Brock sauntered back into the Gravitas, spying a kit bag and a few cases of supplies in the air lock. He carried the cases into the ship, not stopping in diagnostics to say hello to Marissa.
'Medic,' he called into the infirmary, or rather the room that would now serve as one on long trips and when they were out on New Terra. When only a metallic silence answered back, he placed the cases down and went to see who else was back. Xan and Banner had headed out to a great noodle place but Brock's throat hurt too much to swallow. He decided to come back and hopefully sleep it off. He noticed every few years his percieved illnesses coincided with nightmares. He scoffed as he thought Loren would have had something to say about that. She would had gone on about the end coming and how trauma scars deep, deeper than slugthrowers.
He rounded a corner and nearly walked into Calais.
'Hey big guy,' she greeted him affectionately, 'new medic is in the flight deck. She's great,' the executive officer added. 'For an Earther,' she teased.
'Yeah,' he answered mindlessly. 'What's her name?'
'Dina Katz. She's from Georgia Territory. Been up on Luna since the attack and comes highly recommended by your favourite Prime Minister.' They walked single file to the flight deck in silence.
When they got there all they could see was a knot of black hair bobbing around behind one of the flight couches. She spun around to face them, an apologetic look on her face.
'Sorry, it's all so exciting. I've never been on a hauler! The shuttle that brought me up to Luna was incredibly uninspired-'' Her eyes grew wide as she gazed up at Brock. Calais stood there, unaware that both of them had been stunned silent.
'Dina, this is our Mechanics officer, Brock Draper.'
'Y-yes of course,' she stood and shook his hand, her palm was soft and small against his. He could practically see their history in the way her tongue darted out to wet her lips. 'Hello Mr. Draper.'
'Doctor Katz,' he countered, impressed he was able to resist the urge to shout at her. 'Welcome aboard.' He could see the scar on her lip and a shadow of the 15 year old battlefield nurse she had been. Calais had walked off with a goodbye sometime in that eternity that they stood shaking hands. They had both answered mechanically, hands still joined.
He saw the medic look past him, making sure they were alone. Once satisfied it seemed that someone had cut a string she was hanging by; she went limp and her knees buckled and she started to fall slowly toward the floor. She was gasping and her hands came up to her chest. He couldn't tell if they were sobs or if she was panicking.
'Oh my God. Oh Holy Mother of God,' she managed.
'Hey breathe,' he knelt next to her, shocked reactionless.
'I'm a doctor, I know that,' she half shouted. They got up, shakily and she grabbed him by the sides of his arms. 'You're here. You're real. You're alive.'
'Yeah, you too, you know.'
'No shit.' She wasn't angry, no. She just had no words. They escaped him in that moment too.
So he just laid her hand on his chest, in the center, tilted to the left.
'I can't stay,' she had started to walk past him when he caught her arm. 'Let me go.'
'No,' he said flatly, 'calm down.'
'One of us is going to blow the others' cover. And I can't...I just can't.'
'What?' He was staring at her throat, he could see her pulse jumping there and noticed tears floating near her eyes. She tried to blink them away and they just stayed put.
'I've spent the last ten years tryina forget you. Kept tellin myself you were dead just to make the dreams stop. I-but I could still feel you sometimes. All through medical training if I had a knock on my door, there was a second before I opened it that I really truly thought it was gon be you. It was no way to live!'
'You,' he pointed a finger in her face, almost angrily, 'you were a ghost. I couldn't escape you. Nothing felt like anything, I was completely numb. Killin didn't help, fuckin made it worse. I am, to this day, sick with guilt over you. Don't talk to me about livin.'
'I'll go,' she cast her eyes downward and turned to go. He grabbed her again and pulled her into a hug.
'Don't you fucking dare,' he whispered, kissing the top of her head. 'You never let the presence of bad men stop your good work. Don't start now.'
'He's acting weird,' Calais told Banner, 'even for Brock.'
'Ask Maria,' The large woman answered, handing Calais bulb of coffee. 'She's pretty attuned to what goes on his is big psychotic head.' She meant this good naturedly. Banner actually liked the bristly mechanic. He was funny and amiable in a way that wasn't all there that she explained away with trauma.
'It's probably that Medic,' Xan threw in from his chair. He was plotting their course to New Terra. 'Even in magboots she is quiet movin about. Nearly scared the heart from my chest. Pretty sure last person to sneak up on Brock got a punch to the face.'
