Author's Website: http://www.mrks.org/~viridian/
Author's Notes: Read-through by D'Sharon.
Story Notes: The rating is more like PG-13, and this story is Fraser/Kowalski kind of. It's a Things Once Linked, other lives story.
Spoilers and disclaimers at the end. Trust me?
This is all Kass' fault.
When the med bay door opened, Dylan saw only Trance, the crew's purple-skinned mystery alien, inside. "Where's Harper?"
"I let him check himself out," she answered brightly.
Captains didn't throttle their crew. "He's still recovering from radiation poisoning. He nearly died today."
"The instruments here can't do anything else for him, and he said the pallet was really uncomfortable. We agreed that he would recover better in his own bed."
"You're a botanist and Harper is an engineer." Not that either of them had any training even in those fields as the Commonwealth would have recognized it. Dylan got the feeling that Harper was utterly self-taught, and Trance probably was as well.
Sometimes it made him crazy when he thought of how little he knew about the people he'd taken on to help him restore the Commonwealth. If he'd known how weak Harper's immune system was, he would have made very different plans for avoiding the enemy ship.Of course, he hadn't known them for very long, but if they'd come to him as High Guard officers he would have had stats and dossiers. But he was the last member of the High Guard, centuries from home, the Commonwealth, and everyone he knew. Moments like this made sure he didn't forget that.
"And you're the ship's captain," she answered, perhaps missing his point deliberately. He wondered about her sometimes.
"Ahm, yes." If you let your botanist run the med bay, you really had no call to be second-guessing her judgments.
"If you're worried, you don't have to be. I asked Rommie to keep an eye on him."
"Even though he didn't want anyone keeping an eye on him." As much as Dylan trusted Rommie, the thought of his ship watching him without his knowledge bothered him. Literally speaking, the AI kept an eye on all of them because she had no choice, but the thought of her specifically keeping tabs, scrutinizing them and their behavior....
"It won't bother him if he doesn't know."
Dylan had to keep this side of Trance in mind. "I see. I'll ask Rommie how he's doing."
Trance, Harper, Beka, and Rev had been a salvage crew of civilians and grown up in far more savage surroundings than he had, giving them a different way of looking at life. He'd heard hints that Harper in particular had experienced the full turmoil and murderous violence that had become status quo in too many places after the Commonwealth's destruction. In the absence of the Commonwealth, they'd never known the stabilizing order and justice he'd taken for granted. Everything about Tyr reminded Dylan that Tyr didn't share his goals or moral values, and Rev repudiated his violent Magog nature publicly and constantly, but Dylan kept forgetting that Trance, Beka, and Harper might have their own agendas.
"It was sweet of you to come here to check on him," Trance said.
"I'll visit Harper in his quarters."
"You shouldn't. Well, I mean, you're the captain, so of course you could, but he told me he'd be resting."
"Harper? He's probably in the middle of three projects already."
Trance started to look upset. "He said he would rest when I told him to. He's not well yet."
"I'm sure it's fine. Harper always does exactly as he's told." Dylan Hunt, passive-aggressive captain. That was mean of him to do. Yet satisfying. From the look on her face, Trance might think twice about releasing Harper next time, definitely a good thing. "Thank you, Trance." As soon as Dylan stood alone out in the corridor, he asked, "Rommie?"
Her hologram form popped up. "Yes, Dylan?"
"When did you start accepting the orders of our new friends, especially without informing me? If Trance asks you to spy on Harper, or anyone else for that matter, I'd like to know and have some part in the decision."
"I evaluated the notion myself and decided it had merit. I couldn't see you disagreeing. You don't think that Harper in his current state needs supervision?"
"I didn't say that."
"I understand your reservations, but I'm wondering if I should maybe keep all of you under surveillance to keep you safe. A member of my crew was quietly dying, and I had no idea. I admit that I had a number of things vying for my attention, but I knew that you were all in danger from the radiation. I could have checked on you now and then."
"Rommie, that's not part of your parameters."
"It wouldn't have been possible when I had a crew of 4,000. Six is far easier."
