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(Contains: strong language)
Chapter 13

"Perfect view, huh?" Liam said, glancing back over his shoulder before looking down at his mother's tombstone. The irises they'd brought rested across the gentle mound of grass in front of the marker; they were their mother's favorite flowers.

Malcolm nodded. His eyes watered and he kept wiping at them, trying to stop it. He looked out over at the view of the mountains.

They were at the edge of the cemetery, at the highest point. A view of the mountains behind the town and the town itself loomed before them. The sunlight shown through the leaves of the tree next to them, and the slivers of light fluttered over the ground. The sun was just starting to creep out of mid-sky and into the afternoon, and when it set it would cast a beautiful glow over the cemetery.

"Mom gets to see the sunrise everyday," Malcolm said. "That's awesome, Liam."

Brogan sat in the wheelchair and looked out over the view.

"It is beautiful. This whole town is beautiful. Why would you two ever want to leave?" Brogan whispered.

Liam sighed.

"We wanted to protect places like this," he said. "Protect our home. When Malcolm and I enlisted, Dalgenine was at war with our neighbor, Ilati. You know how well that went."

He smiled a little, turning towards her.

"A short-lived conflict that ended in trade negotiations. Couldn't ask for a happier ending, no?"

"But then you stayed in the military?" Brogan asked.

Malcolm nodded.

"Yeah. Father was in the military too, so it made sense for us to follow in his footsteps. Luckily, by the time we became soldiers, Father was retiring, so Mum was never alone."

"We visited them both monthly when we could, twice a year at the very least," Liam continued. "We both took leave when Father passed away, spent as much time at home as we could before we got called back again."

He scratched the back of his head, pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He took a few drags before offering the pack to his brother.

Malcolm took it and pulled out a cigarette. He handed the pack back to Liam and lit up his cig.

"Why did you both retire? Or quit?" Brogan asked.

Malcolm glanced at Liam.

"Lots of reasons. But I know that neither of us liked what was going on internally. Better to get out than try to fight it. There are some battles you know you can't win. And bureaucracy is one of them – even when you're a decorated soldier."

"Why? What was going on in the military? Does it have anything to do with the Enlightened?"

Liam shrugged, taking another drag of his cigarette.

"Can't say for certain," he admitted. "Looking back on it now, it probably was. A lot of things felt wrong, you know? We started getting assignments in our own country, well after the peace treaty with Ilati, and the explanations would sometimes change from officer to officer. Even with our ranking, we weren't getting the full story."

"That's the signal to get out while you're still ahead."

Malcolm took a drag.

"But I ended up finding out about the missing towns. Mainly because a new map I'd gotten from another officer suddenly had towns I knew were still there no longer on the map. Found out what happened – sort of – and quit right then and there. Liam retired with his honors in tact. The official way. I said goodbye, stole a ship and left."

He grinned.

"I'm not just wanted by the Enlightened, but by the government too."

Brogan shook her head. She looked at the gravestone.

"I'll do what I can to keep them out of trouble, but I don't know if I can help both of them, Mrs. Trumble."

"Mum would have you call her Meredith," Malcolm said.

Brogan rolled her eyes. "

They're incorrigible, Meredith."

Liam chuckled, placing his hand on the back of her chair.

"Yeah, Mum would've liked you. She always wanted us to bring home someone just like her. Wish you'd gotten the chance to meet her in person."

Brogan looked up at Liam and arched an eyebrow.

"I'm like your mother? What does that say about you two?"

Malcolm laughed.

"Either we have Oedipus complexes or we have good taste, depending on the interpretation."

Liam nearly choked on his cigarette, he was laughing so hard. When he regained himself, he nodded in agreement with his brother.

"I say it's good tastes, and you know Mum would agree."

He looked up and out towards the sunset.

"It's getting pretty late, Malcolm. Are we crashing on your ship or in town, or are we going to ship out tonight?"

"We're staying the night. So, I say you can crash in town if you got the money. I know most of my crew is taking advantage of the night here and are staying in town. I sure hope Smoke and Que decide to find themselves a nice comfy hotel room."

Malcolm smirked.

Brogan arched an eyebrow.

