* * *
Ro watched from the side of the room as Dom cuddled up comfortably
against Seamus Harper, her recently announced husband to be.
She wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about that.
They looked good together. There
was really no arguing about that. The
two of them were small, so Dom wasn’t being dwarfed by some hulking mass
of masculinity looming over her. Dom’s
darker hair and complexion complimented Harper’s lighter tones and they
were both fairly attractive, but it was more than that.
When they stood close, it was like puzzle pieces coming together. They fit. Ro
didn’t know how else to describe it.
Still, there was a nagging worry sitting in the back of her mind,
even as she looked at them now, the two of them undeniably happy together. It was like something bad was waiting to happen, but for the
life of her, Ro didn’t know what that could be.
Glancing up at Lee, who had put on a pleasant face and was
doing his best to be nice to Harper despite their past troubles, Ro
wondered what she would have said had she been in Dom’s place.
She and Lee had been seeing each other for months and she knew that
he was seriously interested in a long term relationship, but she hadn’t
even thought about him proposing or what her answer to that question might
be. Their lives were so busy
and complicated that she would have to work out how marriage and the
possibility of children would affect them. Thinking about it made Ro feel a little uneasy.
Dom didn’t look worried about the future, though.
She was positively glowing. Ro
didn’t understand how Dom could be so certain about herself and Harper
After what seemed like ages, Dom left Harper’s side, going
off toward the restrooms. Ro
excused herself and went to follow, about to call after her friend, but
Dom paused just outside the cafeteria door and turned to her with a huge
smile. “My maid of honor!
I hope you can help me find some bridesmaid dresses that don’t
look like prom rejects,” she said, giving Ro a warm hug.
Ro returned the hug, but still felt unsure.
“Do you know any women besides me?” she asked, trying to make
light of things.
“My sisters will kill me if they don’t get to march down
the aisle looking drop dead gorgeous in front of you and me,” Dom
laughed. “Oh my.
My dad in a tux! Something I never thought I’d see first hand!”
“Harper in a tux,” Ro muttered, shaking her head, unable
to picture it. “Are you
sure he’s going to be okay with a big church wedding? He seems more like the Las Vegas sort.”
Dom simply shook her head with an affectionate laugh, taking
Ro’s arm and started walking them toward the restrooms again.
“I don’t think he knows about Las Vegas or I guarantee that he
would be campaigning to leave for the Elvis Chapel right this second.”
“You wouldn’t actually do that, would you?” Ro asked,
the merest suggestion appalling her.
“Maybe, so long as we did the church thing later.
And Seamus doesn’t mind me and my Catholic, church going ways.
He even said that he’d give Mass ‘a whirl’ when we get back
in port. Mister O’Donnell
from next door is going to be trying to convert Seamus while we’re gone,
you know. He figures that a
few Tuesday nights of drinking at the Knights of Columbus Hall should
cinch it,” Dom giggled. She
was so at ease talking about things that would have made Ro worried.
“That doesn’t bother you?
Harper not being Catholic? I
mean, does he believe in anything?” Ro asked.
“Call him Seamus, Ro.
I think it’ll get confusing later if you keep calling him Harper,
especially after I’m a Harper and there are a bunch of little Harpers
running around,” Dom told her, still laughing.
“Kids,” Ro said with dread.
“Harper... Seamus is a big kid.
You’re actually considering having children with him.”
“Seamus loves kids! He
wants a house full and you know how we Catholics are with the
reproducing,” Dom replied as if none of this bothered her in the least.
“But what about your career?
It’s fine for him. He buries you under a bunch of babies and he gets to come
here to escape them all. Where
does that leave you?” Ro asked indignantly.
Dom stopped just outside the restroom door and gave Ro a
scrutinizing look. “Ro, are
you trying to talk me out of having children or getting married at all?”
“You’ve only known him a few weeks!” Ro said in
exasperation as she threw up her hands. “How could you say ‘yes’ to him?
You should have told him that you’d think about it, that it was
too soon, to ask again later. Anything
but yes! You saw how sick he
got from swallowing a little questionable water.
What if he’s sick all the time?
And he’s strange. What
if he has strange ideas about what marriage entails?
This whole thing is a really bad idea.