"I don't think it's a good idea. There are privacy issues." Dylan couldn't let her continue to feel guilty and berate herself for not doing things she wasn't supposed to do anyway. "What happened wasn't your fault." //It was mine. My decision to hide the Andromeda in the corona and expose everyone to the radiation; my dressing down that made Harper push himself so hard that he could be coughing up blood but still think it was more important to work on the assignment I gave him.// "You are not to keep any members of the crew under surveillance unless I ask you to."
"But since you're looking already--"
Rommie's image didn't smirk. Much. "Harper is lying down dozing. Temperature and heart rate are elevated above normal but well within healthy parameters. Respiration normal."
If Harper was lying down, he must have been feeling badly. Well, he'd nearly died. Dylan unwillingly flashed back to the sight of Harper crumpling at his feet, having apparently staved off his collapse until he could finish assembling the FMS machine Dylan had asked him for.
That moment had changed Dylan's perception of Harper. He'd been shocked by a feeling of connection and recognition. It was the kind of stupidly heroic thing Dylan would have done in Harper's place. He'd been aware of Harper as an individual before--hell, Harper had been the first member of the Maru crew Dylan had met face to face--but in a kind of abstract way. If he needed something technical or mechanical done, he knew that Harper would do it. Now? He felt like there was so much more there that could become visible to him if he only tried hard enough.
Which made a lot of sense and no sense all at once.
"You probably know him better than I do," Dylan said. "I mean, you connect with him. What do you think of his character?"
"Connect? Oh. Dylan, when I network with him via his port, I connect with his internal processor, which does have connections into his brain, but it's not like I can page through his mind. His jack translates my codes into something he can understand, but it doesn't work both ways, which makes trying to examine him via the connection like trying to read something in a foreign language. I can't probe his personality that way.
"But from my personal experience I can say that he's bright, driven, and perfectionist despite the slacker image he cultivates. I certainly can't complain about the body he built for me, and he did that quickly and well for someone who'd never done such a thing before and only had an instruction spec package to work off of. Sometimes I'm not sure if he's actually speaking Common, but I can figure out what he's saying most of the time. He can be arrogant, but it seems to be the kind of arrogance the young High Guard members had. His morals can be disturbingly flexible but at heart he seems to be a good person. Of course, the way he just about worships me might be coloring my opinion."
Morally flexible but good-hearted. Like Beka was mercenary verging on crooked but good-hearted. "I'll keep that in mind."
"If you intend to use these people to help us rebuild the Commonwealth, you'll have to decide for yourself how far you trust them. You're the captain."
No easy answers as usual. "Thank you, Rommie." Dylan stopped at Harper's door, fought with himself for a moment, then did what he wanted to do anyway. As captain, he could enter anyone's quarters uninvited if he wanted to, the locks programmed to let him through. He did so now.
Inside, Harper rolled over and murmured, clutching the sheet tighter to himself. Dylan remembered his last sight of Harper-- sweating far more profusely than the rest of them, eyes dazed and vague, dried blood lingering at the corners of his lips--lying on the pallet in the med bay. From what he could tell, what he saw now was sleep, not helpless unconsciousness.
Harper must have showered before bed, because he'd replaced the smell of sweat and blood with the scent of the ship's stores' toiletries. Dylan had noticed that the Maru's crew had all started to use Andromeda's supplies recently but only now realized that it comforted him to detect familiar Commonwealth scents on them. It made sense.
Rahde had seen Dylan's above-average sense of smell as an asset to be taken advantage of.
Dylan would not think of Rahde.
Harper rubbed his spiky blond hair into the pillow as he burrowed and mumbled to himself. Dylan wondered how old he was. Harper's energy and enthusiasms made him seem very young, probably younger than he actually was, though he was probably still about 20 years Dylan's junior. Even Harper's shows of arrogance had that youthful flavor Rommie had mentioned, making them a bit more tolerable.
Harper's eyes snapped open. With a cry of surprise, what must have been instinct made him tumble across the bed away from Dylan, before he fell off and ended up on the floor on the other side. Which gave him cover, at least.
