There’s a man sleeping naked next to her on the floor. Sara bites her lip in an effort not to laugh and draws the top layer of their blanket nest into her arms, sliding slowly away. Last night had been fun, amazing actually, but she doesn’t have the time to do it again now. Her internship in the Hyperion medical bay starts today.
Sara tiptoes backwards, reassured he’s not awake, then spins to head to her bedroom at the rear of the small apartment. She lives on the Nexus, close enough to Vortex to be dangerous as last night proved. Sara shouldn’t drink tequila, particularly the eve before her new job, but getting woken up only to discover her dad -- as estranged as they had been -- died to save Scott hit hard. Not that she’ll admit it to anyone. Especially not Scott.
She gets three feet from the edge of the plush carpet when naked guy speaks. “Were you planning on leaving me here?”
Caught, she pivots around with a sheepish grin, pulling the mess of a blanket closer to her chest. She feels a bit foolish in the artificial light of day, but takes a sharp breath at the sight of him again. He's a bonafide silver fox. This guy is close enough right now to be dangerous too. She laughs nervously; Sara has to get her shit together so she won’t end up on the floor again.
“Ah, well, ---” She completely blanks on his name, it's nowhere to be found in her tequila addled brain. His smile only widens as she fails to conjure up even basic information about the man she just slept with.
“I'm sorry, I actually can't remember your name.” She blushes, though isn't entirely embarrassed. This complete lack of information is not normal, but something about his entire vibe is disarming.
“Harry,” he supplies. Oh, his voice. She remembers that now. A flicker of interest ignites and she has to use that famous Ryder will and determination to tamper it down.
“Harry,” she says, smiling back just as wide. “I would have made coffee and given you a cup to go, but I have to run.”
“Are you sure I can't convince you to be late? The Nexus is always behind, no one will notice.”
She’s not a Nexus worker, but there’s no way she’s telling him what she is actually doing today. And while the offer is entirely tempting, Sara's not willing to risk her new career, new life, for any man. Even one as dreamy as Harry here. It's not like she can go back.
“No can do, Harry. It's been fun though.” She gathers up the edge of her blanket like she's pulling up the hem of ballgown, and chin raised, points to the door. “I’ll trust you can see yourself out.”
Med school hadn't prepared her for the reality of becoming an intern on humanity’s hope for a new future. The Hyperion med bay is flush with patients. It should just contain people coming out of stasis, but there are Nexus workers with actual flesh wounds arriving or in some cases, being carried, through the hydraulic doors. People are taking a beating off ship, somewhere in this new galaxy. Unease ripples through Sara as she thinks about Scott acting all heroic out there now that she’s seen what “out there” can look like. She’d be lying though if she didn’t admit the additional medical emergencies are exciting. She’d thought her internship was going to be pretty mundane until they settled on the right planet. To her knowledge, Scott hadn’t found it yet.
Speculation floats in the air. In the locker room, medical staff whisper about the colonies and the dangers they present, all the worst cases coming through the doors so far. A lot of people blame the Initiative, some even call out Alec Ryder for personally fooling them. Sara’s never been more relieved to go by her mother’s maiden name.
Two interns pick lockers on either side of her, last row in the back. One is a guy she vaguely recognizes from the last night on Earth, some cocktail mixer meant to initiate them to the Initiative. He eyes her when he thinks she isn’t aware. He drops his name badge on the ground at least twice when trying to hook it on his scrub top.
“Drop it one more time, I’m begging you,” the other intern says. She snaps her tag on matter-of-factly and pulls her long, dark hair into a sloppy bun.
“Got it,” he says, successfully completing the task now that he’s stopped staring at Sara and started shrinking underneath this other woman’s gaze. “I’m Charlie. I remember you from that mixer. I wonder if we’ll end up together -- kind of strange that I last saw you in a whole other galaxy and here we are again. That has to be a sign.”
Her other locker neighbor has moved on, heading out of the locker room. Sara watches her wistfully, not eager to start a mundane conversation.
“It's not really that strange, considering we were at a party for those departing on the Andromeda Initiative.”
“Right,” he says, backtracking. “I just meant we talked to each other then, in that room full of hundreds of people, and here we are now, next to each other again. Talking.”
Sara decides to be kind and leave it at that, though she’s really fighting hard not to say the obvious. She instead thinks back to the sexy man she’d left on her floor that morning. As her eyes begin to glaze over, a resident pokes their head in the door and hollers. Sara cranes past the line of the lockers to see a person in a dark blue and grey uniform holding a data pad.
