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A Stable Orbit

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Bobbie suppresses a yawn against her fist and looks down at the clock again. 05:42; all the other creatures on the Roci just might be starting to stir. She bounces up in the low thrust gravity of the ship’s unhurried pace; this mission isn’t likely to be dangerous so she feels okay about leaving her post for a few minutes.

She corrects herself. “Job,” not mission. It’s still taking Bobbie a while to adjust to being part of a civilian crew. Especially since the Rocinante’s slick interior just screams Martian Navy. All the visual cues are still telling her to stand at attention, keep her uniform neat, wait for orders. The crew of the Rocinante, while not exactly sloppy, didn’t really operate at military-level standards of discipline.

The problem with the watches, for example. Bobbie had been slightly horrified to learn that the four of them quite often did not bother to keep someone on the command deck at all times, especially during the off-cycle shift that would have put one crewman out of sync with the rest of the group. Bobbie had badgered Holden about it until he let her set up a schedule. She wasn’t going to rest during any hours she knew no one was on watch anyway, so she had taken the unpopular graveyard shift.

Alex is up next after her. He likes to spend most of his day cycle at the pilot’s station anyway, checking projections and making subtle adjustments to their course. Fiddling around with his one true love, a lady called Rocinante. But what Alex doesn’t like is waking up any earlier than he has to. At fifteen minutes before he’s due on the command deck, he’s usually still rolling around in his crash couch. And so at this time Bobbie’s been finding herself ducking down to the galley and doing some of the things he won’t leave himself time for.

One of Bobbie’s greatest delights about the Roci is that its galley still makes all the MCRN rations. They even used the same names and numbers for the MREs as the Marine Corps. She and Alex had had plenty of excited discussion over the virtues of the number 15 (half slab of musaman ribs), or the versatility of the cornbread naan side (which came with almost everything). Real Martian food, that had tasted like home to her since basic training. For Bobbie, dining on the Roci had the emotional glow of Mom’s kitchen, and Alex sharing that history made him feel like some long-lost member of her extended family.

And for breakfast, Alex Kamal prefers the number 7: biscuits and gravy, or “good ol’ b’s and g’s” as he calls them. Bobbie had pulled a face when he first brought this up; she had always found that one barely tolerable even when she drowned it in hot sauce. But then Alex showed her his secret: order up the spicy chutney side out of MRE #22 and pour it over the whole thing. She was skeptical, but from the first bite she was hooked.

Bobbie orders up two platters of the ‘Alex special’ and fills two bulbs while she waits for them to come out; coffee for Alex and an herbal tea for herself. She’s planning to try and get a little shut-eye after she and her fellow Martian share the meal that has become their daily custom.

Bobbie has just settled back into her crash couch, starting to pick at the hot food in her tray, when she hears Alex pulling himself up the ladder. “Mornin’, sunshine,” he greets her as he steps on deck.

“How’d you sleep?” Bobbie asks, though she knows the answer is always the same.

“Just fine,” Alex replies as he steps up behind her and starts rubbing her shoulders. He knows she has a bad habit of hunching over monitors, and by the end of her shift she often has a nasty crick in her neck. Within seconds his thumb has found the exact spot. Bobbie rolls her head against his pressure, sighs in relief when she actually feels the knot release this time. “Thanks, podna.” She had started using the nickname on him to tease him for his Mariner Valley drawl, but now the word comes out of her mouth as naturally as it does his.

Alex grabs his food and sits across from her, toasting her in silent appreciation with his coffee bulb. He used to tell her “not to trouble herself” and “don’t make a fuss,” but by now he is resigned to his fate: Bobbie Draper is going to be making him breakfast. She can tell by his smile that he actually loves the gesture.

When they’re finished and Alex settles down at his station on the pilot’s deck she follows him, itching to fix the bedhead she’s been staring at all through the meal. She runs her fingers through his hair absentmindedly for a moment, then works to make into something a bit more presentable. He should probably get it cut soon.

Bobbie figures they probably touch each other more than most friends that aren’t romantically involved, but she also figures it’s really nobody’s business but theirs. Alex has told her that both Holden and Naomi had separately approached him, fishing for information on his and Bobbie’s relationship status. Bobbie was sure she didn’t give one shit what they thought. Then she corrected herself. As Captain and XO it certainly was their business to monitor any fraternization amongst the crew.

Well anyway, it wasn’t what they thought. Alex’s lifestyle had set him into a pretty solidly confirmed bachelor status, and Bobbie figured as long as she stayed on this tiny crew, it was the same for her. So they met needs for each other that most people reserved for romantic partners, needs for affection, for touch, for someone to care about. It wasn’t a sexual thing; they had come to that crossroads a while back and moved right on through. They had settled into a stable orbit, revolving around each other. It wasn’t something anyone needed to make a big deal over, or even acknowledge.

It's just home.