CHAPTER SEVEN: THE SLOW GROWTH OF NEW LIFE
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Theo didn’t know how long they stayed by the lake, Dimitri telling him about the names of the stars, and the stories behind them, but when they finally rose to make their way back to the festival the crowd had seriously depleted. Harmonia and Lux were, somehow, still dancing, but now the music was slow and low. They held each other closely and didn’t notice them as they passed by. Dimitri insisted on walking Theo back to the ship, although Theo couldn’t understand why, even as he stumbled a bit in the dark. When they returned to the ship they stood at the airlock for a moment, silent, until Dimitri said goodnight and turned to leave.

Now Theo felt something like disappointment, and he didn’t understand. There was no reason for him to feel disappointed, he had absolutely no expectations from the evening. But as he watched Dimitri turn and head down the dock he couldn’t help but frown to himself.

The ship seemed to rock as he made his way back to his quarters, leaning onto the wall for support. He didn’t bother undressing; he only kicked off his boots and fell into his bed with a soft thump. He was quickly asleep.

The next thing he was aware of was Shade’s voice calling over the intercom. “THEO, ARE YOU NOT AWAKE YET?”

Theo groaned, his head pounding gently. He remembered why he didn’t drink heavily often, and he wanted nothing more than to fall back asleep. He reached for his blanket to pull over his face, but his hands only found the scarf that he still wore, only now it was tangled around his shoulders and arms. His fingers pressed into the loose knit and he remembered Dimitri wrapping it around his neck sweetly, telling him that the color looked better on him.

He groaned again.

There was the sound of the door to his quarters opening, and light from the hall spilled in. “Theo,” came Shade’s voice, not quite disapproving. “Dimitri will be here shortly.”

“He knows where to go,” Theo answered from where he had curled away from the intruding light. “Let me sleep.”

“You were out very late last night,” Shade observed.

Theo groaned and rolled over to look at Shade, who was standing in the doorway with amused pink shapes moving around on xyr face. “So what?” he asked grumpily. “Get out. I’ll be down in a bit.”

Miraculously, Shade did not argue with him, and turned to leave. The door slid shut behind xem, casting the room back into darkness. Theo let his eyes close again, pressing the back of his hand against his forehead. He probably, definitely, had a bit too much to drink the night before, but he couldn’t tell if it was something he regretted. He would have been loathe to admit that he had enjoyed himself and that he had enjoyed Dimitri’s company out loud to Shade or anyone else, but it felt safer for him to allow himself a moment to remember the evening when he was alone. The sound of Dimitri’s voice, the absent touch of his hand—

Eventually Theo rose from bed and searched for clean clothes to wear, ones that wouldn’t smell like ale and sweat. He neatly folded the scarf and laid it on his pillow before pulling on his boots and leaving his room for the airlock. It was already open when he arrived, and Shade peeked xyr head out of the science lab. “He’s already on deck five,” xe said pleasantly, before disappearing back to xyr work.

Theo stepped back onto the lift, and when it opened to deck five he could already hear Dimitri singing, his voice soft and deep. He was crouched in front of the scoop manual controls, prepping the space to install the new parts. Theo stepped forward, suddenly feeling a bit hesitant, and Dimitri looked up at the sound of his boots.

“Good morning!” he called, and Theo flinched a bit.

“Morning,” he managed to answer, with a pathetic little wave that made Dimitri laugh gently.

“Did I keep you out too late last night?” he asked, although he didn’t sound particularly sorry about it, and he still had a pleased smile on his face. “It was worth it, I hope? You enjoyed yourself?”

Theo searched his face for a moment, like it might have been a trick question of some sort. “I did,” he finally admitted, and Dimitri’s smile widened before he turned back to his work.

“Good,” he said. “Hand me that ratchet.”


Installing the new parts for the scoop and repairing the fuel storage took the entire day, even with the three of them to work on it, and by the end of it Theo felt exhausted. He wanted nothing more than to head back to his quarters and sleep for days, although he knew that even under normal circumstances Shade would not allow it. He should not have stayed out so late, and he certainly should not have had as much to drink as he had, but he was still finding it difficult to think of reasons why aside from his fatigue and headache. Maybe that should have been enough. He wondered how Dimitri seemed just as chipper as ever.