“Wang, Harlow, Doss, you’re with me.” The person is certainly not Dr. T’Perro as she was hoping to see. She shuts her locker anyways, and much to her dismay, Charlie follows.
“We are together,” he whispers.
Turns out Lexi T’Perro decided to jump aboard her father’s ship. Sara had been looking forward to working under Dr. T’Perro. It was one of the few deciding factors for following Scott here. Her dad fell squarely on the cons list, but Dr. T’Perro had taken time to personally meet with Sara. It was the asari’s passion for the field and discovery that had convinced Sara to follow in her footsteps. Already annoyed by Charlie, and now let down by someone she hoped would be her mentor, the high she’d experienced from the morning’s exchange with the charming one-night stand had completely wore away. The resident, a person named Rodrida, pays them no mind as they converse with a nurse over the data pad. Charlie stares at Sara. The other intern from before, apparently Wang, taps her foot on the floor impatiently.
“Shouldn’t we be doing something? It's our first day. We can’t just sit here. That’s not the best use of our time.”
“We’re interns,” Charlie says. “We’d just be in the way.”
Wang stares him down with folded arms. “Maybe you would.”
Sara snorts, then instantly regrets it when Charlie’s face reddens. While she agrees with Wang (she really does not want to spend her time doing nothing), being on this mission took guts. Charlie must have had something heroic in him to push him to join. There’s not much time to linger on hurt feelings though as Rodrida finally turns back to them with a look that says, “I could care less.” They flick away something on the data pad and the nurse moves on to find a patient.
“You are now my problem,” says Rodrida. “And as my problem, my goal is to make you as unnoticeable as possible. I don’t want a reputation of having a problem that becomes other people’s problems. Do you follow?” They all nod like good little students. “You may have noticed we’re busy. Frankly too fucking busy if you ask me, but no one does. Just stick to the wakers and leave the Nexus people the fuck alone. You’re not ready for that. You just blinked into existence again two days ago, don’t go ego-tripping on me and pretend that hasn’t hit you.” They look at Wang. “Especially you. I hear a lot better than you whisper.”
To Wang’s credit she doesn’t even flinch. Charlie does it for her. An alarm goes off around them and Rodrida rolls their neck. The bay doors begin to open and a small army rolls in, a petite, mousy haired woman carried under the arms and beneath the knees while an omni-blade protrudes from her stomach.
“Dr. Carlyle is on his way,” another attending shouts to Rodrida as they pass by. “Take your interns and get on it.”
Rodrida glares at the back of the attending, a woman who comes no taller than their chest, before treating Sara and her fellows with an icy expression. She can tell they really want to argue, but attendings are in charge of residents. Rodrida has to follow orders. “My problem stays my problem. Remember that.”
Wang practically erupts, speeding over to the scene. Sara starts to follow, a rush of adrenaline shooting through her chest. Finally. For a moment there she thought she’d have to find her excitement in the bar again.
“My ex did this,” the patient yells. Now with the omni-blade removed and the wound wrapped, the mousy haired woman becomes a lioness. “We agreed to come here together and then we get to Kadara and she becomes someone else entirely! Starts running around with some guy called Reyes and the place is lawless. I tell you!”
Sara pats her arm. “Try to calm down, you don’t want to agitate your stitches.”
“We were wrong to revolt. I get that, but thank god for Mickey. He understood and came and got me.” The patient rests back against the pillows as Sara checks her vitals, worried she was going to have to give her something to relax. “You have a partner?”
Sara indulges her with a sideways smile. “No, but now I’m thinking that is for the best.”
“I saw the way that other guy was looking at you though. You really should be nurturing that. He would fly to Kadara for you in a heartbeat.”
“A Mickey?” Sara laughs.
“I’m serious. Sweetie, this place is a disaster. You have to find as many people to be on your side as possible. By whatever means possible.”
Sara is sure she’s insinuating something that gives a clue to why she came in with a stab wound from her ex-girlfriend. “I’ll keep that in mind,” she replies, flipping through the patient’s chart one last time to just absorb it all. She got to stitch the wound with Rodrida breathing down her neck, but it went fine.
“Hello,” a familiar voice says from behind her. The patient’s eyes light up. Sara turns around with an eerie feeling pricking her neck and the shock of the revelation nearly knocks her back a little.
“I’m Doctor Carlyle,” says Harry. Naked-on-her-floor Harry. “I’ll be taking over for Doctors Rodrida and--” he looks expectantly at Sara. She feels her cheeks flush for a second before realizing he’s giving her the same exact look she gave him this morning. Her heart pounds in her ears.