"Don't you think that's going a bit too far for them? I mean, Que didn't even understand what rape was when we first met her. She's been so sheltered."

Malcolm shrugged and then grinned.

"I don't know. The way they were sucking each others' face earlier today..."

"If I hadn't heard that from you, I wouldn't have believed it," Liam laughed. "I can't believe I missed that!"

Brogan shook her head.

"God, Que must've been so embarrassed..."

Malcolm nodded.

"She did a very bright shade of red. Hell, so did Smoke. But I guess it didn't help that half my crew was watching them make out in the hallway."

Brogan laughed.

"Oh, god, poor Que!"

Malcolm wiggled his eyebrows at her and took a drag.

"Tell me about. Though, just before they left, Smoke looked like he'd already calmed her down."

"Well then," Liam said, catching his brother's expression and trying to change the subject. "I may not have the coin to pay for a room, but I do have a house. I'm sure Mum would be disappointed if we didn't spend a night at home, bro. The deed is ours, after all."

Malcolm nodded.

"Sounds good. It'll be nice to spend a night at home. Even if it'll feel a little empty."

Brogan looked from one brother to the other.

"So I guess that means you two better leave me on the ship. I sure as hell don't have the coin now to stay at a hotel or anything."

Malcolm looked at Liam and arched an eyebrow.

"Not unless that's what you'd rather do," the other twin said. "We've got two bedrooms: Malcolm's and mine, then Mum's. She'd be more than upset with us if we made you stay on a rickety old ship instead of enjoying a nice, comfy bed."

He turned to his brother.

"And before you say anything in defense of your rig, you know as well as I do that that's exactly what she would have said."

Malcolm lifted his hands defensively.

"I wouldn't say anything like that. That is what Mum would've said. In fact, Mum would be trying to figure out which one of the two of us Brogan prefers and insist that she sleep in one of our beds."

He wiggled his eyebrows.

Brogan flushed and rubbed the back of her neck.

"Even though I'm in this chair...?"

"He means," Liam said, casting him a glare. "That Mum would have made one of us give up our bed and sleep on the sofa. When we get there, you're welcome to take her bed. I'm sure she won't mind, and besides, it's the most comfortable in the house."

He folded his arms.

"Seriously, Malcolm. Think with your head for once and not your libido. At least in front of Mum."

"Mum would laugh and you know it."

He grinned.

"She'd also tell us not to fight over a woman, but she'd tell us to let her choose. And I'm more charming than you are. Mum always said so."

Brogan chuckled.

"See?"

"All right, you two," Brogan said. Then she looked at the headstone.

"Don't worry, Meredith. I'll make sure they behave."

"Mum also said that you were more reckless me," Liam reminded his brother, rolling his eyes as he started down the hill. "And unless you want to break into your own home, we need to go back to the ship. I keep the house key in my box."

"Yeah, I didn't bring the keys with me either," Malcolm said. "Probably should've though if we were going to give Brogan a tour."

Brogan smiled and followed after them carefully maneuvering the wheelchair so not to disturb any of the graves.

"That's okay. I need to get a change of clothes."

The sun was barely a sliver above the horizon before they got back to the docks. Malcolm's ship was just coming into view when they spotted Eric, who was already rushing down the ramp towards them.

"Thank God!" he practically yelled. "I was this close to coming after you."

Liam arched an eyebrow and exchanged looks with his brother.

"What's wrong, Eric?"

"Ophelia. I... accidentally broke her arm..."

"What?"

Brogan stared at him.

"How the hell could you break that? It's a fucking work of art. That's one of the most dangerously perfect things I've ever created. What did you do? Pop a screw?"

"I think it's worse than that," Eric admitted with a cringe, jogging back towards the ship. "I just touched it. I didn't think my curse would affect it that bad."

"Curse?" Brogan tensed. "What the hell are you talking about? What's wrong with her arm? Where is Ophelia?"

"Below deck. I couldn't find Josef, but she was bleeding, so..."

Eric took a deep breath, stopping to wait for the others to catch up.

"Mechanical things like to break when I handle them."

"Bleeding?!" Brogan yelled. "What the hell did you do to her?!"

