyfriend with a bag of books and games.  Now that Seamus was feeling a little better, the trick was going to be getting him to stay in bed and really get some strength back.  Dom would have liked to think that if Seamus could see how haggard he still was and how painfully thin he’d become that he would take care of himself, but she knew it was probably not what would happen if she didn’t make him do it.  Men were so bad about that sort of thing, especially men associated with the Institute and the Seaview.

     Once she got back to the Institute, Dom stopped off at her office, thinking she could probably take a few minutes to look through her mail, as she had at home, and see if anything dire had appeared on her desk while she’d been spending all her time in the Infirmary.  Flipping through things quickly, Dom could see that everything was the mundane stuff that appeared on every desk across the country seemingly out of nowhere.  Thinking that the pad of paper and mechanical pencil that she’d given Seamus to keep him busy wouldn’t last forever, Dom picked up her bags of distractions and started toward her office door.  She hadn’t even finished rounding her desk when Bea appeared in the doorway.

     “I thought I saw you sneak in,” Bea said, smiling.  “I hope this means Seamus is feeling better.”

     “Much better, Bea,” Dom told her, smiling to herself at saying out loud that Seamus was starting to recover.  “But I’d better get back.  You know how men are.”

     Bea nodded sagely, moving out of her path and walking up the corridor with her.  “Yes, especially the ones that frequent these halls.  Is he up to visitors yet?”

     “He’d probably tell you he was, but you’d better ask Doctor Jamieson, Bea,” Dom cautioned her.  “He doesn’t want Seamus to catch anything, not even a cold, while he’s so weak and I don’t know how long he was planning to keep him quarantined.  It’s been nice of you to look in on him like you have, Bea.”

     “I hope Seamus hasn’t minded me peeping from the observation window,” Bea said.  “I know how some men are about people seeing them sick.”

     “He didn’t mind,” Dom assured her.  “I think he’s been sick so much in his life that he’s taking all this in his stride.  At least he is now that he’s feeling a little better.”

     “Well, we’ll just have to see if we can keep him a little healthier in future,” Bea said.  “You can rest assured that I will be keeping a very close eye on him while you’re away.  I’d take him home with me, but I’m not entirely sure how Tom would feel about me suddenly appearing home from work with young men packed for a long stay at our house.  He might think I’ve taken to suddenly desiring toy boys.  Not that I’d exactly mind Seamus in my house if I were in your shoes.  He usually seems very... affectionate.”  The rather sensual tone that Doctor Lorn’s voice had taken on left very little doubt as to what sort of affection she thought Seamus might have been giving her.

     “Bea, Seamus had two closed doors and a fair length of hallway between us when he was sleeping at my house,” Dom told her.

     “Doors have been known to open,” Bea hummed, still grinning.

     “Not the one to my bedroom, thank you very much!  Bea, if you had your way, I would have slept with half of the Seaview by now.  What sort of woman do you think I am?” Dom asked in exasperation.

     “The sort that isn’t having any fun, which is a pity,” Bea replied.

     “I have plenty of fun, just not plenty of sex,” Dom said.  “And the last I checked, the fact that he’s not getting any from me hasn’t exactly made Seamus all that miserable.”

     “No, he’s bearing up quite well, the brave thing,” Bea mused.  “You two do look awfully sweet when you’re all cuddled together asleep, though.  And you’re going to have amazingly beautiful babies.”

     Dom laughed and rolled her eyes, saying, “Bea, you’re as incorrigible as he is.”  Doctor Lorn laughed too, then bade her good-bye as they reached the end of the corridor.  Dom continued on to the Infirmary, but was alarmed to find Seamus’ bed empty and no one in the room.  Dom dropped her bags and looked around a bit frantically, only to have Seamus come out of the head before she could get too panicked.  “You shouldn’t be out of bed!” she admonished him, but rushed to his side to make sure he had support on both sides.  He was holding onto his iv rack with his left hand, so at least he had that to lean on.  Still, it did not improve Dom’s temper or concern that she would have to reconnect tube trailing over his shoulder back to the oxygen by his bed and turn that back on.  He had also put on his own sleeping attire and Dom winced at the thought of him squeezing the iv bag through his shirt sleeve.

