* * *
Ro had been battling with a stubborn bolt on an access panel for
the last five minutes. She
refused to ask for help, though. She
didn’t think it would give any easier for anyone else.
She slid a piece of pipe onto the handle of the wrench, giving
herself some more leverage, and yanked.
Thankfully, it finally gave way just before the Admiral entered the
Circuitry Room. “Good
morning, sir,” she said as she worked the bolt free with her fingers now
that it was loose.
“Good morning, Miss Simmons.
I thought Kowalski and Riley had already finished repairs in
here,” he commented as he watched her work.
“They got most of it, but some more problems popped up
once we started doing diagnostics,” she replied as she pulled the panel
“It isn’t going to set off our repair time frame too
badly, is it?” Nelson asked.
“I factored in some wiggle room,” Ro admitted as she
began to test the wires in front of her to find the dead ones.
Wiring had been a pain lately.
She would have to take the time to look more closely at what was
being used in the near future. Things
were shorting and burning out that shouldn’t and it all seemed to come
down to the wiring.
wanted to warn you, Philip Kensington will be in attendance tomorrow.
He just called to confirm and couldn’t help but gloat about the
wonderful new perks he had come up with to steal you away from the
Institute. I know you don’t
have much patience for his sort of competition, but I would appreciate it
if you were gentle with him,” Nelson requested.
Ro groaned. Philip Kensington was a major financial force in the
industrial world and he was very generous with his money, especially in
the support of things that could someday aid him.
However, he also seemed to think of the Institute as a proving
ground for his employees. He
watched to see which of Nelson’s engineers were truly spectacular, then
he pounced with shameless offers of money and power.
He had very limited success with this tactic.
The Admiral did tend to inspire loyalty in his employees.
However, Kensington treated the entire thing as a game and each
success as a triumph akin to winning the Superbowl.
“Why does he have to pick on me?
I’ve already told him I’m not interested twice.
Why doesn’t he try to sink his teeth into Merrick or Portman?
They’re both good.”
“Yes, well, neither of them is as good as you, hence
Kensington’s refusal to give up this round so easily,” Nelson said
“I hope he can stand more disappointment, then, because
he’s not going to be any more successful than he had been previously.”
“I’m glad to know that I’m such a superior
“Not that you aren’t, sir, but I stay here for the
challenge. I know I’ll
never be bored working on the Seaview.”
Nelson chuckled. “I’m not entirely certain that’s a good thing.”
“Of course it is. I’m not talking about fixing her after one of her little
mishaps, I was referring to the Seaview herself and when I can actually
manage to top her creator in finding improvements for her.
Now there’s a challenge.”
Another of the Admiral’s warm, soft laughs filled the
room. “I’ll keep that in
mind. I wouldn’t want
things to become easy and boring for you.”
“Perish the thought,” Ro said, then thought about her
dinner last night and turned to face Nelson.
“Dom gave me a surprise last night with dinner.
She has a new project.”
Nelson smiled. “What is it? Some
new plants or some interior decorating?”
“His name is Seamus Harper and he’s a homeless man that
she’s... well, he’s too old to be adopted but that’s the closest
word I can think of,” Ro said.
Nelson’s face fell. “What?”
“Apparently, the night we got into port, she was lying in
her hammock on her back porch and saw him collapse down on the beach.
Someone had kicked the stuffing out of him, then threw him in the
bay, presumably thinking that he’d drown and not be able to report them.
It didn’t really matter. Harper
said that he didn’t know who it was that had pulverized him or why,”
Ro told him, wondering what he would say.
“This man, he’s sleeping at Dominica’s house?”
Nelson asked, not sounding at all happy about the prospect.
“Yes, in her guest room for the last couple of nights.
Dom says he’s harmless. Actually,
I think she called him ‘sweet,’ but she meant harmless.
She says that Harper just needs some help to get on his feet and
seems determined to be the one to give it to him.
She wouldn’t listen to me when I suggested that she hand him over
to some agency that’s purpose is to do just that for people.
She says he’s slipped through the cracks for too long and she
wasn’t going to let it happen to him again,” she replied, her tone
telling him that she was equally unhappy about the situation.
“She’s an intelligent young lady, but doing this is not
intelligent at all,” Nelson grumbled. “What is she thinking?”
“She’s a person that has more faith than sense sometimes
and she thinks that because Harper collapsed practically on her doorstep
that he’s her moral responsibility.
She even quoted scripture at me,” Ro replied, then felt like she
was being too hard on Dom and Harper in what she was saying to the
Admiral. “It’s not that
Harper’s a terrible person, at least as far as I could see.
I mean, he seemed like a decent guy, actually.
