* * *
Lee walked into the cafeteria to an all too familiar scene.
Seamus Harper was sitting at one of the tables looking rather
contemplatively at a glass of orange juice.
He didn’t look anywhere near as bad as he had the last time Lee
had been standing in almost this exact spot a week and a half ago.
He was, however, still wearing pajamas and Lee wondered if he was
supposed to be up. Bringing
himself to a quick mental halt, Lee told himself sternly that he was not
going to approach Harper with confrontation in mind yet again.
The boy was sitting at a table, now drinking orange juice, not
doing anything at all worthy of being reprimanded over.
Lee wanted to apologize and thank him for protecting the Seaview
and her crew and he was not going to get sidetracked this time.
He walked up to the table that Harper was sitting at and figured
that he would be direct, saying, “Harper, I wanted to tha...”
Harper looked up at him and held up a finger, obviously wanting him
to wait a moment. Lee paused,
perplexed, then Harper set his mostly empty glass of orange juice on the
floor, gripped the edge of the table and slammed his head into it, hard,
three times in quick succession. “What
are you doing?!” Lee exclaimed, alarmed by Harper’s weird behavior as
the young man looked back at him as if nothing had happened.
“Oh, nothing. I just always feel like doing that when you talk to me and I
figured I’d get it out of the way with early.
You were saying,” Harper said, looking resigned as he leaned
forward on one elbow, chin on hand.
“I...” Lee started, still a little at a loss over what Harper
had just done, but shook himself out of it.
He knew that Harper was a strange person.
This was just another example of that strangeness.
He mentally shrugged and decided to just do what he needed to do
and not worry about it. “I
wanted to apologize for having been so unfair with you and let you know
that wouldn’t happen anymore.” Lee
paused, but Harper didn’t move nor did his expression change.
“I also wanted to thank you for saving my boat and protecting my
“And?” Harper said, the resignation all over his face oozing
from the word. He was
obviously expecting there was more and that it wouldn’t be anything even
“That was it,” Lee said, thinking he would keep things short
and to the point, leaving no room for misunderstanding.
For once, he and Harper were going to part company with no angry
feelings between them.
“What? You weren’t
going to tell me to do a better job with doing a number on myself the next
time?” Harper sighed out. “I
mean the squid thing only half drowned me and I only almost died of a lung
infection. What were you
hoping for next time? What
sort of hideous, torturous death should I steer myself toward?
Ripped limb from limb? Flesh
eating bacteria? Blasted into
atoms and scattered across a far arm of the galaxy?
Just so I know what’s expected of me, you understand.
I do so hate disappointing people.”
His final words fairly dripped sarcasm.
“I don’t want you dead,” Lee told him, rather taken aback
that Harper would even think such a thing, much less in such varied and
vivid detail. “I never
“No,” Harper conceded the point as he sat back in his chair and
ran a hand back through his disorderly hair, but still holding Lee’s
eyes. “Just gone, and dead
is a real permanent sort of gone. I
mean, every time I left in the past I kept coming back, which obviously
irked you to no end. I seem
to have that affect on people, so it’s got to be entirely my fault
somehow. Well, I’m sure
everyone here at the Institute knows that I’m sickly and frail now, so
rest assured that something will probably do me in sooner rather than
later. You shouldn’t have
to wait too long to be rid of me. Good
news, right? Have a nice
day.” Harper gave him a very insincere smile and twiddling little
wave, plainly waiting for him to leave.
Lee closed his eyes for a moment, somehow internalizing the groan
struggling to get out. He
should have known this wouldn’t be easy. Well, he told himself, he’d earned a little grief.
He opened his eyes and said, “Look, I know we got off to a bad
start and that it was my fault. I’m sorry about that, but there’s really no reason that
we can’t get along. We
actually have a lot in common.”
Harper rolled his eyes. “Yeah.
Sure. I can see where
we’re practically twins.”
Lee was beginning to get really frustrated because Harper was being
so difficult, but before he could say anything else, Dom appeared by them.
She had a backpack and a computer bag with her.
She gave them each a leery look, asking, “You two aren’t
fighting again, are you?”
“No, no,” Harper said quite cheerfully, beaming up at her.
“We’re best buds now and all is right in the world.
I ate a huge breakfast, so I get to play in the lab, right?”
Dom gave him a distinctly doubting look and shot right back,
“That all depends on what your definition of huge is.”
“Oatmeal, eggs, toast, and some kind of orange melon cubes,”
Harper ticked off with the same overly pleased grin.
“Do you mean cantaloupe?”
“Shunned as ordered,” he replied with a mock salute.