She didn't bother to linger any longer. She pulled down on a lever, the wheels of her chair screeched and she barreled past Eric – almost knocking him over – and flying up the ramp.

Malcolm looked from Eric to Liam and then started up the ramp himself.

"I don't like the sound of this."

Brogan didn't bother to change the wheels of the chair to get down the stairs easier. She leaned back and rolled down them, not caring about the painful jarring it caused. She hurried to where Ophelia was and rolled in.

The mercenary lay on a cot and Brogan rolled to her. She saw the state of the arm and screamed.

"Oh, my god! What the hell did he do? How did he...?"

She shook her head and turned around just as Josef was walking in.

"Get me everything you have in stock for medicine and tools."

She then shouted at Malcolm and Liam when she saw them.

"I need tools. Engineering tools. Get me everything you can from the engine room. I need two basins of hot water. I need magnifying goggles. And I need them now! I'm going to be shouting out parts I need as I work and I need you all to get them for me seconds after I ask for them. This is a race against the clock now. I need to get this arm fixed before she catches an infection! Now hurry up!"

Liam and Malcolm rushed out to get the things she needed nearly as quickly as they rushed in. Eric nearly got trampled again. He'd been worried enough before when Ophelia went unconscious, but had relaxed a little when he caught sight of Brogan. Now with the mechanic's reaction, however, he was more worried that he had done serious – maybe even irreparable – damage.

"I'll get you the water," he offered, starting out of the room.

The moment the men got back she had them move Ophelia – carefully, very carefully – to a table so her whole body would be level and Brogan could work on her with Ophelia's arm spread out. Ophelia was white and the blood stain on the cot had begun to drip out the bottom.

Brogan cursed the fact that she was in a chair and had limited maneuverability as she hiked it up so she could look at the arm with a better angle, and pulled on her the goggles they'd brought her.

"Holy god, this thing is utterly destroyed," she said and cursed as she began to work. It was like an operation and Brogan knew she was going to be up all night trying to save Ophelia's life.

"It's complete garbage. There's nothing salvageable in this! I have to build it all from scratch!"

She shouted a slew of parts and tools, including a welding torch.

"If you don't got it here Malcolm, you better move your but into the city and knock on every mechanics' and engineers' door until you find it!"

When Eric came in with the water, she tossed him a hard glare.

"You're going to sit down and you're going to tell me exactly what the fuck you did to my arm, because it's really fucking hard to get close enough to destroy something like this and not have Ophelia kill you before you got too far. This arm was never mean to be broken. So what did you do."

Eric sat down in the corner of the room, across from Brogan and Ophelia, as far away from them as he could get. He folded his hands in his lap.

"I told you," he said as calmly as he could. "I touched her arm. That's it. It was only for a few seconds, tops."

"How can touching someone's arm... do-do this? Eric, I have to rebuild this from scratch. Do you have any idea the breakthrough I made with this arm? This isn't a goddamn attachment than you can take on and off. I attached it to her body. She wanted to be able to move it as freely as her real arm. Her brain sends the messages through her nerves, and I connected her goddamn nerves to the microchips in the arm that program it."

Brogan shook her head and slowly pieced away at the arm, removing it carefully from Ophelia's body and replacing each piece with a new one that wasn't destroyed.

"Is it some kind of alchemy you have? To destroy machines?"

Brogan wiped her eyes.

"Oh, god, I'm glad 'Phelia's unconscious. This would be fucking agony. God, I hope the blood tubes are in tact. I can rebuild the generator, but getting replacements for the tubes will be a bitch – as well as trying to replace them."

"This is why I failed as an engineer. I have only the vaguest idea what you're talking about. Can you say that in layman's terms?"

Eric took a deep breath and rubbed his face with his hands.

"And it can't be alchemy. Metal alloys and synthetics are too complex to be altered. Unless it's mostly a pure element, like copper or tin, there's no way..."

"There's no other explanation because no one can touch another person and do this!" Brogan shouted at him. "Eric, you knew this would happen if you touched her arm. Why the hell were you touching her to begin with? I'm surprised Ophelia even let you. Did she know you could do this to her arm?"