He even told me that he’d leave Dom’s house if I thought it was
for the best and I think he would have.
And he does seem grateful to Dom for her generosity.
He’s doing odd jobs for Dom to sort of pay her back a little.
He even shooed us both out the kitchen when dinner was done,
telling us to go do girl things, then he washed all the dishes.
Dom said that he’s been quiet and polite and hasn’t even tried
to lay a finger on her. I
don’t know. Maybe I’m overreacting because this sort of thing usually
doesn’t turn out well.”
Nelson was silent for a moment, thinking over everything
that she’d just told him. He
was still frowning, but he sighed heavily and said, “Dominica is a grown
woman. As much as I do not
trust this situation, I can’t dictate to her what she can or can’t do
in her own home unless I have some sort of security concern.
Should I have that concern, Miss Simmons?”
Ro knew he was trusting her judgement, which was a lot of
faith to be putting in her. “I
honestly don’t know,” Ro said with a helpless shrug.
“Dom is usually an extremely good judge of character.
I can’t condemn Harper just because he’s homeless.
That wouldn’t be very fair.
After all, he didn’t do anything threatening or ask any questions
about the Institute or the Seaview. He
seemed more interested in what books I liked than what I did for a living. He likes to read, apparently.
He wasn’t even physically intimidating.
He’s a short, scrawny, battered guy.
I just don’t like this.”
Nelson was not an easy man to read.
Aside from some very reasonable concern, she couldn’t tell what
he was thinking from looking at his face.
“I’ll keep what you’ve said in mind, but, as I said, unless
this somehow becomes an Institute concern, it isn’t my place to
interfere,” he said after a few moments.
He was right, of course. He
couldn’t dictate to Dom how he thought she should live her life any more
than Ro could, but at least he was aware of what was going on, just in
“I know. I
just thought that you’d like to be informed,” Ro said.
you, Miss Simmons. I
appreciate your keeping me apprised of the situation. Let me know if, at some point, you have some sort of real
complaint with this Harper person. In
the meanwhile, let’s get the Seaview back up off her last legs,”
Ro grinned. “Things aren’t quite that dire.
She should be back in the water in no time. You know, if I worked straight through the weekend...”
“You’re going to the Fund Raiser,” Nelson interrupted
her. “And you’re taking
Saturday and Sunday off. You’re
not much use to me if you’re exhausted and overworked.
Don’t tell me you don’t have better things to do.”
“You mean as in a personal life?
Why would I want one of those?” Ro kidded him.
Nelson just shook his head at her and said, “I’ll check
back later on how things are going if I can.”
“Yes, sir,” Ro replied, then set back to work.
She stayed hard at repairs for most of the morning then Lee
came around to check on things, too. He kissed her on the cheek once he saw that they had the room
to themselves. When they had
begun dating, they had both agreed that their romance had no place on the
Seaview. That hadn’t lasted
and Lee flirted when they found a few seconds alone.
She didn’t worry about it affecting his work.
She knew the Seaview came first.
It didn’t bother her. Lee
knew the Seaview came first with her, too.
“Are we still on schedule?” he asked as she looked up to him.
“So far, so good,” Ro told him with a smile.
“Has the Captain been for his mandatory post mission physical?”
Nelson had started that practice when Lee returned from missions
more abused than the Seaview more often than not.
Lee rolled his eyes, nodding.
morning.” He cast off the
expression and smiled back at her. “How
about a coffee break?”
“That sounds good, but I don’t know if I should take the
time,” she replied.
“Take the time. I’ll give you a hand afterwards if you feel it’s setting
you back,” Lee told her.
“Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse,” Ro gave in and
took the arm he offered her.
“So, how was your dinner last night?” Lee asked as they
headed toward Mess. Lee had a
few things that had needed his immediate attention at the Institute, so,
much as he would have liked to, he couldn’t bring her to dinner himself.
“Interesting,” Ro told him, the word coming out a little
harsher than she had intended.
“How so?” Lee pressed.
He probably thought that she and Dom had an argument.
She wondered what he would say about Harper.
* * *
Harper had his jersey tied around his waist as he pushed the
lawn mower over Dom’s front lawn. She hadn’t wanted him to do the mowing at first.
She had mentioned the bruising on his stomach, then had told him
that she was worried that he might do himself some harm exerting himself
physically, just as she had earlier when he had done some heavy lifting
for her. Thankfully, the
bruises on his face had come down a lot and he didn’t have to show her
his still heavily purple abdomen, which would have done the opposite of
convincing her that he was fit enough to do a little yard work. Harper couldn’t face anymore dusting today, already having
sneezed enough for his liking. It
was nice being outside, here on this old Earth, with the sun shining down
from blue skies.