Dom looked from him to Lee, then back to Harper.
“Did you accept Lee’s apology now that he’s making a sincere
effort or were you making him squirm?”
“Squirm, of course.” Dom
crossed her arms over her chest and gave him a cool, level look.
Harper sighed, “All right, all right,” then stood up and turned
to Lee and looked him in the eye with an annoyed expression.
“My girlfriend wants us to get along and since she is wise beyond
all other mortals, I’ll try
not to be a total smart ass when you talk to me.
This does not mean I trust you or like you.
I was willing to give that to you when we first met and you threw
it away as worthless. Now you
need to earn it.” The
annoyance disappeared off his face as Harper turned back to Dom.
“Sufficient for now,” Dom said, then turned to Lee giving him
the same steely look that she’d just given Harper.
“Don’t make me regret making Seamus accept your apology,” she
told him. Lee shook his head
and held up us hands in surrender, not wanting to say the wrong thing.
Dom looked back to Harper and her face relaxed.
“Come on. You get
two hours, then it’s back to bed,” she told him, nodding him over as
she turned to the door.
“Can I carry your computer for you?” Harper asked as he moved
next to her.
“You’re supposed to be resting,” Dom reminded him, but took
his arm carefully with her free hand.
“Of course,” Harper agreed amiably, patting her hand where it
rested on his elbow. “I
know that it probably hasn’t been the first thing on your mind, but you
haven’t seen my rabbit’s foot, have you?”
“It wasn’t very lucky the last time you had it,” Dom said
with a giggle as they strolled off together.
“Of course it was lucky,” Harper protested.
“Just think of what would have happened if I hadn’t had it!”
Lee watched them go. He
was grateful that he really hadn’t needed to do anything extraordinary
to get things at least partly settled with Harper, but that was thanks to
Dom’s intervention. At
least she didn’t seem angry with him anymore, which was a little bit of
a relief. He had to admit
he’d earned Harper’s little rebuke, but the engineer seemed willing to
give him a second chance. Lee
was confident that things would work out between them eventually.
He went to get his breakfast, as he originally intended to do when
he’d first entered the room, rather glad that every morning didn’t
start this way.
Patterson had been working on a glitch in the ballast pumps for
most of the day. He didn’t
know what it was with him and the ballast system, but he kept winding up
down in the bowels of the Seaview working on it.
Kowalski had been working with him earlier, but had been called off
to help out with some problem with the diving planes.
That was actually a far worse job, so Patterson was happy to be
carrying on doing what he was doing.
The problem was it gave him time to think and lately he had been
thinking a lot about the same thing and he was beginning to think that he
He was just trying to shrug off that very feeling when a throat
cleared behind him and Pat turned a little to look over at the hatch into
the small, dimly lit area. There
in the hatch stood one of the people he’d been obsessing about, Seamus
Harper. “Hey,” the
engineer said with a hesitant grin. “I’m
not interrupting delicate repairs, am I?”
Patterson shook his head. “No.
The ballast systems were a little sluggish. Not what you want to have when the Skipper orders an
Harper’s grin brightened. “That
sounds kinda dirty.”
“It means drain the ballast tanks fully as quickly as
possible,” Patterson told him, frowning a bit.
“Actually, I knew that. I
was trying to make a joke to defuse a possibly tense situation and
obviously failing miserably,” Harper replied, his expression growing
sheepish. “Look, I know
you’re busy and I’m not supposed to be up, much less on the Seaview,
but I wanted to thank you for saving my life.”
Patterson shrugged, turning his wrench in his hands, growing
would have done it.”
“Yeah, maybe, but as it happens, you were the only guy that
jumped in after me and that was when some hideous, gigantic, squid-like
monster still had me in its tentacles. Man, that took guts. I
wouldn’t have been that brave.”
Patterson shook his head at the little engineer.
“You saved everyone on the dock and nearly got killed doing
it,” he reminded him.
“Yeah, but I thought the squid thing was going down hard and fast
and wouldn’t have a chance to squish me, ergo, no implied risk to my
person,” Harper told him. “I’m
a coward and I know it and I don’t try to convince anyone else to the
contrary. Well, women
occasionally, but, you know, I think all us guys do that.”
“Whatever you say,” Patterson said with another shrug, even
though he knew Harper wasn’t cowardly, or at least hadn’t been in this
instance, but figured it wasn’t worth arguing about.
“So, I wanted to thank you and ask you why,” Harper said,
sitting down cross legged in the hatchway.
“Why what?” Patterson asked.
“Why you’d risk your life to save mine when it’s pretty
obvious that you’re totally in love with Dom and my being alive keeps
you from having her,” Harper stated as if Patterson should have known
that was what he was asking about.