You should put things on hold, wait until you know him better,
until you both know each other better.”
Dom pursed her lips for a second, then her face softened and
she laid a hand on Ro’s upper arm. “Ro, he’s the one. You
know, that person that is perfect for you, that you just can’t picture
living out the rest of your life without.
He didn’t shove his way into my life, he fit there. We fit. We
belong together. I love him
and I know that he loves me. We’ll
work the rest of it out.”
Ro searched her best friend’s eyes, looking for some tiny
doubt, but there was none. She
wanted to argue, but couldn’t find the right words.
It didn’t help that Dom had echoed her own thoughts aloud about
how she and Harper fit together. Unable to stop herself, Ro hugged Dom tightly saying, “Then
I’m happy for you. And
jealous of you. I don’t
know if I could ever be that sure of anyone.”
“Of course you can. Trust
me, it’ll sneak up on you, but it’ll happen,” Dom said as she
returned the embrace. Drawing
away from Ro, Dom grinned and said, “And I am desperately in need of a
bathroom.” Ro laughed
softly, nodding for Dom to precede her into the restroom.
When they returned to the cafeteria, Dom settled by
Harper’s side again, Harper greeting her with a gentle kiss.
“Didn’t talk her out of it, I take it,” Lee commented as he
offered Ro a glass of soda.
“Dom is not talked out of things,” Ro said, then took a
sip of her drink as she looked over at her friend and Dom’s husband to
be. Harper had his arms
around her and though he was listening to something that Riley was saying,
it was obvious where the majority of his attention was.
“You should know that by now.”
Lee made a soft humming sound of disapproval and said,
“Well, she seems happy, I suppose.
I just hope it lasts.”
Watching Dom and Harper, she got the same feeling of
foreboding, Ro said, “So do I. How sickly is Harper?”
Lee shook his head. “I
don’t know. Jamie sure seems nervous about his health in general.”
Ro nodded, but didn’t say anything.
Maybe that was what was bothering her, the possibility that Harper
might fall ill again and not recover.
She didn’t know for sure, but she began to pray that her worries
would amount to nothing, for both Dom’s sake and Harper’s.
It was four in the morning.
Even though the party had spontaneously happened after Harper
rather unexpectedly proposed to Doctor Babin had only broken up an hour
ago, Nelson knew where he would find the person he was looking for.
“Don’t you ever sleep?” he asked with a soft smile as he
entered the lab that he’d given over to Harper a few weeks ago.
It seemed longer. It
seemed that Harper had been with them for so much longer than three short
weeks. So much had happened
in that time. Nelson smiled
warmly as the young man turned to him, still glowing with happiness.
It seemed like Harper had always been a part of the Institute and
their lives and now he would be with them from here on out.
If Nelson had ever fostered any doubts about the truth of that,
they were gone now and forever.
Harper shook his head and shrugged, but he was smiling and
continued working on whatever he was building.
“Couldn’t sleep if I tried.
I’m too jazzed,” he said.
“Besides, you’re up.”
“Just until I could make sure everyone else had gone home
and to bed, so in essence, you’re keeping me up,” Nelson told him,
trying to put a reproachful look on his face but failing utterly.
“Of course, I don’t know that I’d be doing much sleeping
either. You took everyone by
surprise, young man. Not that
I’m at all upset about things, especially with the way they turned out,
but what possessed you to propose like that?”
After seeing Portman lingering by the door, then his rather abrupt
departure when things had gone well, Nelson had some suspicions, but he
wanted to hear what Harper had to say about things.
Harper smile dimmed and he put down what he was working on and met Nelson’s eyes. “She’s leaving me, going away for weeks and I... I needed her to know how I felt before she did. It just happened all of a sudden, me needing her to know. I hadn’t meant to propose. I just started talking and I couldn’t stop. All the words, they were just there, needing to be said. I’m just glad she didn’t slap me and storm off.”
Nelson shook his head at the boy and laid a hand gently on
his collarbone. “And why
would she have done anything even remotely like that?”
“There is precedent,” Harper told him with a shamed look
which shifted into a worried one rather quickly.
“Now I’ve got this whole wedding thing to live through before I
get to love, honor and cherish. Her parents sound cool, her dad didn’t even yell at me when
I talked to him on the phone earlier.