"Harper, it's Dylan. I came by to check on you."
Light blond spiked tips rose above the sheets first, followed gradually by raised eyebrows, then wry eyes, and finally the rest of Harper's head. "Wasn't expecting you. You know, like in my room watching me sleep. It doesn't happen usually."
"I'm sorry. I worried."
"I get that. I worried too." Harper sat in the middle of the bed. His skin looked paler against the dark baggy pants and short-sleeved shirt he wore.
At least Harper seemed to be taking his presence here well. Dylan said, "If I'd known that you were particularly susceptible to--"
"Anything and everything?"
"I wouldn't have chosen such a risky plan."
"It worked. The ship wouldn't follow us in, so we bought ourselves some time we needed."
"Because it was so dangerous."
"It's a good reason not to follow us in." Harper rubbed his eyes, then looked up. "Have a seat, will you? I'm putting a kink in my neck here."
Dylan sat on the edge of the bed. "I'll keep your immune system..." How to say this in a way that wouldn't offend Harper? "difficulties in mind in the future now that I know of them."
"Don't feel so bad. I'm used to this. I've been the Maru's canary, so why can't I be Andromeda's?"
"What do Earth birds have to do with anything? Or are you trying to tell me that you're the crew's singer?"
"No. In fact, hell no. I'm saying I was like the Maru's canary in the mineshaft. On old Old Earth, they used people instead of machines to mine ores and minerals and things, but the air in the tunnels could go bad. So they brought canaries down with them. If the bird bit the big one, they had an early warning that it was starting to get dangerous for people to breathe, and they could get out."
"How do you know these things?" Dylan couldn't help wondering how Harper had come by his encyclopedic range of antique slang and terms.
"Just call me the walking anachronism of love, baby." Harper stood and managed to walk for a few minutes before he started to sag. "Okay, maybe 'walking' was too optimistic."
Dylan caught his arm. "I'd say 'walking' is stupid."
"Everybody's a critic."
"Yes, sir. And please don't carry me again. I have to hold on to my manly dignity somehow, which is already tough with the way you tower over me. Okay, the way everybody towers over me."
"I could let go." But didn't want to, oddly enough.
"I didn't ask for that." Harper sighed. "Maybe you can drag me?"
Dylan dragged in a way that let Harper pretend he was walking but ruined the effect a bit when he had to stop Harper from literally falling into bed. He avoided an I-told-you-so but couldn't resist fluffing the pillow to drive his point home to the invalid before helping Harper lower his head onto it.
"Yeah, yeah. Bite me," Harper said.
Dylan sat on the bed again. "It sounds cruel."
"Biting me? I'd say."
"I meant the canaries in the mineshafts."
"For the birds, yeah. But I'm around anyway, so I might as well make my wimpy immune system useful. It's not too bad usually. Just don't park us in a star's corona again any time soon."
"Beka said that your immune system became compromised during the time you spent in a refugee center--"
Harper's eyes went hard. "I'm not going there. Don't ask me. It's done."
"If I know how, we might be able to fix it."
Harper wavered. "Yeah, your tech kicks ass. Made the difference between me being dead and only mostly dead, that's for sure." He shook his head. "No. Besides, none of us know exactly how it screwed with us. I mean it could be the bad conditions or some radiation poisoning nobody was aware of. I couldn't tell you anything useful."
"And you won't try."
"I won't. Not yet."
"You'll spill when you know me better?"
"Maybe. Romance me a bit. Wine me and dine me or something first." Harper looked away coyly, smirking, exposing the data port implant on his neck to Dylan's sight. The circular metal socket drew Dylan's attention so often that he often had to force himself to look away. At least now he could use his fixation on it to try to ignore Harper's teasing. "Nothing to say to that? Oh." Harper rubbed the skin around his port. "You don't have to worry about it. Some of the connections degraded a bit under the radiation, but I replaced them. Only took a moment, and now the system's good as new."
Guilt stung anew. "I didn't even think you would have any problems with that."