     “Sorry, but when nature calls, she’s very insistent,” Seamus told her with a smirk as he let her guide him back to bed.

     “Which would be what the catheter was for,” Dom said a little impatiently as she reconnected his oxygen.  “And don’t tell me that Doctor Jamieson removed it, then left you on your own to deal with things.  You promised to behave when I was gone!”

     “I behaved.  A quick trip to the bathroom is not exactly jogging around the grounds and that’s the only time I even thought about getting out of bed,” Seamus replied defensively.

     “And the catheter?” Dom asked with a narrow look.

     “In the trash where it belongs.  Geez, you’re leaving me all alone in another week.  I’d think you’d be happy that I can at least manage basic bodily functions before you abandon me,” Seamus pouted sullenly, crossing his arms over his chest.

     “Poor abused baby.  How do you stand it?” Dom said, giving him a little kiss on the cheek, then pulled his blankets back up over his legs and checked to make sure his oxygen was flowing freely.  “At least you didn’t yank out your iv or oxygen.  I suppose I should be grateful for that.”

     “The catheter was bad enough,” Seamus said with a shudder and grimace.  “After getting rid of that, I didn’t feel like dealing with the disgusting process of pulling out a nasal intubation.  Gives whole new meaning to the words ‘nasal discharge.’  Yuck, really!  I’ll let someone else get their hands all nasty.  Unless you’re a big fan of mucus, you’d better make yourself scarce when Doctor Jamieson finally does it.  Then again, you haven’t exactly run screaming from the room when I was hacking up all the gunk that was in my lungs, so you might not mind it that much.”

     “Try handling a hagfish.  Now there’s some mucus for you,” Dom said.  “Where is Doctor Jamieson?”

     Seamus shrugged, seeming unconcerned.  “Don’t know.  He hasn’t been around for a couple of hours anyway.  See?  I must be just about good as new or he wouldn’t leave me on my own.  Maybe I should shake off the rest of this stuff,” he glared at his iv, “then I could take a long, hot shower and sleep in a real bed.”

     “Oh, you don’t like the sponge baths I gave you?” Dom asked with a grin, stroking his hair.

     Seamus’ brow knit.  “Where was I for that?  Damn.  I swear I sleep through what should be the best times of my life,” he grumbled, then seemed to think the whole thing through.  “You know, I am feeling a little grubby...”

     Dom laughed softly, shaking her head at him.  “We’ll talk to Doctor Jamieson about his helping you shower when he gets back.”

     Seamus got an appalled expression on his face.  “I don’t shower with the guys, thank you very much.  And this is totally unfair!  You get to ogle me in the buff and I get nothing.  At least tell me you weren’t disappointed by the view.”

     “I wasn’t in charge of anything below the waist and I’ve seen everything else before,” Dom replied with a giggle.

     Seamus sat up a little and ran a hand through her hair.  “Aw come on.  You didn’t sneak one little peek?  A little preview so you’d know what you have to look forward to later?”

     “Oh, so I would have been impressed, would I?” Dom asked in return, failing to fully fight down a smirk.

     “I don’t have a big ass, so obviously I like loose pants because I need to accommodate something else,” Seamus said with a lecherous look.

     “You are feeling better, aren’t you?” Dom giggled, only to get a very enthusiastic kiss as a response.  It was strange, kissing someone with oxygen tubes coming out of his nose, but Seamus’ ardor made up for the odd feeling.

     “I’ve never slept as well as I have this past week,” he told her, then kissed her passionately again.  “I think we should sleep together from now on,” he breathed into Dom’s mouth, but she held him back from kissing her again.

     “I’ll bet you do,” she told him a bit crossly.

     “Just sleep,” Seamus said, looking a little hurt.  “I know how you feel about sex and stuff.  It’s just, this is the first time I can remember not having nightmares.  It’s been so nice, waking up calm, feeling good instead of all shaken up.  I bet maybe I wouldn’t get sick as much if I actually slept all the time like I have this past week.  That would be a good thing, right?  I promise not to hog all the blankets.”

     Dom felt the angry expression leak off her face, feeling equally bad about her accusation and about what Seamus had just said.  “You have a lot of nightmares?” she asked, stroking his temple gently, not wanting him to be upset.