He went quiet. Eric looked away, not wanting to discuss it. He already felt bad enough that he'd done so much damage.

"Yeah, she knew," he finally said. "I told her that a while ago. But I didn't know it would be that bad. We... we were arguing..."

Eric cut himself off, shaking his head.

"God, I didn't think it would be that bad..."

"You didn't realize it was connected to her body via her nerves and bloodstream," Brogan said flatly. "Now you know. Find a doctor in town. Ophelia is probably going to need a blood transfusion after all this."

Brogan didn't sleep that night. She spent all of it at Ophelia's side, repairing the arm, reconnecting it to her body, staunching blood flow. It was a huge operation as she pieced Ophelia back together. She had Josef keep Ophelia drugged and unconscious. She had Malcolm and Liam running through town and the ship collecting the parts she needed. BOB wiped her brow and helped her on the table. Brogan had every light glaring down on her and Ophelia, making sure she could see everything she was doing. It gave Ophelia's skin a pallid, sickly color.

Throughout the night, Brogan talked to herself and to BOB, and could be heard chanting, "You're not going to die, 'Phelia. You're not going to die." She only asked for water – never for food – as she worked on Ophelia. She didn't try to pry Eric for more answers. She figured she'd let Malcolm and Liam do that.

By the time dawn broke the next day, Eric had resigned to standing outside of the infirmary, but still below deck. He hadn't said anything, occasionally running other errands for Brogan when she needed them. He hadn't slept either.

Que and Smoke were returning from town to a practically empty ship. Liam was the first to spot them, standing on deck with his brother, finishing off the pack of cigarettes.

"Hope your evening wasn't as exciting as ours," he grumbled.

Malcolm exhaled.

"We haven't slept a wink. I hope if you two haven't it's for a better reason."

Smoke arched an eyebrow. It was still weird seeing Malcolm and Liam standing next to each other, but he was getting used to it.

"What happened?"

"Long story short," Liam said, finishing his cigarette. "Eric broke Ophelia's arm. Brogan's been up all night too, trying to piece it back together and keep our mercenary friend alive. Malcolm and I have been running parts duty for her. Eric too, though he's below deck now."

Que's brows furrowed. Ophelia scared her, but that was still horrible.

"Is she going to be alright?" she asked.

Malcolm shrugged.

"Brogan says that she's going to be, keeps repeating it, but I think even she's not sure. We did manage to stop the blood flow pretty quickly, but still..."

He shook his head.

"Ophelia's lost a lot of blood. Eric's pretty shaken up about the whole thing."

Smoke looked at Liam and Malcolm, gave Que's hand a squeeze and headed below deck to find Eric.

She, naturally, followed.

Eric was leaning against the wall just next to the door, looking as exhausted as the Trumbles upstairs. He seemed to be nodding in and out of sleep, and barely gave Smoke a second glance when they arrived.

"Eric."

Smoke crouched down next to him. Out of everyone here, Eric was the one he knew the longest. He put his hand on Eric's shoulder.

"What happened?"

Eric looked at him, eyes puffy from lack of sleep.

"What do you think, Smoke?" he mumbled. "Ophelia and I fought. I touched her arm. Nearly killed her."

His head bobbed, but he quickly caught it.

"The Gunner curse at its worst."

Smoke stared at Eric. Ophelia must have gotten to him for him to use his curse out of spite.

"Come on. The sun is up."

He put Eric's arm around his shoulders and lifted him up.

"Let's check on Ophelia."

"Mmmm," Eric mumbled in what seemed like agreement. He certainly didn't object to Smoke's support. Que was already peering into the infirmary, slipping in ahead of them.

"Hello?" she asked cautiously, looking over at Brogan. "Is everything alright in here?"

Brogan sat on the table. At some point during the night, she'd climbed on top of it to get better angles into the arm. The chair restricted her and Ophelia's life was more important than her legs. She had her goggles down and held tiny wires in her fingers, connecting them carefully together. She finished with the set she had before she lifted her head and pulled up her goggles. She had dark circles around her eyes. Her expression was tense and exhausted, and streaks of sweat had left lines of dirt on her face. Brogan cracked her neck as she looked at Que. It took her a moment to respond.