Calais strode off to find Brock and get things straight once and for all. She didn't like the idea of Brock keeping secrets. His secrets were more than a fake name and vague story; they were dangerous. The crew headed out tomorrow and 20 months was a very long time to be stuck with them. She found him in the workshop, pouring over a control sensor with Marissa.
'What's wrong,' she asked him, sliding between him and his partner.
'Nothing,' he half asked. 'What's wrong with you?'
'You know what I mean.'
'Just weird to add another to the crew is all. Not long since we got Siren here, and she wasn't a complete stranger was she? We got Banner with us for a while and now doctor Katz. Just takes adjusting.'
'Try again,' she said brusquely. She knew him, they had flown together since they left the training facility. Ten years in someone's company and you got to know when they were lying. Even when they were adept at it as the two of them were.
Marissa was busying herself with another job but was listening intently, stealing looks at them from her periphery.
'You don't think she's a good fit,' Calais asked after a moment of silence.
'Don`t create a problem where there aint one, boss,' he smiled at her, returning to his work.
'She's nice,' Marissa piped up. She had spent last night up late talking with the young Doctor and helping her organise the new infirmary. Marissa thought she was easy to talk to, and kind.
'Noone asked you,' Calais snapped.
'Hey don't talk to her like that! She's just tryin to get you off my back...boss,' he answered, spitting the last word in her direction. 'I don't have a problem with her, but everyone has secrets. You should know better than anyone.'
Calais knew about secrets and half-truths. About illegitimate children and terrorist exboyfriends; the unyeilding guilt that came with being a dangerous combination of too smart, too young, and too blind. It was safe to say the entire crew had experience with those. She threw her hands up and walked out in a huff as quickly as mag boots allowed.
Once Calais had left Marissa took her place next to Brock again.
'Is she really a doctor,' she asked him carefully.
'Yeah,' he answered, handing her the correct tool she needed. 'Listen, she's Doctor Katz, Dina...whatever you call her. If she says she's something, she is.' The name sounded strange from his mouth, he thought. She was still so much of he girl he knew that only went by Kitten. He smiled suddenly when he made the connection. 'Clever girl.'
'Thanks,' Marissa smiled as she handed him the repaired sensor.
'Calais is like us,' Brock told Dina quietly as he helped install a surgical couch. 'She's not who she says she is too. But because of it she's observant, she sees who people really are. That's why she loves James. He is what he says, and good through and through.'
'And Maria,' she asked, from a crouched position, her head inside a deep cabinet as she put supplies to rights.
'Yeah. Siren is good people. She just gets mixed up sometimes.'
'You two together,' she asked emerging and sitting back on her feet.
'She's numb like I am. She can't feel things either.'
'You feel things, I know you do.'
'Maybe I do, but who's to say anymore? So, Dina, is it your real name?'
'Is Brock yours,' she asked back, amused. She got up and dusted her hands off on the legs of her flightsuit.
She stood to full height in front of him, she had grown little since they were teenagers, her head just barely came up to his chest. If she reached or they were in low enough gravity, she could lay her ear over his heart. She reached up tentaively then cupped his cheek in her hand, thumb rubbing against the short beard he kept. He saw her tilt her head to the side and study him. It seemed like she was looking for Jonny in the hardened visage that he had acquired over the last decade. The strong alcohol his Spinner comrades drank had aged him.
'It was my Momma's. Clean code but a familiar name so I never forgot, enrollment in a prestigious medacad as far from Arlington as a third of my money could get me. Graduated fifth in my class, interned in a private firm up on Luna. I got my ass off that doomed planet a few days before the rocks hit. I had hoped to find you, I guess in a way.' She paused and pursed her lips, exaggerating the line that had faded into a light scar. 'Did you love me?'
'I think. If I could love anything at all, it was probably you. But I'm scared of you. I'm scared of how you make me feel, even now. You're the only thing that makes me lose my cool.'
'Okay,' she withdrew her hand and nodded, satisfied, 'I'll keep my distance.'
He wanted to tell her not to. He wanted to pin her against the wall and kiss her greedily like she had let him all those years ago. He wanted to feel her wrapped around him and shout his name, his real name, for the stars to hear. He wanted to tell her she was in his heart and mind and dreams for nearly a decade, but those feelings were for a person who didn't exist anymore. As far as he was concerned they were new people. Jonny and Kitten may as well had been characters in a serial like Marissa and Banner were always watching. Dina Katz and Brock Draper had no history. They never loved each other. So because of that, the man they called Brock said ,'Probably for the best.'