Harper had weeded out the front flower beds first, praying
the whole time that time spent with Trance had instilled enough knowledge
as to what was a weed and what wasn’t in him.
Now he was mowing. It wasn’t particularly hard, but it was hot out and he was
sweating. He was going to
need to wash his clothes again when he was done, but hadn’t figured out
how he was going to manage to do it without pretty much sitting around
naked in the garage, where the washer and dryer were, until everything was
clean. Being down to owning
only the clothes on his back was presenting him with problems he had never
faced before. Maybe he’d
wait until Dom went to bed to do laundry
Still, Harper didn’t mind.
He was making himself useful, that was the important thing.
After Dom had spent all day yesterday pretty much sticking up for
him, he felt like he should be doing even more, but this would have to do
for now. He still planned to make himself indispensable so he could
stay where he was. This
seemed like a good, solid first step.
As he got three quarters of the way done when Dom appeared
with a cup. “Here,” she
said, handing it toward him. “Hydrate.”
Harper smiled. “Nice! Thanks.”
He took the cup and drank down the cold water in it in a few fast
Before he could do anything but lower the glass, Dom held an
apple out to him. “Refuel,”
she ordered him. He shook his
head at her with a grin as he took the apple.
She took such good care of him that he couldn’t imagine why she
didn’t have a boyfriend. That
had come out during dinner conversation last night.
Ro carped about Dom’s exboyfriends and the fact that Dom didn’t
want to go out a blind date with one of Captain Crane’s friends.
He’d stayed out of the whole thing, just eating his dinner until
the topic finally died. Much
as he wished otherwise, he couldn’t do anything about Dom’s current
lack of a steady guy in her life. Oh,
he was tempted to flirt with her. It
seemed like she was constantly leaving herself open to it, but somehow he
controlled those impulses. Other
reasons not withstanding, every person he’d met, Ro included, had warned
him in no uncertain terms that he was in for major trouble if he so much
as looked at Dom in a way they didn’t think was proper.
Time would settle that problem, though.
They’d see he didn’t mean Dom any harm and then he was sure all
those threats would die down.
Dom was standing there, smiling at him, right that instant,
watching him eat, and it was all he could do not to tell her how pretty
she was and hit her with his smarmiest pickup lines.
He couldn’t. He knew he couldn’t, not while he relied on her for
everything. Maybe later, he
consoled himself, after he got one of those social security numbers and
paying work. Then he’d show
her that not all guys were too stupid to realize how special she was. He was going to romance her socks off then.
“Great job on the lawn,” Dom said as he ate another bite of his
done. What next?” he asked,
thinking he’d settle for showing her how industrious he was for now.
Women were impressed by hard working men even in his time.
Tyr would say that it proved them to be good providers and,
therefore, good mates. So far
today he’d washed the breakfast dishes, dusted, helped Dom to move some
heavy furniture so that she could clean behind and around it, and then
done things in the yard while Dom worked on the flower boxes on her back
porch and tidied up the house. It
looked pretty tidy to him before, so he wasn’t sure what she’d been
doing in there. Of course, it
really wasn’t any of his business what she was doing and if she had just
been lying around, relaxing, it was no skin off his nose, though he
doubted she had been. If she
hadn’t been busy, she probably would have been out earlier to check up
“I don’t want you to wear yourself out,” Dom said,
confirming that theory, at least in his mind.
“I’m fine. Come
on, what else can I do?”
Dom stood there, looking perplexed for a moment, saying,
“I was going to take my jeep for a tuneup...”
“I could do that,” Harper interrupted her.
“Not take it anywhere, I mean I could maintenance it for you.”
He’d looked at the engine earlier out of curiosity.
It was a simple combustion motor.
He could maintenance it with one hand tied behind his back.
Dom considered it. “Okay,
I guess. You’re sure you’re as good with engines as you are with
“Better,” Harper said with an air of pride.
Dom shrugged and said, “All right.
I guess my jeep probably looks like child’s play after working on
some big freighter engine.” Harper nodded to the statement, thinking she had no idea how
simple a combustion engine was when compared to an antiproton reactor.
“I need to run to the auto parts store and get some things, then.
I shouldn’t be much more than fifteen minutes.”
give me enough time to finish up with the lawn,” Harper said with a
smile. “See you when I see
you.” He turned back to the
mower, apple clamped in his teeth, and went back to work. Sure enough, just as he was putting the lawn mower back into
the garage, Dom returned from her errand.
“Perfect timing,” he called to her as she stopped the jeep in
She handed him a bag with replacement parts and some plastic
bottles of oil. She went into
the garage and got a funnel and a large, empty plastic container as he
looked everything over. “This
is for the old oil,” she told him, handing him the container.