"Don't sweat it; it's not the kind of thing you consider if you don't have one of your own."
Trying to distract himself, Dylan attempted to drag the topic onto something lighter. "Did you do anything else before you took the rest you promised Trance you'd get?"
Harper grinned. "Oh, yeah. I also rearranged my wardrobe by color, cleaned my room, did a diagnostic on my gun, and figured out a way to reestablish your Commonwealth in three days."
"Hey, I was mostly dead only a few hours ago. Give me a break."
"I wanted to ask you about what you did."
"I didn't do anything, and if I did, it was Beka's fault. Really."
"That's not what I meant. I wanted to ask you about the way you continued working on the FMS even after you started feeling the radiation sickness."
"I figured it must have been important to do, and I was dying whether I worked on it or not, so I might as well try to finish it. No reason for everybody to die if I could stop it."
"I didn't expect it. You were coughing up blood."
Harper sat up in a rush. "Why didn't you expect it? Because I'm a civilian? Because I'm not High Guard? It's not like you need a uniform, knee-high boots, and an iron rod shoved up your ass to be able to do the right thing for your crew."
"I didn't mean that. I just wish you let someone know you were having trouble."
"Would they have tried to stop me?"
Dylan sighed. "Probably."
"Damned right, which means I played it exactly right. Ow. Ow!" Harper curled in on himself, his head in his hands. "This sucks!"
Dylan didn't know Harper, but he started to think that maybe he understood him, at least a little.
Dylan put his hand on Harper's shoulder and gripped comfortingly for reasons he couldn't explain even to himself. "You were mostly dead a few hours ago. Give yourself time."
Harper didn't seem to mind being gripped. "I'm sure you can understand that I'd rather be better right now."
"Good." Harper raised his eyes. "If Beka had left with the Maru, would you really have set the FMS to make the Maru look like Andromeda so they'd blow Beka to hell instead?"
"I would regret it, but yeah. I would have. She'd picked the worst possible time to question my orders. Her insubordination put all of us in danger." Though Dylan had to give her credit for not turning her very vocal dissatisfaction with his leadership into outright revolt until she'd seen Harper dying as a result of his plan. She cared deeply for her crew.
Dylan might have done the same.
But Beka saw her people as friends and family. She treated Harper like a younger brother. They were a much smaller crew than the Andromeda Ascendant's intended complement, and they were civilians. Maybe, given enough time, he'd start to see them the same way she did.
"She's been captain of her own ship forever and has her own way of doing things. She's not going to suddenly forget all her captaining ways at once just because she's part of your crew now, and you're Andromeda's one true captain or whatever. She's not like your last second officer. As for the rest of us... hey, Beka had to fight to make us obey her, and we were her crew much longer."
"My last second officer betrayed me, so I hope not." It still killed Dylan to think about it. The only person he'd loved more than Rahde had been Sarah, his fiancee, though as more time passed Dylan became all too aware of how little he'd understood about Nietzscheans in general and that Nietzschean in particular. Rahde had betrayed the Commonwealth, the Andromeda Ascendant, and Dylan, yet he'd been convinced he was right and tried to convince him as well, have him join him, though he'd made it clear that if he could not turn him he would kill him. Dylan killed him first in self-defense, and Rahde's dying words were that he was proud of Dylan for defending himself with lethal force....
Beka Valentine was definitely not Gaheris Rahde. Dylan knew he would never see Rahde's like again but didn't know whether to be thankful... or saddened by that.
"None of us follow orders blindly. Accepting things blindly gets you killed out there, you know. She thinks you're going to get us killed because you're so busy sticking your nose in that you're not covering our asses."
Exactly the kind of insight Dylan had been looking for.
"She's probably afraid you'd get the Maru blown up too," Harper said.
That was just frustrating. And unreasonable. "I haven't given her any reason to think that."
"The Eureka Maru's her baby, her inheritance from her dad, and you do-gooding types tend to be hard on the equipment. It's not like she's used to having this big, well-armed warship to back her up with. Maybe she's worried you'll figure that her relatively small salvage ship is expendable."