     “You know what my life has been like,” Seamus said, looking a little ashamed.  “When I’m awake, I know everything’s okay and I’m safe, but when I’m asleep, all the dark and bad comes back and wrings a little more fear and pain out of me.  This past week, that hasn’t happened.  I’ve had these nice, comforting, beautiful dreams that don’t suddenly twist in something terrible and I been waking up happy instead of screaming.”

     “This happens every night?” Dom asked as she brushed back his hair.

     “Most nights,” he admitted with a sheepish nod.

     “I never heard anything while you were staying at my house.”

     “Yeah, well, it wasn’t a good idea to do a lot of screaming on Earth when I was growing up, so you’d teach yourself to keep it in.  Lots of people had nightmares.  I mean in the camps and stuff, life was pretty much one big nightmare, asleep or awake.  On the Maru, I woke up with Beka standing over me a couple times, looking real worried.  She had a cabin, but there was just one bunk area for everyone else, so I’d probably woken somebody up thrashing around or whimpering too often and they complained to her.  After it happened a couple times, I’d try to work myself so hard that when I finally collapsed in bed, I’d be too exhausted to dream.  That worked pretty well, unless I got sick.  Then she wouldn’t let me work, at least not to the point of passing out exhaustion, and the nightmares would come back.  Rev and Vexpag and Trance, they probably thought it was just fever dreams, but Beka knew.  She’d even ask me if I wanted something to knock me out cold sometimes, something that would keep the dreams away.  I have enough problems, though, and I didn’t want to get hooked on anything.  So when Beka thought I was getting worn too thin, she’d get me blind, stinking drunk.  I’d have killer hangovers, but I wouldn’t dream and I’d get a lot of rest.

     “Then, on the Andromeda, I didn’t need to worry about waking anybody up.  I only pushed myself too hard when I got tired of not sleeping very well.  Then I got infested and everybody kept telling me to rest and take care of myself and stuff.  I woke up screaming a lot, especially early on.  Rommie knew the dreams were real bad, I guess, ‘cause when she knew I hadn’t had a good night’s rest in a while, she’d come down to my quarters and sit on my bed and hold my hand and stroke my hair when they started, then leave once I was quiet again.  I woke up a little one time when she was doing it, but I don’t think she knew.  It explained why when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, the dreams would stop for a while and I could rest and get a little strength back.  I thought the angel on my shoulder was back.”

     Dom gave him a quizzical look.  She’d been sitting by him, playing with his hair, keeping him calm while he talked, not interrupting, letting him get it all out.  “What angel?”

     “I know it’s silly, but when I was a kid it was like... whenever I was in real danger, whenever I was so sick that I could hear the grownups mumbling about where to bury me where the Magog couldn’t dig me up to eat my body, I’d feel... I don’t know, like someone was there, holding my hand and petting my head like Rommie did later on.  Like this silent force was giving me strength to live though another beating from the Nietzscheans or be to be still and quiet enough for the Magog not to notice me where I was hiding or to keep breathing just a little longer when I was so sick and so tired and my body just wanted to give up.  I’d feel it sometimes when I was older.  Not so much, but sometimes.  Like I said, really silly, right?”

     Dom stroked his face then kissed him softly on cheek, then said, “Not silly at all.  And maybe we can work something out with sleeping arrangements.  I don’t think I’d mind being your angel.”

     Seamus reached up and cupped her face.  “You are, you know.  You are my angel.  I always thought so, even back when you picked me up off the beach and carried me into your house.”

     Dom smiled and laughed softly as she shook her head at him.  “I couldn’t even lift you, much less carry you anywhere.”

     Seamus gave her a narrow look, but smiled a little as he said, “You’re not fooling me.  You try to come off all small and helpless, but I’ve gotten to know how strong you are.  Tyr would tell me that I chose my mate wisely.  He’d say our kids would be better off with your good genes balancing out my crappy ones.”

     “Oh, we’re having kids now, are we?” Dom asked, but she was couldn’t help but keep smiling.  Seamus talked like that from time to time, like they hadn’t only been dating for a short time, as though they were going to be together forever.  Dom found the thought of that more and more appealing the more they spent time together.