“Are you sure you’re up to this?
You shouldn’t overdo. You
could do this after lunch and a little rest.”
“I’m fine, really,” he assured her, setting the bag
down by the nose of the jeep. “I
used to work way harder than this on the Maru and the Andromeda.”
Dom gave him a waiting look, but when he didn’t say
anything further she asked, “And they would be?
I’m assuming not girlfriends.”
Harper smiled. “No, no, not that I didn’t love’m. They were the ships I worked on.”
Here, give me that.” She
took his jersey from his waist, probably to keep it from needlessly
getting any dirtier than it was. After
all, she knew exactly how extensive wardrobe wasn’t at the moment.
“I need to run out for a couple more things.
If you get tired, just quit for a while.”
Harper nodded. “I’m fine,” he repeated, wondering if she’d ever
believe that he was. Dom gave
him a dubious look, but went off into the house.
By the time Harper had the jeep’s hood opened and had gotten the
tools he’d need from the garage, she was back out and taking off on the
Harley, waving goodbye. Maybe
she’d let him work on the motorbike next.
Harley’s were a work of art, but he could probably make the
engine a little more fuel efficient with a couple minor modifications.
Dom was going to be surprised by the mileage her jeep would get
after he was done with it. He
was going to earn his keep one way or another.
He’d finished almost everything and had just put the
funnel into the engine so he could pour in the fresh oil when someone
said, “So, ya’re the charity case, are ya?” The voice had a thick Irish brogue. Harper looked up to see an older man standing near the jeep
giving him a less than flattering look.
“Uh... I suppose,” Harper said slowly, wondering who
this was and why he was trying to pick a fight.
Maybe one of Dom’s neighbors.
Come to think of it, he did look a little familiar.
“Just ya listen, boyo, I’m watching ya from right next
door. Ya do anything I
don’t like and I’ll have the police over here like that!” He snapped his fingers in Harper’s face and glared at him
as if daring him to do something. So
he was one of Dom’s neighbors and he wasn’t picking a fight, he was
putting Harper on notice. Just
great. Someone else who
didn’t trust him. Dom must
have been talking to him when she was working on the flower boxes earlier.
Harper hoped she hadn’t called him a charity case, but he was
pretty sure that those were the neighbor’s words, not hers. Harper felt like sighing, thinking he had been right when
he’d thought that Dom was the only person around who was going to cut
him any slack at all. Didn’t
Dylan say it was always better to try to make friends rather than enemies,
even if things didn’t start out so well?
Okay, Dylan, he thought, this one’s for you.
“I’m Seamus Harper.
Good to meet you,” he said, extending a hand toward the
belligerent old man. Something
made the angry look fade and the man was suddenly all smiles and hardy
Another son of Ireland! No
wonder Dominica seemed so taken with ya!” he said, clapping Harper on
the back hard yet remaining friendly.
What do you know, Harper thought, Dylan was right.
Sometimes just being nice did work wonders.
“So, do ya hail from the fair Land herself?”
Harper assumed O’Donnell was asking if he come from
Ireland. “I’m from
O’Donnell was still patting him cheerfully on the back.
“I’ve a cousin there. Ya
wouldn’t be knowing a Glen O’Donnell, would you?”
“Ah, it’s a big city.
Couldn’t know everyone, could ya?
So, what ya doing here? A
bit o’ repairs?” O’Donnell moved to Dom’s jeep peering under the hood.
Harper was confused. He
said his name, which happened to make his Irish heritage plain, and now
O’Donnell was his best friend? He
shrugged, deciding to go with it. At
least the old guy seemed pleasant enough now and you could never have too
“Nah, just a little routine maintenance.
Fresh oil and such,” Harper told him, wiggling one of the plastic
containers then upending it into the funnel to drain.
with cars are ya?” O’Donnell asked giving him a calculating sideways
look. Harper shrugged again
and nodded. He thought this
was a jeep. That’s what Dom
called it. “Ya know, my ol’
heap is needin’ an oil change. I
could see my way clear to givin’ ya a couple o’ dollars if ya could
spare the time to do it for me.”
Was O’Donnell saying he’d pay him for doing some
maintenance on his car? “I...
uh... I would, but... I’m sort of new in town.
I don’t know where to get oil or parts and I don’t have any
money to buy them...”
“No, lad. I’ve
got all that. The wife’s
been on me about it for weeks, but I’ve had this achin’ in me bones.
I just need yer young, strong hands to do the work.
What d’ya say?”
Harper scratched the back of his head.
“I guess I could...”
“Good lad! Ya
finish up here and come on over. I’ll
bring the heap out for ya,” O’Donnell told him with another round of
back slapping, then he took off toward the house next door.