"If the Maru gets blown up--"
"It won't literally be you who did it because it would actually be some enemy trying to get at you who has his finger on the trigger?"
"Beka will find that comforting, I'm sure. You ever think that going out there trying to reestablish your Commonwealth is like us putting a big 'kick me' sign on our asses? It's noble of you to want to restore order and civility, but a lot of people are happy being chaotic and rude, and they're not big on some hero type sweeping in telling them how they should live and that they should be nice to one another." Harper shook his head. "I just got the weirdest feeling we've been through this before. Look, you were gone for 300 years, and everything changed and turned nastier while you were frozen in time. Everything and everybody. 300 years without you. I changed, I did things to survive that you would hate me for...." Harper put his hand to his forehead, closed his eyes, and swayed. "What was I saying? The radiation must have scrambled my brains. Near death doesn't agree with me."
Worried, Dylan gripped down harder to keep Harper sitting up. What the hell had he been talking about? Had the radiation done undetected damage?
"I think we should go back to the med bay and get you checked out."
"Let me do a diagnostic on my internal database first. Maybe there's some kind of weird information bleed going on. Let me go?"
"Sorry." Dylan removed his hand.
Still on the bed, Harper moved to get a cord out of the side table, plugged it into a wall socket, then inserted the other end into the socket on his neck. It always looked like something Dylan shouldn't watch--too intimate, almost obscene--but the suggestiveness probably existed only in his mind. Harper tensed as it slid home, making Dylan once again put his hand on Harper's shoulder, which seemed to relax him a little.
Dylan's fingers trailed up Harper's neck until they stopped at the area around the port. He could feel the metal and polymer channel under the warm skin, hard beneath the yielding flesh. Although Harper's eyes focused inward on something only he could see, he moved into the touch, leaning his head against Dylan's arm, letting out a small sigh.
Dylan had a sudden thought of how this must look. His hand stroking his mentally confused, recovering, exhausted engineer's neck. Said engineer's hair, light blond at the tips and darker blond down to the roots, rubbing against the dark sleeve of the captain's uniform.
A higher officer taking advantage of a subordinate, one who'd been injured in the line of duty. Injured by his plans.
Dylan stood and withdrew so suddenly that Harper almost fell over. "Have you found anything?" Dylan asked.
Harper's eyes were wide and confused. And disappointed? "No. Systems are up and running the way they should be. I guess I should go back to the med bay and get a few more scans done on me."
"That would be a good idea. Let me know what they say."
"Yeah. You have captaining things to do, right?"
"Yes. I do." Harper was giving him a graceful exit?
"I'll let you know. See you later."
As Dylan left, he was all too aware that he was retreating in disarray. Harper seemed to realize it too. What the hell had just happened?
He'd have to be more careful with Harper. In every way possible.
SPOILERS: _Andromeda_ season 1 through "D Minus Zero" DISCLAIMERS: All things _Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda_ belong to Gene Roddenberry's estate, Majel Roddenberry, and Tribune Entertainment Company. Any resemblance to characters from _due South_, owned by Alliance, is completely intentional. I'm insane. Didn't you know that? None of them are mine at all, and I'm putting them back when I'm done with them, though I can't promise that they won't be disturbed in the process. NOTES: I've been telling Kass about how RayKish Harper is. Once she saw some of the show, she wanted Dylan/Harper slash and told me that Dylan could be a future Fraser in an effort to get it. Story followed. So it's not my fault! Worse, once I started looking at the show's characters, I realized who Beka Valentine and Gaheris Rahde could be....
More Viridian5 stories can be found in The Green Room at http://members.tripod.com/~drovar/viridian/
No-frames but no-frills access to The Green Room available at http://members.tripod.com/~drovar/viridian/Viridian_side.htm
Fandoms represented: due South, Hard Core Logo, Twitch City, X-Files, Once a Thief, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, Angel, Two Guys and a Girl (was Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place), X-Men, Doctor Who, Fight Club, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine