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And Then Again

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Gabriel wasn’t sure that if anyone had told him before all this had happened, that he would be more than content with the life he had now, he would have believed them. It certainly wasn’t what he’d been striving for in his career, wasn’t what he thought he wanted for his personal life either, but if nothing else, he had learned that sometimes you simply had to make the best of things.

“Gathering wool?” Hugh asked, stepping out onto the shaded veranda and handing him a cold glass already slick with condensation.

“Something like that,” Gabriel replied, closing his eyes and turning his face into the warmth of the setting Vulcan suns. “Just pondering how I came to be so lucky.”

“Lucky?” he said lightly, coming to stand in front of him and leaning back against his chest. Gabriel tilted his head just so, sighing as the other man’s form slotted in perfectly against him.

“Hmmm I’m sure there are lots who would give everything for just a fraction of what we have here.” Their life was hardly ordinary, humans were still treated with a degree of scepticism here but equally, their unorthodox relationship didn’t seem to bother anyone at all. The pair of them stood there, watching nothing in particular until the sound of the front door opening stirred them into motion.

“Come on you,” Hugh said, stretching like a sun warmed cat.

“Anyone home?” Paul’s voice sounded from inside.

“You would think that we ought to be sitting distraught waiting for him to deign to join us,” Hugh said loudly enough to be heard.

“Any longer and I’m sure we would have been,” Gabe said in mock seriousness.

“I should hope so,” Paul said, kissing one then the other of them on the cheek.

“Good day?” Hugh asked as they all migrated towards the kitchen.

“We’re making progress…” Gabriel zoned out as Paul continued to talk, taking much more from the enthusiasm in his tone than he would have from the language of science that came much more naturally to the other two.

“What about your day, Gabe?” Paul asked, without looking up from programming the food synthesiser.

“Hmm?” he replied, zoning back in and catching up with what he’d just heard. “My day was mostly spent resisting the urge to strangle my publisher.” On instinct he held out his glass for a refill when Hugh lifted the jug.

“So just like any other day then?” Paul said, turning to look at them, his eyes twinkling.

“You would think they were the one who was the experienced tactician, given their continual desire to write the bloody thing themselves,” he grumbled half heartedly.

“Well for Boe’s safety let’s be glad that you can’t take the next transport back to earth and show them exactly how wrong they are,” Hugh said, returning the jug to the chiller.

“I was sorely tempted,” he said, but they all knew it was an empty threat. Gabriel relished their anonymity here, that he could go about his life; train with the Suus Menha masters, write tactical textbooks under pseudonyms but most of all to live and love with the two remarkable men who had sacrificed so much to be with him. The familiar pull of a dark tide swept up from his own depths; anxiety tugging at the edges of his mind, the uncertainty as to why they could possibly have made the choices they had, to have sacrificed so much surging over his defences.

“Hey,” Paul said gently, suddenly standing next to him, carefully removing the trembling glass from his hand.

“Sorry,” Gabriel said, doing his best to shake the sudden malaise.

“You’ve been inside your own head for the last week,” Hugh chided gently, coming to lean against the counter next to him. “Ten years since the Buran went down. It’s no wonder.”

“It feels like another life…” he admitted quietly. “They were a good crew. Good people. They deserved better.”

“Nobody ‘deserved’ any of what that man did,” Paul said, his voice quiet but firm. “None of them, no one on Discovery and not us. None of us.” Gabriel felt the tension drain from him as arms reached around him, anchoring him, shielding him and holding him fast. He returned their embrace, his hands fisting in fabric in a habit he’d broken years ago.

They all had scars from what had happened; some of what Paul and Hugh had lived, and died, through was far beyond Gabriel’s understanding. They all had good days and bad days and while for the most part, the bad were better by far than they had been they had learned to weather them together. They coped and flourished far more than many.

The sound of the replicator finishing its cycle broke through the hush between them and Gabe lifted his head from Paul’s shoulder. Behind him, he felt Hugh step away and turn to look in the direction of the appliance.

“Paul,” he said in a very familiar way.

“What, Dear Doctor?” the other man asked feigning innocence.

“Is that…” Gabe asked as the familiar scent hit him. “Is that peach cobbler?”

“And there’s a bottle of bourbon fresh off the latest transport from earth in my work satchel.”

“Not the most balanced meal,” Hugh pointed out. “But it does sound perfect. Gabe?”

“I’ll get the plates,” he said.