"Yeah. Kind of, I guess. I managed to rebuild her arm. I got the blood tubes working again, so she wasn't gushing blood everywhere. I had to remove metal from her flesh that wasn't supposed to be removed because it was too damaged to be kept there without causing infection – that was a nasty process – but so far, so good. I'm just rewiring the arm now and then I'm going to run some tests to make sure it's in working order. We won't be able to really test it again until Ophelia wakes up, but that's still up in the air."

Smoke came in with Eric and Brogan's face hardened. She looked away.

"Ophelia lost a lot of blood. She needs a transfusion but it's too risky. The new arm is too fresh, and there's still a risk of infection from when the old arm was damaged. We need to wait to make sure she doesn't have an infection first. If she does, she'll probably die. If she doesn't, she may still die. Right now, it's basically all up to Ophelia's will to live now."

Brogan dropped her goggles back over her eyes, bent down and picked up another pair of wires.

Ophelia had been changed out of her clothes at some point and into a plain dark dress for comfort. Her hair had also been undone to make her head more comfortable. She looked dead. Only the gentle rise and fall of her chest indicated that she still lived.

Que chewed on her lip, brows furrowed. She looked at Ophelia; the mercenary didn't look like herself. She looked... vulnerable. Like a normal person. Not the frightening fighter Que was used to at all. The young woman turned towards Brogan.

"How can I help?" she asked, staring at her intently.

Brogan shook her head.

"The hard part is over. But you can stay and help me test the arm to make sure it's working properly."

She pulled up the goggles and rubbed her eyes.

"I could use coffee and food too. I'm about ready to collapse myself."

"Is there any way to help Ophelia's will to live?" Smoke asked.

Brogan shrugged.

"I don't know. Talking to her. So far I'm the only one that's been doing that, and she already knows I love her."

Smoke took Eric to the other side of the table and sat him down facing Ophelia.

"Talk to her."

The militia man looked up at him, slightly confused, mostly because he wasn't entirely sure what Smoke had just said. It took a few seconds for his sleep deprived mind to register what he was being told to do, and when it did, he took a deep breath and rubbed his face with his hands.

"It's a bit late for an apology, Ophelia," Eric said, looking up at her. "But I'm sorry. If you can hear me... god, if you can hear me at all, I'm sorry. You were right, and I got angry because I knew you were right..."

His head nodded again, and he stopped to recollect himself.

Smoke knew it was better for Eric to have some privacy, so he tossed Que a look and left the room. Better for them to get both Eric and Brogan some food at the moment.

Brogan didn't look at Eric. She couldn't leave – she still had work to do – but she could give him the illusion of privacy with her back to him as she worked on Ophelia's arm.

Eric didn't seem to notice that Que and Smoke left, but still didn't say anything for a few minutes.

"You were right, Ophelia," he repeated, slowly becoming lucid again. "I linger on death. Hell, I am already dead, aren't I?"

An embarrassed laugh escaped him.

"How did you know?"

His laughter quieted.

"You know, Ophelia, just because I'm already dead doesn't mean you should follow suit. You said it yourself: I'm the only one who doesn't know how to enjoy life. You shouldn't be the sort to follow my example."

Brogan stayed silent as she worked. She thought she saw a flicker of movement from Ophelia out of the corner of her eye, but the mercenary hadn't moved at all. Probably a responsive twitch to the wires connecting the nerves. Still, she hoped that despite the pain Ophelia would wake up. Another voice, specifically Eric's apology, Brogan hoped would trigger something in Ophelia. Even if it was just anger. Anything was better than the nothingness that threatened.

Eric was silent for another few minutes.

"Ophelia," he finally said. "God, I am so sorry. I'm sorry I destroyed your arm. I'm sorry for all of the pain. God, please don't let me have killed you."

".......diot....."

Brogan's back stiffened. She didn't dare get her hopes up, but quickly finished up with the wires, so she could start running the tests.

".........idiot....."

Eric, however, looked up, eyes widening despite their puffiness. A small, humble smile spread across his lips.