     “Yep, dozens of ‘em.  I’m gonna talk the Admiral into adding daycare to the Institute’s grounds so that I can check up on ‘em all when your off doing the marine biology thing.  Either that, or he’s gonna have to let me work from home.  I don’t want’em running wild and getting into trouble like I used to.  I’ve already got it all worked out so that every time I get paid I’ll save money for a bigger house and college funds and stuff,” Seamus told her with a serious expression and a nod.

     “You’ve really thought a lot about this, haven’t you?” Dom asked, rather surprised that he had.

     “I’ve got the whole thing all planned out,” Seamus told her, making a sweeping motion with one hand as if it would display a picture for her to see.  “First, wedded bliss.  Real bliss, not arguing sorta bliss like the O’Donnells.  Then lots of kids, ‘cause you told me that Catholics don’t believe in birth control and I am not abstaining from sex once you tell me its okay.”

     “I see,” Dom said with mock seriousness.  “What are we talking here, once or twice every night or...”

     Seamus pulled her closer again and kissed her.  “We are talking whenever and wherever I can get you alone and in the mood for as long as you’re willing to indulge me.”

     “Doesn’t leave a lot of time for socializing,” Dom observed.

     “Socializing,” Seamus scoffed, making a derisive sound.  “Highly overrated.”  He kissed her deeply again, stroking her back.  A throat was cleared rather pointedly from the vicinity of the door and Dom drew back from Seamus to see Doctor Jamieson shake his head and come the rest of the way into the room as Harper lay back in bed.  “Hey, Doc,” he said, but didn’t look in Jamieson’s direction, keeping his eyes on Dom’s face as he softly stroked her arm.

     Jamieson came over, shaking his head.  “Do I need to keep a chaperone in the room?” he asked as he picked up Harper’s wrist and started taking his pulse.

     “What for?” Seamus asked in return, still not looking at him.  Dom knew that Doctor Jamieson still made him nervous, but at least he was coping better than when he’d first fallen ill. “We’re all consenting adults, right?”

      “Physically,” Jamieson muttered under his breath, started to move to bring his stethoscope to Seamus’ chest, then saw his t-shirt and went tight lipped.

     Seamus seemed to catch the expression and said, “I got cold,” as if that were a viable excuse.

     Jamieson gave Dom a look of disapproval.  “Don’t blame me,” she said.  “I wasn’t here when he decided to get dressed.  Everyone told me things would be fine without me if I went home for a shower and a nap.”

     “Dressed?” Jamieson asked, lifting the sheets and looking beneath, then angrily back at Seamus.  “I thought I could leave you alone for a few hours without you doing your best to wind up back on the critical care list.”

     “Come on,” Seamus whined.  “It’s just pajamas.  I wanted to feel a little human again, not like an up and coming medical cadaver.  I’m in bed, resting, right?  It’s not like I took off or anything.  And I am feeling lots better.”

     Jamieson was frowning deeply, but said, “Well, if you’re feeling so much better, let’s get you a nice, big meal and start putting some weight back on you.  Or are we going to have a repeat of yesterday?”  Yesterday, Seamus had tried eating some solid food with disastrous results.  Apparently his stomach wasn’t feeling like going back on regular duty and had expelled the meal quite forcibly.  This morning, before Dom had gone home, he had managed to eat a little bit of dry toast and some cereal, which was encouraging, but Dom intended to be well out of the way if Jamieson fed him a regular meal.

     Seamus looked suddenly dismayed.  “How big a meal are we talking here?  You keep giving me meds that are making me queasy.  I take no responsibility for what happens if you feed me some big, heavy meal while I’m getting pumped full of whatever’s coming through this!” he declared, lifting his left arm and making the iv tube wave around a little.  Dom grinned a bit.  Seamus must be feeling better if he was arguing with Doctor Jamieson.  As the two of them bickered about what constituted a decent meal, Dom relaxed a little.  It was good to have Seamus back to something approaching normal.

* * *

     Dylan sat at the desk in his quarters, his head resting on his hands, listening rather than watching the playback of Barris’ visits to the Andromeda.  He didn’t know why he was even doing that, but he was at a loss as to what else to do at this point.  Rollan and his associate wouldn’t go away.  Barris’ ship remained where it had been for the last few days, unmoving, despite the fact that Barris hadn’t returned to the Andromeda since he had threatened to torture Harper.  The Divine only knew where Harper was or what terrible things were being done to him at the moment.  Beka, Trance and Rommie were still missing as well, all attempts to communicate with the Maru failing utterly.  Dylan sat there, wishing over and over that he had opened fire on Barris’ ship the instant it had come into range.