He sure looked spry enough to do his own work.
Harper scratched his head again.
What had he gotten himself into and when was he going to learn to
think before he talked? He
finished putting the oil into Dom’s jeep, closed the hood and started
it. It purred to life and
Harper smiled. Okay, he was
as good with combustion engines as he was with antiproton reactors.
After shutting down the motor and getting out of Dom’s
jeep, Harper glanced over to O’Donnell’s driveway and there old man
was standing in the drive, waving by another vehicle.
It looked a lot older than Dom’s jeep, but Harper supposed that
the engines were probably basically the same.
What could it hurt, helping the old guy out?
He walked over and the next thing he knew he had a beer in
hand and was being told all about some of O’Donnell’s friends from
when he’d been a much younger man.
Harper didn’t mind. He
didn’t really have anything to do until Dom got home anyway. Besides, the beer was cold and not at all bad tasting.
He worked on the car while O’Donnell talked at him.
There were worse ways to while away some time.
He did the oil change and checked over some other things while he
was under the hood, fixing a couple of minor problems that could be solved
with the tightening of a bolt or the scraping off of a little antique
grime. He was just finishing
up when he heard Dom’s Harley coming up the road.
She waved as she went past and Harper thought about what excuse he
could make to go. He felt a little bad about it.
O’Donnell seemed like a lonely old guy and Harper didn’t mind
listening to his stories.
“Arland O’Donnell, who are you bothering out there
now?” came a voice from the house before Harper could say a word.
O’Donnell looked alarmed and dismayed.
“Merciful heavens, lad, get away while ya can!
Tis the devil herself!” he urged quickly as he began to shove
Harper down the drive.
“What?” Harper asked, thinking it just sounded like some
old woman to him.
“The wife, lad! Before it’s too late...”
Suddenly, an elderly woman in a flowered dress was standing
at the center of the open garage, hands on her chubby hips, an
annoyed look leveled straight at O’Donnell.
She looked a little vexed, sure, but certainly didn’t look
frightening. “Arland, what are you doing now?
Stop manhandling that boy!”
“Aye, now we’re both for it.
Remember, lad, I tried to save ya!” O’Donnell whispered to him
then put on a big smile and said, “I’m just getting acquainted, as it
were, with our new neighbor, oh light o’ my life.”
Mrs. O’Donnell marched out to where they were and looked
at the beer bottles by the car, huffing indignantly.
“Drinking so early and pushing alcohol on a child!
What’s wrong with you, you silly old man?” she berated her
“I’m...” Harper tried to tell her he was twenty five
and well able to hold his liquor.
“Look at you, all skin and bones.
Who hasn’t been feeding you, you poor thing?” She said before
he could say another word. She grabbed his left hand looked at it. “Well, no wonder. A
bachelor. You need a good
woman to fill you out a little and put some rosy color in your cheeks.”
She grabbed him by the upper arms and gave him a squeeze and a
quick pull, as if fluffing him like a pillow.
“I...” Harper tried again, with no better success.
“Oh, you must be the poor, lost waif that Doctor Babin
took in. I was asking if you
were a new beau earlier and she told me all about you.
She’s a fine, fine young Christian woman.
And single. But
working with all those sailors. Tsk.
How’s she to meet a decent man, I ask you?
Not that I’m saying you aren’t a decent person yourself, you
understand. Don’t you worry about a thing about what we O’Donnells
think of you, you poor dear. We’re
all good Catholics in this house and have nothing but kind, charitable
thoughts about your situation. So
many without jobs or a roof over their heads these days.
You keep your chin up. Doctor
Babin will see you right, to be sure.”
“And you’ll be in our prayers, dear boy.”
She pinched his cheeks as if he were a child, not that he got any
chance to complain. “Just don’t let Arland here corrupt you.
He’s a silly old man with too many schemes and plans.
Plying you with drink this early in the day!
Don’t you follow his example, hear?
He’s lucky to have made it to his pension.
You stay sober and clear of his like and you’ll be just fine.”
“Arland, have you been talking this poor boy into doing
your chores? You should be
ashamed, taking advantage of him when he needs our help and prayers.
Don’t you listen to Father Bartley in church?
Have you no shame?” she demanded of her husband as she turned to
give him grief. Harper was
beginning to understand what Mister O’Donnell had been warning him
“I have nothing but charity in my heart for Seamus,” he
told his wife. She began to
speak, but he quickly cut her off. “I
hired him, ya old busy body. Here’n
I was just about to pay him for his hard work before ya came out here to
deafen the poor lad with that tongue o’ yours.”
O’Donnell reached into his pocket and pulled out a billfold.
He pressed some money into Harper’s hand before he could protest
and whispered to him, “Run for it, lad.