He’s the first dad I’ve ever talked to.
I never pictured that going well.
We’re going there, to her parents’ house, when you get back in
port. The only bad thing
about that is I have to meet her sisters too, even the scary lawyer
sister. Have you met her?”
“No, I haven’t met any of Dominica’s family, but I did
speak to sister in question and she didn’t seem frightening to me,”
Nelson said, still grinning.
“Oh, sure, not to you,” Harper said as if that were a
foregone conclusion, but then got a worried expression on his face.
“But I’m not as brave as you are.
I’m happy, don’t get me wrong, but the actual wedding... You
know, dressing up and standing up there in front of all of Dom’s family
and friends... What if somebody objects?
I mean, I’m pretty objectionable.
What if her family talks her out of it?
Or Ro? Or anybody?
What’ll I do?”
Nelson laughed softly, giving him a pat of reassurance.
“That’s not going to happen.
And even if it did, Dominica knows her own mind.
I doubt she’d listen.”
“You’d back me up that it’s a good idea to go through
with things if someone tried, though, right?
She’d listen to you. And...
and you’ll stand up there with me, make sure I don’t trip myself or
faint or anything?” Harper asked almost pleadingly.
Nelson got a quizzical look on his face.
“Are you asking me to be your best man?”
“Well, yeah, of course!” Harper replied, sounding half
exasperated and half desperate. “Who
else would I ask?”
“Typically that’s an honor reserved for the groom’s
best friend,” Nelson told him, thinking that Harper would have already
asked Chip or Kowalski to stand with him.
Both had been friendly to the boy, especially since he’d been
injured and ill, and they were closer to his age.
Then there was the Arland O’Donnell that had been talked about.
“I want to marry my best friend,” Harper said, then gave
him a sheepish look. “Second
best isn’t so bad, is it?”
“Considering who took the honor of first, no, not at
all,” Nelson chuckled, then put on a more serious expression, “And
I’m honored to accept. Just
don’t plan on receiving too risque a bachelor party.”
Harper grinned widely again.
“I think the less I have to do with any woman besides Dom, the
better. I get the best girl
in the world to have and hold anyway. I only want to get through the next six months... er, six
months after we talk to a priest, from what Dom was saying. It seems like so long, but Dom and Ro were doing the girl
giggly planning thing and she looked so excited and happy about all the
proceedings, I guess I can make it. Waiting
patiently has never been my strong suit, is all.
I’m probably going to be a total pain in the butt before the day
finally comes, not to mention that I’ll have to start soaking in ice
water because I think cold showers are only gonna work for so long.”
Nelson chuckled. “What a good man must endure for the love of a good woman.
I suppose I’ll have to make sure you have plenty to occupy you to
make the time pass more quickly.” Then
he thought of something and he felt his expression become serious again.
“And you need to sit down with Dominica and have a long talk.
She should know everything. We
could do that in my office when she comes in, if you’d like,” Nelson
told him. He wanted Harper to
know that now that the moment of truth was on him that he wouldn’t be
abandoned to face it on his own.
“Er... I sort of already told her,” Harper replied with
a sheepish expression.
Nelson raised an eyebrow.
“Really? When did
this happen?” he asked, thinking it had likely been sometime in the last
week, when Jamieson hadn’t been in the Infirmary.
It just seemed odd that Doctor Babin hadn’t said anything to him
about it. Nelson had fully
expected her to give him more than a few cross words when she finally
learned the truth and that it had been his order to keep it from her.
Harper’s sheepish look intensified and he cringed a
little. “The day you told
me not to tell her?” he asked more than answered, looking like he was
getting ready to duck for cover. Nelson
felt him mouth tighten into a frown.
“It wasn’t my fault! I
had to! Crane made her cry
and I couldn’t lie to her when she was all upset and thinking I was
dying or something! I
proposed then too, like you said I had to, but she just yelled at me and
didn’t take it seriously. The
proposal, I mean. She
believed me about the weird reality that has been my life.
I was right for once, though, right?
She didn’t say anything about it to anybody.
You never even knew that she knows.”
Nelson stared at Harper, who still looked ready to make a
run for it if necessary, then lowered his head, pinching his nose.