"Yeah, I know. You've said so before."

He shook his head.

"That would be the first things you said when you came to, wouldn't it?"

Brogan turned and saw the corner of Ophelia's mouth twitch. She relaxed. Ophelia still had her eyes closed and she still looked as pale as death, but she was kind of awake. Awake enough to try to smile. That was something.

Brogan looked to Eric.

"You're lucky it was just idiot. I expected something like 'fucker' or 'asshole' or 'you're dead' or 'I'm going to kill you.'"

Brogan finished up on the arm.

".........later...." Ophelia winced.

Eric shrugged and sighed.

"I'm already dead, so what's the difference?"

He looked back at Ophelia.

"In case you weren't able to hear me before, I'm sorry about yesterday. About your arm and our fight. All of it. If it's any consolation, you were right about everything. I'm sorry this happened."

Ophelia was quiet for a few minutes. Her eyes, glazed with pain, fluttered open.

".....................bro...gan....."

Brogan leaned down near Ophelia's lips. She nodded, straightened, crawled over Ophelia and sent a fist into Eric's jaw. Her hand hurt. She shook it out.

"'Phelia says stop being a fucking moron."

Brogan tilted her head.

"That's for the first part, not for the apology. For that she says good and for the last bit she says she knows she was right. That's why she said it."

Brogan went back to the arm.

"I'm figuring she'll give you a smack herself once she's able to."

She looked up to the door.

"Where the hell is Que and Smoke with food?"

She looked back to Eric.

"Will you help 'Phelia sit up? It'll be easier to give her some water like that and easier to make the tests for her arm."

She touched her friend's cheek.

"You're probably still in some pain, but its mostly aftershocks, weakness from blood loss, and aches and pain from the new arm. You'll be better once you've gained back some blood and gotten it pumping again."

".............right........"

Eric rubbed his jaw, only half surprised that Brogan had nailed him so hard. He'd deserved that, and he knew it. He didn't say anything in response to the mechanic's request, but readily moved to help Ophelia sit up. Eric made a mental note to prepare himself for more abuse late.

After nearly killing her, she had every right to take out her anger on him.

Ophelia leaned against Eric as he lifted her, her face scrunched up in pain until she was sitting. She lay her head back on his shoulder, her long hair falling over her and him. Her lips had thinned into a line of pain, but she didn't cry out.

Brogan scooted, cursing her casts under her breath. She opened a panel.

"Okay, blood flow is good. Slow – too slow – but hopefully some water and food will get your blood flow going again. When the food and water arrive."

She closed the panel. She moved over to the edge of the table and slung the upper half of her body down to pick up a pair of wires attached to a battery, along with a control that was attached to it. She sat back up with a grunt of effort. She opened a different panel and attached the wires.

"Okay, 'Phelia. Just bare with me? I need to make sure this baby works. It'll probably hurt," Brogan said. She flipped the switch on the control and Ophelia winced. Brogan slowly moved the dials on the control. Ophelia's arm lifted. The elbow bent. The fingers flexed into a fist and opened again.

"Ah!" Ophelia burst before gritting her teeth and closing her eyes tightly. A cold sweat formed on her skin.

"Just hang in there," Eric muttered before he could stop himself. He made sure he stayed on his side of the table; the last thing they needed was for this to happen all over again.

"We're back!"

Que smiled brightly from the doorway, holding a tray with mugs and a pitcher.

"We had to get some things to serve the food in first. Sorry we took so long."

Ophelia had her head pressed hard against Eric as Brogan manipulated the arm, testing all its movements.

"Uh-huh. Fine. Pull up some chairs, set the food down and give me a minute. I'm making sure the arm is working. So far so good."

She looked at Ophelia.

"Sorry, honey. I know it hurts but I have to make sure."

Ophelia nodded, her expression pained.

"Just.... hurry...." she croaked.

Smoke put down the tray of food he carried.

"I'm going to get some more food."

Que nodded, setting her tray beside Smoke's before she picked up the pitcher and began pouring water into each of the mugs.

"I bet your arm's even better now than it ever was before," she said, looking over at Ophelia with a gentle smile.