“Doctor Harlow,” she squeaks, confidence shaken. Naked man on the floor? Just fine. Naked man in her job -- as her attending? Sara gulps down air. The situation is no longer as funny as it was in the morning.
It turns out that Sara from the bar is the new intern Sara Harlow that Lexi told him about a few weeks ago. Harry chuckles as Sara fumes in front of him, long ponytail swaying as she shakes her head in denial.
“It isn’t funny.”
“Come on, it’s a little humorous. Things happen, we’re adults.”
She pokes him in the chest. “Yes, but you are an attending and I’m an intern. This cannot happen. It can’t!” She seems to be convincing herself more than anything, but Harry can’t stop smiling. He hasn’t been this happy to be yelled at in a long time. All he wants to do is to take her back to his apartment. Or hell, even the on-call room.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she warns.
“Enamoured. I don’t have the time.” Harry smirks. This woman is completely his type. No wonder they found each other last night. She raises her eyebrows and crosses her arms. “We clear?”
“Sure, Doctor Harlow. Strictly above board.”
She leaves before he gets the chance to make another quip. If her dismissal this morning wasn’t enough to get under his skin, this new line of attack has really amped his curiosity. At least now he doesn’t have to spend time finding a way to get personnel records from the Nexus. He would have been completely off-base searching for Sara there. Turns out fate is putting them in each other's path. That’s a sign if he’s ever seen one before.
The next few days are less exhilarating. Sara keeps him at arm’s length, and the situation on Kadara has settled apparently, fewer uprisers are coming back on their hands and knees begging for help. Harry could care less about the politics of it all. He wasn’t here when the Uprising happened and there’s no way he’d turn away people who needed help now. The Nexus med staff refused to see any of the people who’d fled the ship, but that’s a pretty fundamental slap in the face of the Hippocratic oath. It seems Andromeda is shaping up to be a bust more and more each day. They’d left Earth behind, sure, but what happened to human decency?
He’s reminded of that now with his intern Charlie. The kid’s timid, a bit slow on the uptick, but he tries. Rodrida was practically devastating the kid with each new command. Harry recognizes something Rodrida does not. There’s not a crop of new interns waiting to take Charlie’s place if he fails. They’re out in space now, floating and waiting for a new home. It’ll take years before another set of kids are released from stasis and start training for medical practice. They’re stuck with what they’ve got, for better or worse. For that practical reason, and not a sense of kindheartedness, Harry decides to take him under his wing. He’d rather coach up Sara, but at this point, being her mentor is certainly a bad idea. He doesn’t relish telling Lexi that either.
For what Charlie lacks in practical skills, he is relatable to patients just waking up from a deep sleep. He gives off the same far-away vibe that comes with recognizing that everyone you ever once knew is dead. Long dead.
“That’s alright, take your time.” Charlie says. The patient sits back down and holds the edge of the bed. “I was dizzy for two days straight. I’m surprised they let me in here.” The patient looks up in alarm. A pleading look enters her eyes.
“Doctor Doss is only joking,” Harry says above the patient’s data pad. “The effects should go away in another hour or so. Your in good hands here.”
Harry steps away, ready to check on his next patient: an engineer that probably should have woken up weeks ago, but the Nexus was terribly behind on processing requests. Sara’s leaning over the patient’s data pad now, pushing her heavy bangs out of her face. Before he can get there, Charlie cuts in front of his path.
“Did you really mean that?”
“Yes,” he says, confused. “The effects on long-term stasis aren’t as pronounced as you made it seem. The patient looked like they needed clarification on that point, not realizing you were making a joke.”
“No, the ‘good hands’ part,” he sighs. “I really feel I’m messing things up.”
Harry wants to tell him it is difficult to mess up the process, but sees the real question here. “You’re doing fine. If our situations were reversed, I’m sure I would feel a bit unsettled too.” Sara looks up from the data pad at his voice, then abruptly returns to scanning the chart when she realizes Harry could see her eavesdropping. “She’s really good,” Charlie muses, staring at Sara with big eyes. Harry isn’t sure the kid realizes he’s speaking out loud, but doesn’t encourage him to continue.
“If you’ll excuse me, Doctor Doss,” he says, patting Charlie on the shoulder. “I need to check in with Doctor Harlow.”
Sara presents the patient, a 45-year-old engineer named Bob who currently can’t keep anything down. Harry agrees with the decision to administer an anti-nausea medication, and after Sara orders it, he steers her by the elbow into the nearby administrator’s office. No one’s inside -- there’s actual been no administrators taken out of stasis yet, a fact that no other attending wants to say out loud in case the Nexus gets wind of it.
Inside, Sara leans against an empty desk with a mischievous glimmer in her eyes.
