Summary: Not everyone gets to grieve immediately.
Disclaimer: Tribune owns all rights to Andromeda.
Setting: Season 2 or 3.
Feedback: Please! Praise and constructive criticism welcome. Flames will be used for kettle-boiling.
Archive: Ask first and I'll probably say yes.
Author's Note: Nothing to really add here.
The Mourning After
By B.L.A. the Mouse
He was so unnaturally still. Even when he slept he was never still. He breathed, his eyes moved under the lids, his brain lit up as he dreamed. If he had drunk too much, he snored; if he was feverish he mumbled. Now he was silent and his chest didn't move, not since that last awful gasp.
Gently, Rommie reached out to touch his hand, confirming once more what her sensors had been telling her for the last three hours. No blood flow, no muscle movement, no hope of him ever again being more than another ghost wandering her decks.
"Stop, Rommie. He's gone." Beka's quiet voice preceded her. She moved so slowly to the bedside, walking like her feet were fettered. "We can't do anything." Even as she said it, she smoothed a hand over his forehead as if he had a temperature, tugged straight his shirt where their final frantic attempts had pulled it askew.
"Shh." This time the hand was on her shoulder instead. "He's dead. We can't bring him back. It doesn't matter how many times you check, that won't change."
"But he was right there, Beka, and then he wasn't. And his face- I just couldn't reach him, not in time."
"And I couldn't get the Maru back fast enough, and Trance wasn't prepared, and Dylan sent us down in the first place. Don't blame yourself. There are a thousand things we all could have done differently."
The surge of anger made her voice spike louder, shriller. "And I was supposed to protect him!"
"You were supposed to protect all of us, not just him. You did what you could."
"He's my crew. My engineer. I need him,"
Beka didn't say anything for a moment. Instead she slid her hand to rub at Rommie's back. "We all need him. I'm not sure what I'm going to do without him. He's family." The last word sounded a little rougher than the rest.
That was what finally made Rommie look up at Beka. Aside from that little hitch, her voice had been clear and calm. Her eyes were bloodshot but dry; she had yet to cry. She had been the one to get Dylan back to his quarters, to help Trance clean up her equipment, to fly them away from the planet. To find Rommie here and urge her silently over to a chair. "You don't seem that upset."
"I'm the captain. I can't be." She sat down next to Rommie and stared at her hands. Rommie did the same, to avoid seeing the way his booted foot leaned to the side. "There are things that need to be done, and right now I'm the only one-" She took a deep breath. "Dylan's in no shape to make decisions. He's second-guessing himself with a bottle. Trance can't stop crying, Tyr's locked himself in his quarters, you're here with Harper. Someone needs to keep an eye on things. Besides, I know what he wants. We talked about it before, with the larvae. I can… arrange it."
"What did he want?" The past tense felt wrong.
"Um, you can't put him in any outfit with a tie. He'll haunt us all if we forget to put that mangy rabbit's foot in with him. He asked to have you with him, but I told him you'd kill the rest of us if we tried." A sob escaped Rommie, try as she might to suppress it. "And if he couldn't have you, he wanted his computer jack so, and I quote, when he got where he was going he'd be able to access the good porn."
Now she started to laugh, wiping away a stray tear. "Because he does place such importance on his pornography. Of course it's the first thing he'd look for."
Beka nodded solemnly. "Right after the women rejected him and just before he set up shop somewhere." She smiled, a very little bit, as the comment set Rommie off again.
The laughter faded quickly, the full realization of what they were saying sinking in. The tears welled up again and this time she didn't even try to force them back. They started to spatter the deck when she looked down, so as not to see his hand hanging limply at the side of the bed. "He's gone, isn't he?"
"Yeah. He is." This time Beka slid her hand over to Rommie's and held it, silently offering what comfort she could. After a long pause, she quietly continued, "He wanted to be buried on Earth, but if we can't do that he'll settle for space burial in the system."
Rommie nodded, surprising herself with a hiccup even as the tears kept falling. "We can take him down in the Maru. That's how we slipped under the Drago-Katsov last time. If we set down in Boston, I can tell Ozzie- maybe even Brendan, if he's still there."
"Maybe we can bury him with the rest of his family. He said they all lived around there. Now," and Beka stood, pulling Rommie to her feet despite the way she still had a shake to her shoulders and a quiver in her voice, "I need to check on the others. Do you want to come with me?"
She shook her head. "I need to take care of Harper. Clean him up, get him in stasis until we can take him to Earth." She risked a glance at his terrible pallor and shuddered at the fresh stab of grief.
"Wouldn't you rather portion it off into some bots? It might make it easier for you."
"No. My mainframe and the other bots are occupying themselves running the ship. I need to be the one to do this." She left unspoken that after they took care of each other in life she needed to do the same in his death.
Beka nodded as if she knew more than Rommie had told her. She probably did. Gently she freed one of her hands from Rommie's to press against her cheek. "I'll get Trance, then. She might have calmed down enough to help."
"All right." The deep breath she took seemed to help, as did the mention of Trance's assistance. "Will you want to?"
"I- no." For the first time since Harper had fallen, so many hours ago now, Beka seemed to have actually taken the world upon her shoulders, physically sagging under the strain. "That's more than I can do right now. I can't take the time to… to think about it. I'll get you something to put him in, but that's all I can do."
"You can't put it off forever."
"I know. Just… not now." She pulled away and turned toward the door, stopping only to lay a hand on Harper's shoulder. The murmured words seemed to be for his ears alone. "When I can do it right."