“I guess I’m the one that needs to have a talk with
Dominica,” he said, not liking the thought of that at all.
“Want me to? She probably won’t even get mad at me right now,” Harper
offered, offering Nelson an apologetic look.
That stung in of itself, that the boy was offering to shield him
from his own folly. Of course
Doctor Babin could be trusted with sensitive matters.
Nelson knew that. Harper
had done the right thing in telling her the truth.
Truth was important in personal relationships, especially a truth
as large as Harper’s past. Nelson
was so used to security and secrets that it seemed everything needed to be
kept silent these days. He
could only be grateful that what he’d told Harper to do hadn’t blown
up in his face or done harm to Harper himself.
“No, no. I’ll
handle it,” Nelson assured the boy, giving him a gentle pat on the arm.
“I’d like you to go to bed and at least try to sleep for a few
hours. You wouldn’t want to
fall ill again, especially not now, would you?”
Harper shook his head.
“I won’t, honest. I feel great, really. And
I’ll go lie down for a while, but I’m not promising actual sleep.”
“The effort is all I ask,” Nelson said with a soft
smile, resting a hand gently on Harper’s shoulder.
Looking into the boy’s warm, trusting eyes, Nelson felt a
closeness he’d felt with very few people over the years.
It meant more to him than Harper would probably ever know.
“We need to sit down and have a long talk about your future and
the part I’d like to play in it. I
know you’re a grown man and that you can take care of yourself, Seamus,
but I want you to know that I consider you part of my family, that you can
come to me for anything at any time.”
Harper’s eyes misted over.
“Me too. I mean,
yeah, we’re family, right? You
need anything that I can give you, it’s yours, okay?” he gushed out.
“Sleeping is all I want from you for now,” Nelson told
him with a gentle pat on the shoulder, then escorted Harper to the lab
door. “We should find you
better living accommodations now that you have identification.”
“I’m staying at Dom’s house while the Seaview’s gone
so I can keep an eye on things for her,” Harper told him.
“In a few months, I’ll be there full time.
I don’t mind staying here until then.
I’m used to it and I’m comfortable where I am.
Makes no sense, me moving someplace else when it’s just gonna be
for such a short time.”
Nelson smiled softly. Harper
did have a practical streak. “If
you’re sure you don’t mind.”
nice, really, compared to most of the places I’ve stayed,” Harper said
with a shrug, then let out a little laugh. “It’s funny, actually.
That alien guy, he thought he was punishing me by sending me here.
I wonder if he has any clue how wrong he was.”
Nelson frowned a little.
Barris. He hadn’t
thought about Barris in a while, but so much had been going on that he
hadn’t had time to. “This
alien, what did he say exactly?” Nelson asked.
“Well, aside from beating the snot out of me and telling
me I was a weak nothing, he told me that people here were going to cut me
up to see where the human race went wrong. Seems kinda weird, now that I really think about it.
Course, he was a weird looking guy.
Kinda grey skin with ridges and black eyes and pointy teeth.
Tough looking but ugly with absolutely no sense of humor.
Came out of nowhere and just lit into me and I still don’t have a
clue why. The funny thing is,
I almost feel like thanking the guy,” Harper said with a shake of his
head. “Well, good night...
or good morning... or whatever. See
you in a couple of hours,” Harper said, then meandered in the direction
of the dorms, hands in pockets.
Nelson watched after Harper for a few moments, wondering if
he should say anything about Barris and his visits.
The alien had been gone for over a week.
Perhaps this time he was gone for good.
If he returned, Nelson would talk to Harper about it, but if Barris
remained gone, there was no sense in doing so.
Walking to his own office and lying down on the sofa in the back
room, Nelson took a nap. When he woke, it was after nine and he sighed.
Knowing Doctor Babin, she’d be in and he really should go and
talk to her. Hauling himself
up and straightening himself out a bit, Nelson decided that he’d be best
off getting things over with and he went to Doctor Babin’s office.
That she was there typing away at her computer wasn’t at
all surprising. There were
papers that she’d been meaning to write for weeks and now the future was
looking very busy for her, so she was probably trying to get a few bits of
old business done. “Good
morning!” she said brightly with a smile as he entered her office.
Obviously, she had no idea why he was there.
He would have thought she’d read it on his face as usual.