“Uh,” was all Patterson managed by way of response.
Harper barely knew him. How
would Harper have the slightest idea of how he felt about Dom?
Then he thought about Kowalski and his recent tirade about things
and he felt like groaning. Had
Ski been bugging Harper about things that were none of his business when
the poor guy had been deathly ill?
“Look, Dom and I talk a lot, but lately, because I was basically
getting oxygen pumped into me and couldn’t really contribute much,
she’s been sort of talking at me instead of with me.
One of the things she talked about were her friends here on the
Seaview, you kinda more than some of the other guys because you look out
for her and stuff and you hang out a lot together. She
told me you confused her sometimes because she’d start to feel like
something more than friends was starting with the two of you, but then
you’d back off. I’ve seen
guys do that because they’ve got some sort of fear of rejection or
feelings of inadequacy or something going on in their head.
Not that I’m saying that’s what’s going on with you.
You might have something entirely different on your mind.
I don’t have those sorts of problems, but then again, I used to
get slapped a lot, so I can understand that sometimes it’s better to
just walk away, not that I ever did.
The thing is, I’m kinda wondering if you’re gonna change your
mind about things and all of a sudden you’ll be drowning me instead of
some squid monster,” Harper said, though at the moment he didn’t look
or sound afraid.
Pat suddenly felt like beating his head against a wall.
He hadn’t meant to confuse Dom and had thought he’d kept a
better lid on things. That
Harper was coming and talking to him like this meant he had to be
concerned about what Dom had told him, so she probably knew more than Pat
had intended her to. “No, you don’t have to worry about that,” he told
“For the time being, but my life has the nasty habit of changing
for the worst on a regular basis. I
want us to be cool, for you and Dom to be cool.
She values your friendship. I
don’t want to mess that up for either of you,” Harper replied,
sounding a little concerned about it.
Pat looked up and met Harper’s eyes.
“You make Dom happy. As
long as that’s true, I’m not going to be anything you need to worry
“And if it stops being true?” Harper pressed, holding his eyes.
“Then you drown me?”
“Then I will take her away from you and you will never see her
again as long as I live,” Pat told him sincerely.
Harper nodded, not looking at all bothered by the threat.
“I’m good with that. Actually,
I wanted to talk to you about what happens when I meet my untimely end. I know that everyone probably knows I’m not the healthiest
guy around. Dom’s gonna
outlive me, probably by a long, long time.
When I die, you’ve got my back, right?
You’ll take care of her and stuff, make sure she doesn’t stay
sad for very long and things like that.”
Pat didn’t know what to say at first.
Harper seemed so calm about his bad health and the very real
possibility that he might not live to be very old.
Patterson tried not to think about his own mortality much.
It got him going down maudlin paths of thought that he didn’t
care to visit. “It might
not happen that way. You
could outlive us all,” Pat said.
Harper smiled a little, getting a far away look in his eyes for a
moment. “That’d be nice.
Not outliving Dom and everybody.
Being old. I really
would like to find out what old age is like.
But if I don’t?”
“As long as I’m around, you don’t need to worry about Dom,”
Patterson told him.
Harper nodded again. “Good.
That’s good. Thanks.
I’d better get back before Doc Jamieson realizes I’m gone.”
He unfolded himself and started to rise, but wavered a second when
he was half way up. Pat
started to get up himself, alarmed, but Harper caught himself on the hatch
and seemed to shake off his momentary weakness.
“Gotta stop moonlighting as a punching bag,” he said with a
grin. “It’s not doing
anything for me.”
“You need a hand getting back to the Infirmary?” Pat asked,
still concerned but trying not to let it show too much.
“No, no. I’m good.
I can stumble there on my own.
I’ve bugged you enough,” Harper said, then gave him a warm
smile. “You’re a really
great guy, Steve Patterson. I’m glad we’re not competing over Dom. I’d lose.”
“No, you wouldn’t, but thanks,” Patterson replied.
“See ya around, okay?” Harper said.
“See ya,” Patterson agreed and Harper gave him one last nod and
moved off from the hatchway. Patterson waited a few moments, wiping his hands, then
followed Harper at a distance, making sure that he got back to the
Infirmary all right. Patterson
stood there, looking at the Infirmary door, not knowing entirely how he
felt about the conversation he’d just had with Harper.
He came to the conclusion that only one thing mattered.
They both wanted Dom to be happy.
As far as Pat was concerned, that made Harper an okay guy.
He nodded to himself and went back to the Seaview, suddenly finding
himself grinning at Harper’s joke about emergency blows.
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