Duets

by Lara Wilson

Once the point has been reached when fighting for survival every instant is no longer necessary, it's only natural that people begin to relax.

And form friendships.

*****

Eli poked his finger through the hole in the hem of his t-shirt and grumbled, "There have to be clothing stores somewhere. I mean, we have blankets. We have sheets. We have those towel like thingies."

"You can always wear fatigues," Chloe suggested as she lifted a spoon of gray food to eye level, then sighed and stuck it in her mouth.

"Yeah. No. Then they think I want to exercise or something." He gave her clothes a suspicious look. "Where did you get those? Weren't you in a dress or something originally?"

"I had this in my bag. Why didn't you bring a change of clothes to Icarus?"

"Because I was beamed up without any warning. I do have better clothes than this." He pulled at his t-shirt and frowned. The original bright red was fading alarmingly towards pink from many washings.

"None of the scientists have other clothes, have you noticed?"

He shrugged and she continued, "But the soldiers do. You all have your laptops and iPods and science stuff, though."

Eli smiled slightly. "We all have our priorities, huh?"

*****

"That's pretty. I didn't realize you were so talented."

Camille handed Lisa a cup of what they were calling tea as she joined her in front of the mural drawn on the wall of her room. "It relaxes me. At first I just drew in black with charcoal." She pointed to an earlier section of the unfinished piece. "But then we found those pigments a couple of planets back. Mixed with water they make a durable paint."

"If we didn't have the stones, I think I'd soon forget what home looks like," Lisa mentioned faintly. "But this helps."

Smiling, Camille nodded and let her eyes drift across the scenes depicted on her wall--from the grandness of the Lincoln Memorial and the Pentagon, to her own garden, and even Sharon's ugly chair. Her smile faded as she stopped on Sharon herself, unfinished. "I can't get her eyes right."

Gently Lisa placed a hand on Camille's shoulder. "You will. That's one thing you'll never forget."

*****

Everett found her on the observation deck looking out at the stars whizzing by as streaks of light, one hand resting lightly on the upper curve of her stomach. He watched her for long minutes, a part of him wanting to leave her alone and another part wanting...something. When she arched her back and tried to rub it with her other hand, he automatically moved forward.

They hadn't talked about it. They never talked about it. It was the elephant in the corner of the room.

He and Emily had decided early in their marriage that children weren't feasible, not with his career. She didn't want to be a single mom most of the time and he'd respected that choice.

But, here T.J. was a single mother and he'd put her in that position because he couldn't acknowledge his responsibility and she never pressed him. She let duty keep them apart and he allowed it, but he had a duty to her as well.

His hand hovered over her back, then settled lightly at the base of her spine, rubbing in concentric circles.

She didn't startle. She knew he was there all along.

Lifting his head, Everett watched the stars go by, their streaks of light soothing, as he, in turn, soothed the aches of the mother of his child.

*****

James and Greer jogged. They were off duty but there was only so much rack time they could stand alone and they'd each read the books they'd brought along a dozen times. James was supremely bored with the music loaded on her iPod and Greer had beaten every level on the three video games on his gameboy.

"We should switch."

Greer glanced over at her in confusion and she gave him a sudden smile. "Books, games, music. We should switch. I'm bored with mine."

"Huh. Makes sense," he said softly as they rounded a corner and had to slow as he hit the door opener. "I have Dune."

"Haven't read that one in years. Don't worry, I don't ready girly books. You like S.M. Stirling?"

"Never heard of him."

"Oh, you'll like Islands in the Sea of Time, then. They're stranded, too."

"You think Eli could figure out a way to hook two gameboys together? Riley has one and he has games for two players."

"I've got a couple movies on my iPod. There's gotta be a screen around here somewhere big enough for a group to watch, if we can figure out how to hook them together, too."

They ran another corridor in silence, then Greer slowed to open another door. "Why didn't we think about this before?"

James panted lightly and took a swig of water from her bottle. "Too busy surviving?"

"Huh."

*****

Volker found Brody fiddling with a bunch of copper tubing and a large drum in one of the rooms off the lounge. It didn't take him long to figure out what he was up to once he saw the small pile of tubers.

"You're making a still?"

Brody shot him a grin and picked up a soldering iron. "Of course. I'm Irish."

"And...?"

"Where the Irish go, goes alcohol."