When they were done, Theo walked Dimitri back to the airlock, his hands shoved deep in his pockets so that he wouldn’t chew on his nails on the way. It still annoyed him that he should feel so nervous suddenly. That same feeling of unfamiliar danger sunk in when Dimitri smiled at him, said his goodbyes, but Theo stayed at the airlock to watch him leave until he wasn’t in sight any longer. The airlock slid shut and he sighed, feeling relieved, before returning to his quarters for a long shower.

He felt slightly better after his shower, and left his quarters to find something to eat. It was strange for him to notice how the ship seemed so silent without Dimitri singing softly while he worked, but it was all he could think as he sat in the mess chewing on a piece of bread and staring out the window at the setting sun. He would be back tomorrow, he thought to himself, and for some reason this cheered him.

Theo had to get a hold of himself. There was no use in getting used to having Dimitri around, when he and Shade would be leaving as soon as the repairs were done. And why should he be getting attached, anyway? He was sure he had met men like Dimitri in the past, even thought he was having trouble thinking of any who had smiled just as bright, who had spoke just as kindly.

He went to bed early, just to keep his head from spinning around on the same troublesome thoughts. When he finally slept, he dreamt of soft grass and stars, and a deep voice calling for him to come home.

The next morning Theo woke before Shade had a chance to yell at him, and the sun was only just beginning to rise in the sky. He made himself a cup of coffee that he had bought in the market days before and found the last piece of trecha fruit in the back of the refrigerator. He took them both to the airlock where he sat in the fresh air, even though it would be a bit longer before Dimitri showed up for the day’s work.

They meant to start on the warp engines, and Theo knew between both the primary and secondary engines that repair would probably take the next week or two to complete. Shade had been working in several of the other portions of the ship on xyr own, fixing wiring and other things the past week. This meant that after the warp engines were fixed it would be on to the larger hull breaches and the bridge. Minor cleanup after that, and they would be done.

Theo sipped his coffee thinking again about what he had done, and like all of his other attempts it seemed so ridiculous in hindsight. But there was still the thought in the back of his mind — how long until he would try again?

He spied Dimitri coming up the dock in a small open truck, the back of it full of parts for the ship. Theo smiled to himself at the sight, at the sheer ridiculousness of his engineer, this man who apparently just had a collection of starship parts lying around at his farm because… why not?

Dimitri saw him sitting at the hatch and raised his hand in greeting before the truck puttered to a stop. “Hey!” he called, rising so that he was standing and leaning on the windshield. “Why don’t you get off your ass and come help me?” His voice was light and Theo had to laugh, before he headed down to help.


The following weeks all blurred together in a flurry of repairs, installation, and diagnostics. Dimitri showed up promptly in the morning, and some nights he would not be gone until after the sun went down. Everything seemed to fall into a routine, which usually would have frightened Theo, but it happened so suddenly and they were so busy that he did not have much time to think about it. Only when he was alone did he have the brief idea of second thoughts, in the dark of his room when he would remember something that Dimitri said that made him smile even when he was alone, or the sound of his voice—

But eventually sleep would come, and he was sleeping well, considering.

There was another day that Dimitri had to take a trip to the planet for supplies that he did not have, and Theo spent it restocking the mess hall, and wandering back up the hill to the standing stones for some fresh air. He could not remember ever feeling such a calm, and he tried not to think of it because it would terrify him further. There was always a calm before the storm.

Shade seemed to enjoy xyr time on the moon as well, as far as Theo could tell. Xe had always liked to work on the ship anyway so constant repairs did not seem to bother xem in the least, and in xyr free time xe began to take short solo trips into town to rub elbows with the locals. One morning Theo awoke to a note from xem saying that xe would be helping out at the orchards. Why? Theo did not know, but he wouldn’t complain because Shade returned cheered and with a basket of freshly picked fruit for him.

Sometimes, Lux themself would make their way up to the ship, or the man who baked the bread (whose name Theo could not seem to remember), or the pleasant old woman from the cafe (whose name he had not learned), just to bring him fresh goods. Once again Shade pointed out that the people here seemed to like him, Theo argued that they probably like xem more, and it made Shade laugh.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had heard Shade laugh.

