A/N: Written for FemFeb this year. I'd been sitting on this idea for a long little bit and it was about time I got off of it.
Lug comes awake slowly, responding to movement across her abdomen. Anode is sprawled over her, engine humming a little too loud in the dark, and the arm she has slung over Lug is moving like she's stroking something.
Something other than Lug, for sure, because otherwise that's what would have woken her. She frowns, trying to make sense of Anode stroking the recharge slab, and turns over to curl into Anode's chassis.
"What's up?" she asks into Anode's neck. "Is the slab scared of the ion storm?"
"No, the storm passed- told you it'd be fine," says Anode, a little too slowly. Her next stroke goes from the slab up Lug's back, then higher until she's running her fingers along Lug's antenna.
"So, then?" Lug asks, a little more awake. It never bodes well when Anode avoids answering a question- less so when she tries to change the subject. She props herself up on one elbow and searches Anode's face for signs of mischief but finds her expression closed. "Anode?"
"I'm just not tired," Anode says, but she's not looking at Lug when she says it. She rolls onto her back, shifting to cuddle Lug against her side, and stares at the ceiling. "I did recharge a few days ago."
"Yeah," says Lug, "before running yourself ragged dealing with the navigation systems and autopilot all failing at once." She wraps herself around Anode, curling her arm around Anode's chassis to stroke at the plating on her side. Distracted, she mutters, "I'm surprised this junkheap is worth what we're getting even for the scrap parts."
Anode shifts at the words. Lug couldn't explain what it was about the movement that tips her off to what the problem is, but she jerks up to stare down at Anode, who is now showing more than the usual interest in a far corner of the ceiling.
"You're going to miss this junkheap," she says in astonishment. "That's what's keeping you up?"
"Oh, come on," Anode says, almost snaps, dropping all pretense of ignoring Lug as she sits up and frowns at her, arms crossed. "Won't you, even a little?"
"Even a little?" Anode wheedles, somehow looking truly taken aback.
"I already said no," says Lug, though this time it makes her feel just a little bit bad to say it. Even if it is the complete truth. "Anode- this thing has gotten us nearly killed almost as often as you have, you realize that, don't you?"
"Well," says Anode, flustered, "sure, but- almost! Almost as often as I have. And you love me, don't you?"
"In spite of my better judgement, yes," Lug says. "But you have redeeming qualities."
"Such as?" Anode asks. Rather than wait for an answer, she holds up one finger and then points it at Lug. With all the confidence of someone striking a finishing move, she declares, "Such as, I haven't gotten us killed yet, right? Just like the Junkbucket here!"
"I told you not to name it," Lug mutters, burying her face in her hands. "I told you not to name it, didn't I?"
"Oh, that's just an affectionate nickname."
"You've gone and gotten attached," Lug despairs. Anode's weak excuse, she ignores; she's gotten pretty good at that through their time together. Not as good as she'd like to be, but still. "This is why I told you not to name it."
"I thought you told me not to name it because you hate all the names that I come up with."
"Well, that too." Lug sighs, resigning herself to being awake when she really isn't ready to be. They aren't to hand over the ship for hours yet and they have nothing to do until then. The planet where they had docked to meet their buyer isn't the worst that they've ever visited but also isn't one that she's about to wander around on. "If you're going to try to talk me into keeping the ship…"
"Oh, good grief, no," says Anode, though it is painfully obvious that her spark isn't in it. She looks around their cramped little quarters with a wistful expression. "Don't get me wrong, I'm committed to turning this thing over to be scrapped. It's like you said, we're lucky to be getting as much for it as we are now. I can't begin to imagine how much the value will have decreased by the next spaceport we hit, even if we don't hit it on fire."
Lug waits a moment and, when Anode seems unlikely to continue on her own, prompts, "But…?"