I’ll cover ya!” Harper didn’t get to say a word, for Mister O’Donnell was
pushing him toward Dom’s house saying, “I know ya promised Dominica
ya’d be home when she got there. Be
off with ya and I’ll see ya when I can.”
Harper turned briefly to say, “Bye,” but he doubted
either of the O’Donnells heard him, because they were too busy trying to
over talk each other. He
turned back to Dom’s house, then looked into his hand to see what Mister
O’Donnell had put there. He
found two crumpled one dollar bills.
Harper half smiled. At
least he wasn’t totally broke anymore.
He stuffed the money into his pocket and walked into Dom’s house
through the open garage. She
had pulled her jeep back in at some point, but he had missed it, probably
during the verbal assault.
“You met the O’Donnells, I see,” Dom said as he closed
the kitchen door behind him. She
was smiling and giggling a little as she moved over to the dining room
door. Harper knew exactly why
she was laughing, but he was more baffled then amused.
“They seem... nice... sort of.
Do they always fight like that?” Harper asked, motioning in the
direction of their house.
Dom nodded, still giggling.
“Yes, but they do it with love.
They’ve been married forever and I think they’re still happy,
“That sure isn’t the way I pictured marital bliss,”
Harper told her. Right now
his vision of marital bliss consisted of doing pretty much what he had
been doing today before Mister O’Donnell showed up, with a healthy dose
of early morning loving added in and a big kiss to go along with the apple
he’d gotten later. He
couldn’t stop thinking like that, no matter how he tried, so he just
tried to temper things enough that he wasn’t salivating after Dom
“Different strokes for different folks,” she said with a
shrug, then looked at him and wrinkled her nose.
“You’re a mess. Go upstairs and shower.
Oh, and here.” She
bent down and picked up a plastic bag from the floor and stuffed it into
his hands. “I had to guess
what size you are, using your jersey as a gauge.
I’m hoping I was close.”
Harper looked down at the bag, which was tied shut, but he
didn’t attempt to open it. He
didn’t want to touch anything in the bag anyway because his hands were
dirty and greasy. “You
bought me clothes?” he asked weakly.
Beka had done that too, but his only clothing at the time he had
come into her life had been dirty rags that had barely been holding
together. Beka had said that
she didn’t want him to rub his filth off on everything that he brushed
against and had incinerated his old clothes the second she got them off
him. She had also expected
him to work off the money she’d laid out on his behalf for the new ones.
Dom didn’t expect him to pay her back and he felt all the more
indebted to her because she didn’t.
“I... I don’t know what to say.”
“Say you’ll take a shower before you make my whole house
smell like oil and grass trimmings,” Dom said, then came around behind
him and gave him a pointed shove toward the stairs.
“Ewww! I left out
Harper went to the stairs then looked back to see Dom going
into the bathroom, probably to wash his sweat off her hands.
“I’m going to pay you back,” he whispered to himself because
he knew she didn’t want to hear it.
“I swear, somehow, I’m paying you back for everything you’ve
done for me.” He climbed
the stairs up to his room and put the bag on the bed.
He dug into his pocket as he looked around for a likely place to
stash his money. Sure, it was
two dollars now, but he was going to find a way to make more, then he was
going to give it all to Dom. He
wasn’t going to insult her with this paltry sum.
He ended up folding it up and putting it under a nicknack too high
up for Dom to reach easily. Then he stripped down and went to take his shower.
After getting himself clean, Harper returned the bedroom to
find his own clothes gone and the room’s door closed.
He kept leaving it open. It
wasn’t his house, after all, so it wasn’t his place to shut Dom out of
anywhere and he really wasn’t the most modest of people.
He half wondered what Dom would do if she came up the stairs just
now and saw him wandering around in just a towel or earlier without even
that. Much as Harper wanted
to envision something hot and sexy, he kept thinking she’d probably be
more concerned with the livid bruises all over his body than the naked
body itself. He sighed,
thinking that was always the case, and that he’d better get dressed
before Dom saw the bruises all over him and got even more worried than she
He went to the bag on the bed.
He supposed now he had to try on the things Dom had bought him,
since she’d stolen his clothes. He secured his towel around his waist and looked in the bag.
Right on top was a bag of plastic, disposable razors.
He rubbed his chin. Yup,
he was getting scruffy. He
took the razors into the bathroom and made use of one, then returned to
the bag. Next was a package
of new undershirts, then another of new boxers, then some socks.
All were nice and soft, just what Harper liked.
He put them on then looked at his new wardrobe.
