May 23, 2514, approx. 2130 hours
en route to Greenleaf
There was no better time than gym time for a man to be alone with his thoughts. And Hoss had a lot on his mind as he pushed the exercise machine to its limits, performing his usual ritual of working out before bed. The hum of the Jin Dui provided a comforting background noise as he concentrated on his chest and triceps. He had stopped counting reps a long time ago; his workout routine was such habit by now that he instinctively knew how hard he could push himself and when he needed to stop or change exercises. Which was good, since it meant he wouldn't accidentally pull a muscle or break the machine.
Foremost in his thoughts was home. After thwarting Darius's intended kidnapping of Cooper at Bonnie Prince Charlie, they were high-tailin' it to Greenleaf to further thwart his plans to take Tilly. The Jin Dui was still too far away for a wave to reach them, but if he knew his clan and kinfolk, they'd be gearing up for battle as soon as they found out what was going on (and that would be the instant the ship was in range of the Zhŭ Què comm relay). Grandmama Mahaika and his parents and everyone at Blue Whale Bay would protect Tilly with their lives -- she was their tamaiti whāngai in every sense of the term. But Cooper wanted to bring the girl aboard the ship as her ward. Hoss was definitely in favor of this, for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was the risk to Tilly and his family if she remained on Greenleaf. And he really didn't want it to come to that. If Darius was throwing creds around the 'Verse hiring thugs to hunt down Cooper and Tilly and threatening to burn whole villages, who knew what else he was capable of? For all Hoss knew, his family might still be in danger even if Tilly did opt to leave Greenleaf, for letting her get away. That sent a shudder through him, and he paused to collect himself, the exercise machine rattling to stillness. Would Darius be that vengeful?
He couldn't -- didn't want to think about that. He'd already been stewing on it for two days, ever since they left Bonnie Prince Charlie. Shifting position so he could work on his biceps, he decided to think happy thoughts as a brain cleanser. Matariki! It was almost Matariki back home, the Maori New Year, so there would be a lot of preparations being made on Raikirua Island for the big celebration. That was a happy thought! Waiting up all night on the beach for the eyes of Tāwhirimātea to rise, with feasting and fireworks and colorful manu tukutuku and lots of song. And more feasting! Secretly he hoped they'd be able to stay long enough for that. He felt sure that it would help take everyone's minds off Darius and the tension over Carver's addition to the crew...
Carver. He frowned. Carver was a whole 'nother problem. Hoss didn't have anything against the man personally -- he had proven to be a hard, steady worker, helping the mechanic sort through the piles of loot from the Lucky Day without complaint. The circumstances behind his turning sides were something Hoss could pretty much look past, too. He'd seen far worse during the War, and yeah, while the man clearly had icewater for blood, he'd saved all their lives. And quite frankly he couldn't blame Carver one bit for doing what he'd done. Even if Cooper hadn't been there, he might have done the same thing. But she had been there. Hoss had put two and two together pretty quickly -- this was the guy Cooper had told him about way back during the War when they were both stationed on the Diamondback, the guy that she'd had him keeping a lookout for among the patients they treated together in the surgical unit, the red-headed marine with the mangled face who was a 20 in bed. That brought a wry little smile to the big man's lips. He knew what Coop's standards were -- he'd shared a rack with her aboard the Diamondback, after all, and there had been times when, well, when nature took over and they had fallen into each other's arms. She would have given Carver quite a ride, too. Maybe that was why she had stuck in Carver's mind after all these years.
No, what was bothering him about Carver was the amount of blind trust Cooper seemed to place in him. It couldn't be because he was good in bed, could it? Because that would mean Cooper was thinking with her crotch, as Sully had accused her of doing. And Hoss didn't think she thought like that. He knew her better than anyone else alive, quite probably, and he had never seen her behave like it was all about the sex. Maybe she just knew something instinctively about Carver that no-one else had picked up on yet. Or maybe she was just paying him back for saving their lives. Regardless, the situation was upsetting the rest of the crew, had them second-guessing the captain, and that wasn't good. He liked them all and didn't want anyone to leave. Yet he knew some of them had to be contemplating jumping ship at Greenleaf.
Hoss paused again and wiped the sweat from his face with his discarded t-shirt. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts. Abs, abs, even though it still hurt a little bit to work on his abs due to the wound he'd received at Starling Base on Paquin. Had to work on getting rid of the tummy he'd developed on the cruiseliner. Hooking his feet behind the exercise machine's crossbar, he did crunches while he thought happy thoughts about all the goodies they'd gotten for the Jin Dui. He was enjoying himself rummaging through it all and had already found some very useful bits he'd pulled off the Lucky Day. He could have Tilly help him install them, too, if she came aboard. That was another happy thought -- he'd have his very own apprentice! If she decided to go with them, that is. He really hoped she would.
The comm speaker crackled to life near him. "Hoss," came Cooper's voice. "We're in range."
The big man practically flew off the exercise machine, pounding one meaty fist on the comm link. "I'll be right there!"
Hoss didn't bother pulling his t-shirt back on or wiping the sweat from his body before thundering up the stairs, heading toward the bridge.