Chapter 11: Verismo
Tharsis, Mars
(A few days later; Friday)

Samantha hurried down the rainy sidewalk in her new peeptoe heels, their white suede now splashed with the ever-present ruddy Martian dust. She'd be sure to make a jab at Gideon for it. Once she reached the awning of Benny's she let down her umbrella, shook it out, and left it in the doorway before ducking inside. The air conditioning was chilly since she was damp, and she smoothed her hair, dreading the frizz that would no doubt make an appearance in half an hour or less. She waved at the eponymous Benny behind the patisserie counter.

"The usual, Sam?" he asked.

"Please. Gideon's too, in maybe ten minutes?" She glanced at the clock above the doorway, "He'll be here soon."

"Thought it was his turn this week?" Benny chuckled.

"It is, we're just doing it a bit differently this go round," she said, suppressing a smile.

"I feel like I've been waiting years for either of you to say that!"

"Oh, hush." Samantha's smile bloomed nonetheless and she looked away to hide it.

She picked a table at the far end of the half-full cafe so she could both have her back to a wall and still see out the window, even though it was fogged up with condensation. It was rare for Tharsis to have this kind of rain and she resented that it'd come today, of all days.

Benny's new waitress came over with her coffee and set it in front of her, along with the almond croissant. Samantha thanked her and immediately went about repositioning everything, preening herself and getting her book out of her handbag so she could pretend to read it rather than watching the door. It seemed to be the book's only purpose, anyway - she wasn't able to do more than skim fiction on the best of days, since her mind was more accustomed to technical books and the financial section of The Red Herald.

She managed to occupy herself enough with trying to remember where she left off that she didn't notice Gideon had appeared beside her until he said mock-haughtily, "Samantha." She jumped a little and put down her book. More startling, however, was the fact that he wasn't alone - slightly behind him was a tall, beautiful woman with dark skin and a daring orange trenchcoat that contrasted admittedly wonderfully with it. He did not introduce her.

"Oh, hi!" Samantha forced out. "I went ahead and ordered for us both, I hope you don't mind. I didn't realize you'd be bringing someone." She hoped the ire didn't register in her voice, but just in case, she stood and held out her hand, "Samantha Adams, Gideon's coworker," she said with a smile.

The woman took it, but instead of a name she said, "I know." Her hand was cold and dry and Samantha was grateful to withdraw her own.

The waitress brought over Gideon's coffee, which prompted him to say, "Actually we're not staying. I just came to drop this off with you." He wiggled the briefcase containing the viewing platform she'd smuggled out for him earlier that week; it'd since acquired some dents and scuffs. He set it by her feet and she thought she heard him grimace in pain with the movement.

"I'm surprised you didn't bring it to me this morning," Samantha said. She reluctantly sat down. "Kinda like how I'm surprised to meet you here, turns out," she squinted at the table. "I heard you turned in your resignation. What's happened?" she turned up what was hopefully a sufficiently pleading look to him.

It seemed enough to make Gideon humor her. He gingerly lowered himself to sit on the chair opposite her, while the strange woman hovered at his shoulder. There was a strangely long moment of even more strangely awkward quiet. Gideon turned his cup on its saucer but did not drink. He was looking at her with a slight squint, as if trying to find a flaw in some code. Samantha stared back, frowning confusedly with her hands in her lap. She didn't feel like she was sitting across from the same man she'd worked with for six years at all.

At last Gideon spoke. "I came to tell you that you don't need to worry about Everett Mordechai anymore."

It was Samantha's turn to squint and shake her head at him.

"It kinda hurt, Sam," he said, and she could hear a note of that hurt in his voice. "That you'd tip him off about me. I thought we were close after six years - closer than I'd been to anybody in a long time. I guess that wasn't enough. But hey, what do I know," he looked at the table. "People have crazy reasons for moonlighting and throwing people under the bus. Maybe you've got more secrets than I gave you credit for." He huffed to himself once, "Hell, I know you do, now."

The other woman shifted feet, prompting Samantha to look at her. Her gaze was cold, threatening, as if she took personal offence to what Samantha had done. There was no proof of it but Samantha felt like the woman had good cause to feel that way, somehow, and this unnerved her more.

Samantha breathed deep to try to calm her racing heart. She resettled in her chair, sipped her cappuccino despite it still being too hot for her taste. She took her lips into her mouth to rid them of any embarrassing traces of foam. She scoffed inwardly, As if that's the most embarrassing thing to be caught with in the last hour.

Gideon withdrew his hand from the table, and as he stood he said, "You won't see me again." He leaned over and placed a hand lightly at the back of her skull, kissed her crown. "Take care of yourself, Sam."

Samantha stared, her lip trembling, at Gideon's untouched coffee across from her as he and the mystery woman left the cafe; still stared at it, tearing up, as she felt their shadows go by on the sidewalk on the other side of the fogged-up window. She gulped from her own to push down the lump in her throat and give another reason for her hot cheeks.

Gideon and Dee slowly approached, on account of Gideon's limp, the Bebop down the tarmac of the docks under the shelter of a large black and white striped umbrella, arm in arm. Ahead, they could see Ed and Ein playing in the rainpuddles while Faye twirled her own yellow umbrella nearby, and Jet watched them from the cover of the gangway. Mr Noboru had his own umbrella and, with Svetlana in his free arm, was examining his gardenias that he'd brought out earlier when they landed to taste the rain.

"That Samantha was attractive, and successful from what we know," said Dee. "You should find someone like her."

"Eh, maybe. Probably without the betrayal factor, though," he chuckled. He knew it was mostly practice, having conversations like this - he and Dee had had far heavier ones in the past couple of days, particularly regarding his affections for her. If he was honest, he doubted they'd ever fully go away, but he was right, she was right, Jet was right - he needed to try. So he admitted, "I'd thought about it a couple of times before and I think she did too, but we never did anything about it. Too late now."

Dee nodded and hummed to herself as they strolled. "The heart's fear," she said. "Humans are funny that way. It can cripple you but it can make you so brave." She squeezed his arm, which was about the only thing that didn't still hurt from the last week.

Ed had spotted them. She called to them and waved while Ein skittered a couple of circles around her feet, barking. Gideon smiled. "Yeah, well, you've dipped your toes in the water too, now."

"I'm not familiar with that." She held out a hand, determined the rain had cleared, and lowered the umbrella. They paused to look up at the clearing sky.

"It're trying it out for yourself, too. All of it."

"I suppose I am," she smiled broadly and watched gulls fly overhead, then looked down at him. Her eyes sparkled. "Thank you."

Gideon shook his head. "Nah, thank you."

Dee's smile broke into a grin and she pushed him lightly, "No, thank you."

They went back and forth chidingly as they finished their walk to the ship.

A Note from the Author: A HUGE thank you to everyone who's read and reviewed! It means the world. I hope you enjoyed!