"But," says Anode, sighing herself, "it's… home, isn't it?" Anode curls around her and rests her head on Lug's, drawing the conversation close around them. Her fingers are restless, whispering across Lug's plating not unlike her confession. "This has been our home for… a lot longer than I expected it to hold together, honestly."
Lug considers this, her spark humming. She runs her hands over Anode in turn, soothing comfort into her seams, and tips her head so that they're looking each other in the face. Cautiously, she points out, "That's not really your style, is it, though? Having a home."
"I never really thought of it as," Anode admits with a wry quirk to her lips. She stares off into the distance; through the walls, through space. Her eyes are back on Lug's before she goes on, "But I guess a ship is the best of both worlds that way, isn't it? It's not one place but it is someplace... safe."
Safe is about the last word that Lug would ever use to describe their ship. The thing is a death trap cobbled together from centuries of desperation. Still, wrapped in Anode's embrace, Lug supposes that she can at least understand the sentiment. It's less about their junker of a ship and more about having somewhere, anywhere, to go back to at the end of an adventure. And she has to admit, for all that it's held together by its own dying prayers, it's done as well by them as it can. Better than they could reasonably have expected, when they first picked it up. And if it can help Anode acclimate to the idea of having one place to settle down in, Lug supposes it's only right that she be grateful for that. It's more than she's managed, anyway.
That still doesn't mean she's going to miss it. Not even if giving it up means they have to use the worst public transport that the galaxy has to offer for the rest of their lives. Which, given their clientele and success rate both, it very well might.
"I don't get it," Lug admits, "but... I understand." She leans to nuzzle Anode and to brush a kiss over her lips. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, no, no," says Anode. She shifts, still wrapped around Lug but with that restlessness crawling from her fingertips out through the rest of her. One hand jerks twice, thrice in the air, before dipping into a compartment that's popped open on her side. "None of that now, I-" she draws something out of the compartment but keeps it hidden in her fist. Her fingers twitch around it as if whatever it is wants to be freed. "I'm sorry, y'know? It's just…"
"What've you done?" Lug asks, tense but not for reasons that she recognizes. In another moment, she realizes that she's reacting to Anode's field roiling against hers. "Anode?"
"It's more what I haven't done," Anode says on a sigh. She's using the tone she favors when she wants to redirect or dismiss, so familiar that it makes the wholly foreign nervousness all the more stark. "I didn't think this the whole way through, not really."
"You didn't think what through, the sale?" Lug hazards to guess. "The trip out? You did buy the tickets, right?" Anode stares at her with flat optics and Lug almost panics before remembering, "No, wait, I bought the tickets."
Anode huffs a laugh and hugs Lug tight to her, her still closed fist disappearing behind Lug's back. "You're making me feel just a little better about this now," she teases; her field says that it's the truth, thick though it still is with tension. She draws back and looks at Lug like she might never seen her again; her mouth moves, wordless. Then the look clears and she stares over Lug's shoulder, deliberately blank, and blurts, "The reason I'm afraid of scraplets is that I fell into a nest of them while I was exploring someplace I wasn't supposed to be. No one knew I was there. No one ever would've known where I'd gone, if I hadn't gotten out. I've never told anyone, but that's why."
Lug wriggles and reaches to hook her fingers in Anode's seams; she meets instead smooth planes of metal, Anode having slicked her plating flat. She can't help but gawk, caught between this little information dump and Anode's strange behavior. "Anode-"
"I wasn't sure what to get, is the thing," Anode says over her, a non sequitur as far as Lug can understand it. She shifts again, handling Lug so that she ends up perched on Anode's crossed shins, and leans back on one hand. Her other hand, she opens at last between them, showing off a new set of mood pipes. "And we were coming down to the wire. But then your old set got dinged on that job yesterday and I figured I might as well."
"Did you steal those?" Lug asks, thinking of the dangerous-looking mechanism who'd been standing over the booth where she remembered having seen them. It's a silly question but it saves her from shorting out over the creeping realization of what's happening here.
"Of course I did," says Anode. "We haven't sold the ship yet. Do you like them?"