There were three pairs of pants:
one beige, one black, one a light khaki, and three button down long
sleeve shirts: one a medium
blue denim, one a muted maroon with black pinstripes, one kind of a
yellowy beige. They weren’t bad looking, just not as colorful as he
usually got for himself. He
got dressed in the beige pants and the maroon shirt.
Everything was a little on the large side, but he had lost some
serious weight when he’d been sick.
With the way Dom was feeding him, he was sure he’d gain it back
soon and everything would fit a just about perfectly.
His own clothing had been loose on him too, after all. He liked his clothing loose and comfortable, unlike Tyr.
How did Tyr get into those pants anyway?
Harper put the rest of his new attire onto the floor of the
closet, refolded neatly in the bag once again.
He didn’t want to mess up Dom’s house.
He’d been making a concerted effort not to since he’d awoke
here that first day. He went
to the kitchen where Dom gave him a quick once over.
“I forgot a belt,” she sighed as she shook her head.
“And I guessed a size too large.
“No, they’re great,” Harper told her.
“I don’t know how to thank you.”
Dom made a dismissive gesture.
“I got them at this used place.
Except the underwear. I
just don’t like the thought of wearing somebody else’s underwear,”
she told him, then nodded him to the kitchen table, where sandwiches
already waited. Harper
watched after her as she went to get something from the fridge, thinking
he could sure picture her in his boxers and nothing else, then told his
subconscious to shut up and tried to look innocent of any such thoughts as
she turned back to him. “Ro
called while you were in the shower.
She was checking up on me,” Dom told him with a grin as she
brought over a container of milk and one of cola.
Coca-cola wasn’t Sparky cola, but it would do.
“I thought she liked me,” Harper sighed.
Why was everyone thinking he was going to commit horrible, evil
acts against Dom? He wouldn’t, not ever, not even if Dom suddenly started
hurting him for some reason. He
knew that would never happen, not after she’d been as sweet and
wonderful to him as she had been. Did
he really look like the sort of person that went around assaulting nice
women, or anybody else for that matter?
He’d never, tried as he might, ever come off as dangerous looking
in his entire life. Scared
shitless, sure, but scarey? Not
exactly in his repertoire. The
thought of anyone trying to hurt Dom stirred protective urges in Harper,
though. If somebody wanted to
see dangerous, just let them try something like that.
“Like and trust are two entirely different things.
Besides, Ro thinks that most men are sex fiends, ready to jump the
first available female in their path, whether she likes it or not,” Dom
told him with a smirk.
“Well, she’s right.
We are all sex fiends. However,
some of us are capable of a little self control,” Harper told her.
He was living proof of that at the moment.
He wondered if Dom had said it because she was wondering if he was
getting ready to jump on her. Much
as Harper adored her and all other women, he would never do that. Follow them around like a lost puppy looking to get pet, all
the time, pounce on them like a hungry tiger, never unless he was invited
to do so, which, sadly, never happened.
Maybe he ought to let her know that he wasn’t the into guerrilla
warfare where love was concerned. “I,
personally, like a nice, willing woman.
That way I get kissed instead of bit.”
Dom laughed softly as she chewed her sandwich.
“And you’ve gotten bit?” she asked, teasing him.
“Only in the nicest possible way,” Harper told her with
a smile of his own. “Of
course, I’ve met women that would bite a guy for real and expect him to
enjoy it. You know, a little
on the crazy side.” He
whirled his finger next to his head.
Dom nodded, visibly suppressing a grin and trying to look serious
about the matter. Beka would
have been rolling her eyes at him by now, but Dom didn’t seem to mind
hearing his take on things, so he kept going.
“Them you have to avoid. They
think pain is sexy. Some guys
are into it, I guess, but pain is not a turn on for me.”
“Yeah, I never got the s & m, bondage stuff either,”
Dom commented, still smirking. She
didn’t mind talking about sex, it seemed, which made Harper even more
enthusiastic about the subject.
“Oh, a woman can tie me up if she wants, so long as she
just doesn’t leave me lying there bored once she does,” Harper said.
Dom laughed around a mouthful of sandwich and shook her head at
him. Harper was getting
decidedly aroused by the topic and since Dom seemed to find it amusing
rather than stimulating, he decided he’d better think of something else
to talk about, fast. He ate a
little more as he thought. They
were both about done with their sandwiches and he wondered what she had
planned for after lunch. Yesterday
it had been spent running around, starting the process of getting him
proper paperwork. Today,
there didn’t seem to be anything so urgent to do and suddenly Harper was
desperately in need of something to occupy his time and his overactive
mind. “So... uh... what else can I do for you after lunch besides
“You can take a break,” Dom told him.
She had already told him repeatedly that he didn’t need to be
doing something for her during his every waking moment, but he felt like
he did. “You’ve been hard
at it all morning. You can
read a little. I’ll even
join you. We can sit out on
the back porch and get some fresh air.