On the day the warp engines were repaired, they booted up the reactor and it hummed to life, casting a beautiful glow over main engineering once more. Theo laughed then too, and he didn’t understand why. When he looked across the control panel at Dimitri, the engineer was smiling gently, maybe a little sadly. It made Theo’s smile falter, only for a moment.

“We should celebrate,” Dimitri said after a moment, and he rounded the panel to stand next to Theo.

“We should?” Theo asked, looking over at him. “What do you suggest?”

“Come to dinner,” Dimitri answered, and it seemed like he had that suggestion ready from the start. “Shade, you come too. My family has been dying to meet you.”

Shade looked up from where xe was running diagnostics on the engine. “I do not eat,” xe answered, the shapes on xyr face slightly confused. “But I would be honored.”

Dimitri laughed a little, and looked back at Theo. “Well?”

There was that familiar feeling of fear in the pit of Theo’s stomach. Dimitri was too close, his hand nearly on his own at the panel. There was too much expectation in his eyes, and Theo didn’t want to disappoint him, he didn’t want to make that smile falter— He couldn’t decide what was worse, agreeing to head to the farmhouse for a meal with his family, or seeing a look of disappointment on Dimitri’s face.

“Okay,” he said, only a little hesitant.

But Dimitri didn’t seem to notice how he hesitated and his smile bloomed happily. It made Theo’s heart patter annoyingly, but he felt warm and happy that he smiled because of him. It seemed strange, the feeling he couldn’t quite get a grasp on, that scared him so much.

But Dimitri was smiling.


Dimitri left the ship soon after Theo agreed to dinner to run errands and tell his family to set out an extra plate, but promised that he would be back to bring them to the farm so that way they wouldn’t have to find it on their own. Once he was gone, Theo felt a wave of anxiety come to him and he couldn’t help but pace around the comforting glow of the warp reactor. What had he done; what was he doing? He told himself for possibly the hundredth time that it was foolish and dangerous to allow him to get so attached to this place, to Dimitri.

He also remembered that Shade often told him that he was too reckless. But he was never reckless like this.

Eventually his pacing annoyed Shade enough that xe kicked him out of engineering and Theo had to take his movement elsewhere. He used that pent up energy to clean up a few of the crew quarters on deck two, which were mostly empty with no one to sleep in them, but it wasn’t enough to distract his mind from worry. Shade would have told him that he was being ridiculous, that there was nothing for him to worry about. He didn’t think that xe would understand, and he also didn’t want to think about trying to explain to xem how Dimitri’s smile made his heart pound in his chest, to see those smug shapes morph on xyr face—

Theo had the ridiculous thought of changing his clothes, to something cleaner or nicer maybe, and he didn’t understand why. This frustrated him further until he felt close to angry, and he wanted to tell Shade to go alone, never mind how he knew that would disappoint Dimitri. It didn’t matter. It shouldn’t have mattered.

Theo left the crew quarters to check on the secondary warp engines, even though the diagnostics had already been run and everything was in perfect working order again. He didn’t know how long he was in there before Shade found him, hunched over one of the control panels scanning the diagnostic readouts.

“What are you doing?” Shade asked from behind him, startling Theo slightly.

“Going over the secondary warp diagnostics,” Theo responded, not looking back at xem.

“You are being pointlessly redundant,” Shade accused, although there was no real venom or annoyance in xyr voice. “Do not worry about that now. Dimitri will be back for us soon.”

Theo looked up from the panel and sighed. He knew that Shade was right; he was only trying to waste time and find an excuse to back out of going to the farmhouse. At least xe had been kind enough to not say so much xemself. He looked back at the android, who was watching him expectantly, the shape’s on xyr face smooth and calm. Theo had a feeling xe knew something he didn’t or maybe he was just feeling paranoid.

“You have nothing to worry about,” Shade assured him as they made their way to the lift. It was an unusually kind gesture, considering, and Theo didn’t quite understand why xe had said anything at all.

He only grunted softly in response, which made Shade smile, so to speak, the shapes on xyr face going a happy pink. The lift doors closed behind them, and Theo felt as if something in his fate had been sealed with them.

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