Ophelia had no response. She was too busy trying to hold back the shouts of pain.

Brogan answered for her.

"It's better, but only because I improved on the design. Material-wise, it's actually not as good as the last one. I had to make do with what was available. Once we get to a bigger city, I'll do a run, and when Ophelia is stronger I'll upgrade it so it's better quality."

She smiled at Ophelia.

Ophelia tried a smile back, but it was more of a grimace.

Finally, Brogan stopped the tests, turned off the power and disconnected the battery from the arm.

"Okay, the arm works fine. Your blood is still pumping too slow from blood loss for you to use the arm yourself yet, but once your blood gets flowing the generators will kick in so you can use it."

Brogan cracked her neck.

"So let's get some food in you."

Brogan leaned back on the table and grabbed one of the cups of water Que had filled.

"Here you go."

She handed it to Eric.

"And for the love of God, don't touch her arm."

The militia man nodded, looking at Ophelia (who was still leaning against him) and holding the cup out to her.

"Do you need help or are you fine on your own?"

Ophelia lifted her normal arm, but the hand shook with the effort. She cursed under her breath.

"Help."

He shifted a little. Again, Eric nodded and offered her the cup again.

"I'll go slow. You probably hate the situation enough as is."

Que watch from her place at the table, turning the pour herself the last cup of water.

Smoke came back with more food, so that all five of them could eat. He watched Eric lift the cup of water to Ophelia's lips. She sipped carefully. She looked so different with her hair loose and undone and everywhere and in the plain dress. Her skin was very pale and he could see the sheen of sweat on her skin. She looked fragile.

Smoke moved beside Que.

"Let's make sure they eat. They haven't all night."

"Right," Que agreed with an affirmative nod. She put down her cup and started making sandwiches from all the fixings that had been brought, being particularly generous with the meat. Once the first sandwich was complete, she handed it to Smoke to pass on while she began working on the next.

Smoke went ahead and handed the first one to Eric so he could give it to Ophelia. The water made her a little better and she had lifted her hand again to try to drink the water herself without Eric's help. She still leaned against him, however, unable to sit up by herself quite yet. Ophelia started to eat the sandwich. Slowly, because she couldn't move very much without shaking.

The next sandwich went to Brogan, and she took a bite and then put it down before she continued fiddling with the arm. Ophelia winced several times.

"Maybe you should wait until she's finished eating," Que suggested, taking Eric's sandwich over to him. "It would make it easier for both of you."

Eric took the food given him and balanced it carefully on his knee, making sure he didn't have to adjust anymore before picking the sandwich up again and taking a large, grateful bite.

Smoke rolled his eyes, took the plate from Eric's knee and put it on the table beside Ophelia's plate.

Brogan took another bite and put down her sandwich.

"I'm almost finished."

Que shrugged, passing Smoke his sandwich before taking hers and finding a comfortable spot on the floor to sit down on.

"So what now? If you need better materials for Ophelia's arm, where would you suggest we go? I bet Malcolm would be happy to get you there."

Eric opened his mouth to make a comment about Que offering Malcolm's ship without asking him first, but took a bite of his sandwich instead. He decided it was probably better just to stay out of things this time.

Brogan swallowed.

"Any place will probably have better supplies that up here. Escer is self sufficient, but it doesn't need to have in stock the kind of materials I need for this arm. Like BOB, I've kind of made a new one out of scraps and with whatever was available here in Escer. Our next stop, wherever it is, will be fine as long as I can go shopping."

Ophelia took a deep breath.

"When am I going to feel better?"

"Couple of days. I still think you probably needed a blood transfusion, but I guess if you can move even a little, you're all right. But you have lost a lot of blood so you need to recover it. Understand? Plenty of protein and lots of rest," Brogan said.

"Yes, Mom," Ophelia said, a corner of her mouth quirking up.

Brogan snorted.

Que also giggled, taking a small bite of her food to keep from choking on it in her laughter. Even Eric laughed a little.

"I guess that means I should stick around," he said, giving them all – Ophelia especially – a half-smile. "I need to be here so that when you're better, you can beat the shit out of me, right?"

The statement was only vaguely sarcastic.