“I haven’t seen Seamus yet this morning.
What have you got him doing now?” she asked with a little laugh.
“Sleeping,” Nelson replied, rather surprised that Harper
seemed to be still at it. He frowned a little. Harper
had been rushing his recovery from his lung infection, but there were
still little signs that he wasn’t as back to normal as he wanted
everyone to think. His
falling asleep in Fletcher’s office yesterday had been hint enough of
that. “He doesn’t sleep
enough,” Nelson declared, thinking she probably already knew it.
Doctor Babin’s smile dimmed.
“He doesn’t like to sleep,” she said, turning to face him,
suddenly serious. “He has
nightmares. His past, it
comes back to haunt him in his dreams.
People don’t realize how much he’s been hurt because he
doesn’t let it show.”
Nelson’s mouth went flat.
“His past,” he said. “It’s
strange to say that, considering that in a way it hasn’t happened
Doctor Babin held his eyes, didn’t even blink.
“So, he finally told you that I know,” she was all she said.
“I’m sorry,” Nelson replied, not sure what else to
Her eyes narrowed a bit, but then she turned back to her
computer and began typing again. “Sorry for what? You
were only trying to protect Seamus, which is something I try to do myself.
It’s only too bad that you don’t feel I’m trustworthy.
You and Lee were probably at your wits’ ends thinking how I might
spread Seamus’ origins out all over the place.”
That made Nelson a bit confused.
“Lee doesn’t know,” he told her.
Doctor Babin stopped typing and turning back to him, looking
surprised. “He doesn’t?
You didn’t tell him? But
he’s been in my office almost every day, telling me how I don’t know
who Seamus is or where he’s from. I
thought he was trying to protect me from someone he thought was some
dangerous person from the future. You
mean he honestly doesn’t know anything?”
“Of course not. And I don’t think you’re untrustworthy. It was...” Nelson started to apologize.
“You didn’t tell Lee!” Doctor Babin interrupted him as
she rose swiftly from her chair. “That’s why he’s been so crazy!
I thought that he was being overprotective because he knew Seamus
was from the future, but he’s freaking out because he doesn’t know!
You had to have seen it too. He’s
been around all the weirdness of the Seaview for so long that he’s got a
sixth sense about odd things a lot of the time.
Seamus must be making all his alarm bells ring out of control!
No wonder he’s been such a pain.
Why didn’t you just tell him?!
Oh, never mind. It’s
too late for you to. I’ll
tell him. Arrrgh!
I can’t believe you didn’t even trust Lee!”
Nelson didn’t have a chance to respond to any of the
tirade because by the time Doctor Babin was finished speaking she was gone
out of her office. He
briefly thought about going after her, but instead found himself leaning
back against her desk, running a hand up through his hair and wondered why
he got involved people’s personal lives.
He was still standing there when Harper suddenly popped
through the door and chirped, “Hey, Boss.
Seen my bride to be? I
wanted to give her a big good morning kiss and...”
Suddenly he stopped talking and gave Nelson a close, cautious look
which quickly gave way to an expression of panic.
“You told her, didn’t you?
It didn’t go well. Oh hell! I made
you guys fight! I’m so
sorry! I’ll fix it...
somehow. Oh freaking hell!”
“No, no. It’s
fine,” Nelson assured him, wanting to feel assured himself.
Harper searched his face, still looking distraught.
“Okay,” he said, but was plainly thinking things were the exact
opposite. “If you say it’s fine, all’s well. So... Dom’s where? I
should still say good morning and... talk about wedding stuff.
That’ll probably take her mind off other things... Not that I
need to, mind you, ‘cause you said I don’t, but it would.”
Nelson patted Harper on the shoulder with a tight smile.
He didn’t have the heart to tell the boy that Doctor Babin had
gone to tell Lee everything, because that would probably make Harper even
more frantic. He was trying
not to think to hard about it himself, not at all looking forward to the
fallout he was almost certain would be raining down on him all too soon.
“Let’s go get some breakfast and a large cup of coffee.
I have the feeling that today is going to require lots and lots of
coffee,” Nelson told Harper, turning him to the door and escorting him
through it. Nelson had the
distinct feeling that today was going to tax the Institute’s coffee
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