How does that sound?”
It sounded nice, way too nice, actually, because Harper
found himself imagining them cuddling in the hammock he’d seen there,
turning pages for each other. He
knew he’d better find something to do to take his mind off romance, but
quick, or he’d say something he was going to regret for sure.
“I can work on some of the stuff in the garage, I guess,”
Harper said so that she would know he planned to do something constructive
even if she didn’t give him options. Besides, he’d read two books in bed last night.
He was a fast reader and a poor sleeper.
Dom frowned at him. Harper
didn’t like that, but before he could do anything about it, she said,
“I can see this is going to take drastic action.”
She stood up and went into the other room.
Harper shot to his feet and followed her, wondering what was she
was going to do. Drastic action, whatever that amounted to, didn’t sound
good and those words usually meant he would be in pain or confined in the
near future. She was seated
at the desk and was looking at the smaller television there.
Only he realized it wasn’t a television as she pulled out a
keyboard and began to type in commands.
It actually was a view screen for a computer, but not the touch
screens that he was used to. Harper
looked at the metal box on the floor making humming noises.
That was a computer? He
scratched the back of his head. She
was going to take drastic action with a computer?
see,” she said, her words drawing him closer so he could peer over her
shoulder and see what she was looking at.
“Hmm. I don’t
suppose you’re into chick stuff. Independence Day is still playing. Want to see that?”
“Uh... What is it?” Harper asked, looking at the screen.
There were lists of what he thought might be book titles, but they
had times next to them, which didn’t make any sense.
“A movie. You
know, the things they show at theaters? You are so weird sometimes, Seamus Harper,” she said with a
good natured chuckle.
“I... uh... I mean what is it about?” he ventured,
trying not to look too hopelessly stupid. They still showed movies at theaters? Wow!
“It’s kind of like an updated War of The Worlds,” Dom
told him. “You know, alien
invasion, lots of special effects.”
Harper was all too personally familiar with that subject
matter and not in a pleasant way. “No,
“Hmm, would’ve thought you’d go for Science Fiction
action adventure type stuff. Okay.
Um... Frighteners is playing at the dollar theater.
It’s about a guy that can see ghosts.
I read the book. It
was funny and creepy in equal parts.”
“I don’t need anything to give me nightmares.”
He’d had a real bad one last night.
It had to do with doctors that were enjoying seeing how many of his
internal organs they could remove without anaesthesia before killing him.
He was only glad that he hadn’t woken Dom with it because he
wasn’t sure if all he’d kept all his screams in dreamland.
“I can imagine. I suppose that lets out the Island of Doctor Moreau, too.
Oh, here we go. Eraser. I
don’t know of any guy alive that doesn’t enjoy Arnold Schwarzenegger
films. We’ll go see
that,” Dom told him.
Harper looked past her to find what she was talking about,
pleased to see it, too, was at the dollar theater.
“Okay,” he agreed, though he had no idea who this Arnold
whatever she said was. “Just
a sec.” He ran upstairs and
retrieved his money. “My
treat,” he announced with a grin, handing Dom wrinkled bills.
Dom gave him an odd look, saying, “Where did you get
“From Mister O’Donnell.
He paid me to change the oil in his car.
I think it was mostly so his wife wouldn’t yell at him for it,
but still,” Harper said, smiling happily.
He was finally going to get to do something financial, however
minor, for Dom.
Dom looked at the money then back him.
She seemed concerned about something, then said, “That’s very
Harper drew his hands up and away from the bills as she started to
hand them back. “No way
I’m going unless you let me pay. You’ve
done everything for me. I
literally owe you the clothes on my back.
And it’s not like that’s the last two dollars I’ll ever earn.
At least I sure hope it’s not.
Come on. Don’t make
me feel more pathetic than I already do,” Harper said.
Dom pursed her lips, but she lowered the hand with the money
in it. “Fine, so long as
its with the understanding that I get the next one.
That’s what friends do. And
you don’t owe me anything, Seamus.
Understand? I’m not
keeping a log and I will not, under any circumstances, ever take money
from you. Here.
You can pay at the theater,” Dom said, handing the money toward
him again. This time he took
it. He wanted to argue about
the whole money issue, but he wasn’t in a position to, considering that
the only money he had he was about to spend on something frivolous for the
two of them. Still, he told
himself that he’d find a way to reimburse her for all her generosity.
Maybe he couldn’t do it with actual money, but he’d think of
something. He always did right by his friends and he wanted to be more
than friends with Dom as soon as he could work out how to do that too.
* * *
|Belonging, Chapter 1|
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|Other Fan Fiction Contents Page|