     “You are watching recordings of me?  How flattering,” Barris’ voice came from on the other side of the desk.  Dylan didn’t look up.  He wanted to leap over the desk and throttle Barris, pound him into the bulkhead walls as Tyr had, but he sat there, unmoving, not speaking, thinking that perhaps Barris would leave if ignored.  “The smaller vessel left some days ago with more than half your small crew.  You must be feeling very taxed at the moment,” Barris said, showing him that wasn’t the case.  Dylan still didn’t respond.  “Captain Hunt, you should admit that you need me and my crew, especially now.  You cannot run a vessel this size with only two people.  Or do you plan to sit here in the middle of nowhere for the rest of your life?”

     “Yes,” Dylan said, finally looking up.

     “Yes?” Barris asked, seeming confused.

     “Yes, the Andromeda and I will sit here in the middle of empty space for the rest of my life,” Dylan snapped, so far beyond frustrated and annoyed that he didn’t know a word to describe what he was feeling.  “If it’s that or have to deal with you endlessly, I’ll take that.  I’ll give Tyr one of our transports or a slip fighter and send him off to rebuild his clan or whatever he wants.  I’ll stay right here if that’s what it takes to keep you from hurting anyone else.  I’ve got no family here.  You’ve beaten and kidnapped and threatened to torture a loyal friend because he believed in me and what I was trying to accomplish.  I’ve utterly failed him, so it’s better if no one else is around to suffer a similar fate for trusting me.”

     Barris stared in confusion at him.  “You would punish yourself this way over one, pathetic, broken slave?”

     “You don’t know the first thing about Seamus Harper if you think that’s what he is,” Dylan said, then lowered his face back into his hands.  Barris’ stare was almost tactile as the alien stood in front of his desk, seeming to wait for him to do something.  Dylan wondered how long the alien was willing to wait.

     “You... you can’t just sit there!” Barris stammered out after a few minutes.  “You find solutions to things.  You change the order of the universe to your desires.  You have a destiny.  You can’t do this!” Barris declared, sounding upset, possibly alarmed.  Dylan didn’t care.  It was time that Barris got a taste of his own medicine.  “You think I’ll bring back your pet if you do this.  I won’t,” Barris declared, his tone challenging.  Dylan sat silently, figuring he could see Barris’ expression on the monitor playback later.  He had the distinct impression that Barris was beginning to look a little frantic.  “You’ll change your mind.  You will.  You’ll see,” Barris all but ranted, then everything fell quiet again.

     “He’s gone,” the Andromeda told him.

     “I know,” Dylan said, then leaned back in his chair and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

     “We aren’t actually staying here until you die, are we?” Andromeda asked.

     Dylan smiled a bit despite how dismal he’d been feeling a moment ago.  “Of course not.”

     “You had me worried,” his ship told him.

     “Let’s hope I worried Barris,” Dylan replied as he sat up.  “He’s been calling the shots for too long.  It’s past time someone gave him a dose of his own medicine.”  Frowning, he looked back at the screen playing the internal sensor logs of Barris’ visits.  The Magog Worldship was coming.  They couldn’t stay here indefinitely, not if they were going to protect the galaxy.  Why had Barris been so upset by the possibility that Dylan might sit the whole thing out?  Or was it something else entirely.  Dylan rolled back the log to Barris’ first visit.  Barris had said then that Dylan was a pivotal point in history.  Why did that matter to Barris?  Did he want to change the future?

     “Or the past?” Dylan muttered to himself.

     “Dylan?” the Andromeda asked, still sounding concerned.

     “Nothing,” Dylan said, shaking his head.  They had tried to change the past before at Witchhead, but had found that they had been part of events all along.  Dylan rubbed his chin, unable to let the idea go.  What did Barris want him to change?  Why was Barris being part of the crew important to secure that change?  What was really going on?

* * *

 

 

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Belonging, Chapter One
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