"Yes," Ophelia said flatly.

Brogan looked up.

"You better beat the hell out of him for destroying this gorgeous piece of equipment and almost killing you."

She glanced at Eric.

"But I know 'Phelia. She'll give you a black eye, but she won't beat you within an inch of your life. Though she should."

"Duly noted and taken into account," Eric mumbled softly, finishing off the rest of his sentence in silence. After deciding for certain that he was done talking, Que looked over at Brogan, head cocked to one side.

"When you're up to it," she said, chewing on her lip a little. "I have something I want to show you. I was going to show you today, but I bet you've been up all night taking care of Ophelia, and you're probably really tired. Sleep is kind of important."

"Kind of, yeah," Brogan said and stifled a yawn. "Okay, that should do it. Once you have enough strength you should some exercises, get your blood pumping and your adrenaline up. Once the energy reserves fill up you should be able to use the arm without any problem like before. I'll be upgrading it once I get some better parts, but it'll work for now. Just don't try to use it for a couple of days until your blood replenishes itself and you're strong enough."

She looked up to Smoke.

"Ask Liam or Malcolm for a sling, will you? Better to have the arm up so she can't be tempted to use it."

Smoke nodded and took his sandwich with him to find the twins.

The ship was coming alive again with activity, Malcolm's crew returning to attend to their usual duties and chores. Liam was on his way downstairs as Smoke was on his way up, and he stopped in his friend's path.

"I was just on my way to ask how things are going down there," he said. "Good news?"

Smoke nodded.

"Ophelia is awake. Brogan is exhausted. Eric's contrite. Go check on them. Brogan needs a sling for Ophelia's arm."

"Huh."

Liam raised his eyebrows.

"I'll go grab something for it then. Hey, if you weren't on your way already, let Malcolm know all that. He needs to figure out whether we're ready to leave or not."

Smoke nodded and continued up the stairs toward Malcolm. He found the pilot already on the poop-deck and hurried up to relay the information.

Liam appeared in the infirmary a few minutes later.

"I hear there's a need for a sling," he said as he entered, holding up the requested item. He took a quick survey of the room and smiled.

"Well, everyone at least looks a little healthier, especially you, Ophelia. How's the new arm feeling, if it's feeling at all?"

He started towards Brogan so that she could take care of getting the sling ready.

"Brogan said it works. I just have to wait," Ophelia got out, but with effort.

Brogan looked up at Liam and took the sling.

"Thanks."

She carefully bent Ophelia's arm. She winced and Brogan muttered an apology to her as she put the arm into the sling.

"There. That should do it. Plenty of rest, lots of food and liquid."

She patted Ophelia's cheek.

"You'll be okay, hon. I'm not going to let you die."

Ophelia nodded.

"Ditto."

"Liam?" Que asked, still sitting on the floor. "Do you know where we'll be flying next?"

The pilot shook his head.

"Wherever Malcolm needs to make a delivery, I would suppose."

Liam glanced over at Eric.

"Unless you have plans to go back to Lucatica any time soon."

Eric simply shrugged, rising from his seat.

"I've no plans except to wait until her arm's better. If I'm still functioning after that, then maybe I'll head that way."

He yawned and sidles his way out, probably headed to the bunks to get some sleep before the day got any later.

Ophelia allowed herself a small smile.

Brogan looked back to Liam.

"Do you mind carrying Ophelia to bed? She needs to rest."

Brogan yawned.

"Hell, me too."

She shifted so her casted legs dangled off the table.

Liam chuckled, and without asking, helped her back into her chair.

"Of course. We got a bed already prepped, just like you'd asked. Que, would you mind getting the door?"

He carefully lifted Ophelia while Que jumped to her feet and ran to hold the door open for all of them.

Ophelia lay against Liam.

"Thank you," she said. "Don't forget about Brogan after you drop me off."

Brogan picked up BOB and put him on her lap. She started to follow them, but then stopped.

"Oh fuck it."

She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes.
Not much to say here except that I like the monologue Eric has talking to Ophelia.

This story is also posted on :icondulcis-absinthe:'s page, my co-author. She formats a bit differently.
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