Giving the tubers a suspicious look, Volker handed his friend the goggles he was reaching for. "With these things?"

"They're sort of like potatoes. I figure I'll give poteen a try."

"What's the colonel going to say?" "Thank you?"

Volker grinned and found a second set of goggles.

*****

Matt gave the bowl of what looked like sand a dubious look. Becker shook it at him in encouragement.

"It works. Just like soap. Even makes foam and doesn't even smell bad. They found it a couple planets ago and it's so much better at getting out stains than plain water."

"The Ancients made waterless showers and waterless dish washers but nothing to clean clothes with?"

"That we've found. Maybe they went around naked."

Snorting, Matt took the bowl of sand soap and joined Becker at a large tub of water where a set of BDUs were soaking. He added his own. "We have got to find more clothes."

"Maybe there's a huge store room of clothing or material somewhere."

"Or the Ancients just went around naked," Matt shot back, grinning.

Becker laughed and wrung out his back up t-shirt.

*****

"What's that?"

At Camille's question, Eli looked up from the wooden board and stones he'd found. "I think it's an early form of backgammon. Or, at least, I'm making it into that. Do you play?" he asked a bit wistfully.

Smiling, she sat down across from him. "I do." She took one set of the colored stones. "I'm surprised you do, though."

"Geeks only play video games?"

"Not just geeks," she said lightly, still smiling. "More and more we're getting away from the simple."

"There's nothing simple about backgammon."

"But it's a board, a die, and some round stones that requires you to use your mind in ways that modern games often don't."

"Sometimes modern games make you use your mind in ways you never dreamed of. That's how I got here, after all," Eli added flippantly as he set his stones.

"And thank God you did." Gently Camille brushed her fingers over the back of his hand and he dropped a stone, startled. "We would have died on Icarus without you."

"That would have been bad, but now we're stuck here."

"We'll get home some day."

"You sound awfully convinced."

Camille patted his hand, then drew hers back, turning her attention to the game. "It's the only possibility in my mind. It has to be."

Eli nodded in understanding and picked up the crude die.

*****

"Mind if I join you?"

James looked up at T.J. and shook her head. "Have a seat. How are you doing?"

"Okay." She rubbed her back again as she sat. "Back hurts all the time, but at least I don't have RLS?

"RLS?"

"Restless legs syndrome. My older sister had it during her two pregnancies. Outside of medicines we don't have, the best thing for it is a hot bath and we don't have the water to spare."

"The colonel would probably authorize it," James replied, her voice neutral.

T.J. often wondered just who knew the truth. Silently shaking that concern away she focused on the pretty shirt Lieutenant James was wearing. "Did you make that from one of the quilts?"

"Yeah, we're only using about a third of the crew quarters so I grabbed a spare blanket. Probably should have requisitioned it, huh?" She looked guilty.

"No, no, that's not why I'm asking. You can sew."

"It's about the one girl thing I can do."

"Do you think you could help me make a couple outfits for the baby?"

James smiled. "Sure, and, I think the mattress covers might be absorbent enough for diapers."

T.J. relaxed in relief. One less thing to worry about."

*****

Rubbing his tired eyes, Rush shut the lid to his laptop and rose from his work station. A glance at his watch revealed that he had been working for nearly ten hours. He vaguely remembered getting something to eat at some point, so he wasn't hungry, but he was tired.

The corridors were quiet as he made his way through them towards his quarters. He stopped a few doors down to use the facilities and wished for the hundredth time that there was water in the sink to splash on his face, then moved on to his room.

When the door slid open he wasn't surprised to find her sleeping in his bed.

Matt was on duty and Chloe couldn't sleep alone, not since the kidnaping. Sighing softly, he kicked off his shoes and stripped to his boxers and undershirt before sliding beneath the quilt next to her. She immediately turned towards him, reaching for comfort.

Rush wrapped an arm beneath her head, drawing it onto his shoulder and reached over with his free hand to turn off the light. Closing his eyes, he allowed himself the comfort of her warmth and presence as well.

They were the only two who knew, who'd suffered. There was nothing sexual between them, but there was a bond. Rush never bothered to analyze it.

It just was.

*****

Friendships form. Sometimes unlikely. Sometimes out of necessity. Sometimes very simply.

On a ship like Destiny, everyone needs some one to make the days and nights a little easier.

End

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