"You wouldn't have stolen them if you didn't know I would like them," Lug points out. Reaching for the pipes is like reaching for a dream, except that they don't fade away under her fingertips. "Thank you."
She doesn't take them, not just yet. Just rests her hands around them, Anode's palm warm against her. Nervous static snaps between them, sparking in the dark.
"O-oh," she says, dizzy as reality at last smacks her upside the head, so quickly tired of being ignored. Anode looks at her like she's trying to see her spark through her eyes and Lug blurts, "I'm sorry- I don't know what to do." Anode's expression turns puzzled and Lug goes on, "I mean, it's my turn, isn't it?"
Her turn, what seals the deal. A demonstration of devotion in return for a secret disclosed and a gift proffered, following a display of intimacy. They've been together so long that they're conjunx in all but the formalities of the matter. Lug can honestly say that she forgets sometimes that they've never walked through the ritus- the idea that she could forget such a thing feels ludicrous in this moment, as she finds herself stumbling on this last leg of the journey.
"Then it's yes?" Anode asks, leaning forward and catching Lug by the shoulder. There's a smile on her face but it looks less sure of its place than any smile Lug has ever seen her wear before.
"Of course it's yes, what kind of question is that?" Lug demands. "But we're not done until the Act of Devotion and I don't know-"
"That's it," Anode says, shushing her, swooping in to sprinkle kisses across her cheeks. She laughs at Lug's sputtering and pulls back, eyes sparkling down on Lug like she's never seen greater treasure. Her hand goes from Lug's shoulder to her cheek, thumb stroking over the curve. "All I drag us through, all we both know I'm going to drag us through, now without even our so-called ship at our disposal- and you're saying yes?" There's a series of clicks and the smooth slide of metal as she opens her chest to bare her spark, never taking her eyes off of Lug. "How much more proof of devotion could I ask for?"
"But that isn't how it goes," Lug grumbles even as she leans back to give her own paneling room to slide away, a clumsier process than Anode's thanks to the way her compartments are built in. "I'm supposed to make you some kind of a grand gesture!"
"Oh, you make grand gestures at me all the time- don't think I don't notice," Anode says. All traces of nerves melt away and she presses the mood pipes properly into Lug's hand before gathering her up in her arms and flopping them both onto the slab with a dull clang. "Besides, since when do we live our lives based on how things are supposed to be?"
Lug curls against her, cradling the mood pipes against Anode's back, protests giving way to shivers as realization strikes her anew in the dance of their spark light. If Anode is willing to accept nothing more or less than Lug's agreement, then it's done. Neither of them is about to make a speech, so- that's it. They've done it, just like that.
Well. Of course they did it just like that- Anode has never been one to look before she leaps and Lug has never been far behind. No point looking twice at it now, she supposes, a smile wobbling across her face. The mingling of their fields and sparks is at once familiar and new.
"My conjunx," she murmurs, one hand sliding forward to trace the edge where their open chambers press together. "You're my conjunx now." Then her thoughts back up and she can't help frowning. She tucks the pipes away into a compartment for safekeeping and takes Anode's face between her hands, stroking concern across her cheeks. "Are you really okay about selling the ship?"
"Going to insist on an Act of Devotion?" Anode teases. Lug's thoughts on the matter must be plain on her face, because Anode softens and goes serious all at once. She turns away, like maybe if she doesn't look at Lug, Lug will forget somehow that Anode needed the questionable safety of their rundown ship to chance making her proposal. The glance askance soon becomes a wistful look around the room.
"Anode?" Lug asks, drawing her attention back. "If you really-"
"I don't want to watch it get scrapped," Anode says with real melancholy, "but- yeah. Yeah, I'm sure. And I'll be okay." She lets go of Lug long enough to pat the slab and nuzzles a grin against Lug's cheeks. "Anyhow, I'd say that the old tub finished on a high note, wouldn't you?"