“You’re bored.” Harry moves in, putting his hands on either side of hers on the bare desktop.
“You think you know me,” she says. Their fingers brush and she twitches her lips.
“I know an adrenaline addict when I see one. I’ve been a doctor for a lot longer than I like to admit, a hell of a lot longer than you. Some of us do this because we want to heal people. I think you’re chasing the high.”
“And I suppose that means you’re the high.”
He shrugs casually. “That version of you that warned me off a week ago, she just assisted with a stabbing. You’re letting me this close now because you need another hit.”
Sara doesn’t deny it. The same energy they’d felt at the bar pulses between them. That night she’d approached him -- hadn’t asked for a name, hadn’t asked much actually, other than to clarify whose place was closer. Harry wasn’t about to say no to a beautiful woman that was far too good for an old guy like him. And he is old, objectively speaking, compared to Sara. He felt it on Habitat 7. But here and now, he feels young enough to do anything, definitely cocksure. She tilts her head ever closer, parts her lips, considers what it’d be like to close the distance between them. Every fiber of his body wills her to do it. Because even though he could easily kiss her, it’ll be far more satisfying when she makes the choice herself.
Harry is brutally honest. While it should have pissed her off, Sara’s usually smart brain can’t think of anything now besides how good it would feel to kiss those lips again, to fold herself into his arms and relive the other night. This happens more often than she would care to admit, chasing some kind of adventure like Harry pointed out. Her dad and Scott killed people in pursuit; Sara figures a series of one-night stands and solving medical emergencies is a far healthier way to handle it.
One of her hands trails up his arm, the other lingers at his waist. Sara inches forward on the desk she’s sitting on, wrapping her knees on either side of the good doctor’s hips. She wets her lips and as soon as she moves in to make contact, he goes the rest of the way, capturing her head with his hands, fingers in her hair, messing her ponytail. Her blood pulses hotly, a fuzzy heat drowns out all the what-ifs and why-she-shouldnts. He coaxes a moan from her with his talented mouth, and Sara grips him even harder with her fingertips. They’re reckless and careless, lost in something real and all-too human. She hears nothing outside the rustle of fabric, hands traversing skin, low groans and high-pitched moans. Neither is exposed, but there’s something more vulnerable about what they’re doing -- or not doing -- than from her living room floor. Now they know one another enough to know better.
The door clatters open behind Harry and someone gasps. Facing that way, Sara freezes first. They’re in an entirely compromising position, her hands on his bare chest, his lips on her neck. Thankfully she’d not removed anything yet; Harry just has to button up, not that he looks bad in the situation. Sara is the only one taking a risk.
Charlie steps in and wavers before storming out, shutting the door behind him and muttering apologies. He flashed Sara a look she’ll soon not forget. Confusion, betrayal, judgment in that short order. She slides back on the desk, untangling herself from Harry.
“Sorry,” he offers, fixing her scrub top straight. “I really didn’t think anyone would come back to this office. I should have thought better on it. Rumors are hell around here.”
“You’re forgiven,” she says. “I knew better. You weren't wrong before.”
He extends a hand and she takes it, hopping off the desk. He pulls her into him, tethered by their clasped hands. They make it no further than the closed door before they feel driven to kiss again, not chastised enough by being caught out. This feels sweeter, somehow. Sara’s stomach flips unexpectedly. Does she have some sort of attachment to naked-on-her-floor Harry?
“I see you're trying to prove you're worth it," she teases.
"Is it working?" he asks.
Sara squeezes his hand before flinging open the door. She looks back over a shoulder. "I'll let you know."
The rumor mill is particularly busy, Harry was right. Charlie seems to work fast, coupled with the staff dealing with basically the same case over and over again. People get petty when they’re bored.
Charlie will not look at her, which is somewhat of a relief. His gaze was too heavy anyways. Rodrida say nothing, but their accusations are all too clear with each terrible assignment. Sara ends up doing the residents’ chartwork residents for the remainder of her day. The monotony is soul crushing, but luckily her Harry high is still untouchable. Sara hums to herself over a data pad, entering a patient’s vitals. Wang stops over to the the desk where Sara’s sitting and hands over a stack of data pads.
“I hear you slept with Doctor Carlyle in the on-call room.”
“That’s not exactly what happened.” Sara drops the data pads with all the rest.
“Good for you though,” Wang says. She leans over the edge of the countertop on her elbows. “And good for me because now I don't have to chart. Someone else has finally pissed off Rodrida.”
Somehow the shift ends without anyone else piling on Sara. In the locker room, Charlie scurries away while she and Wang decide to visit the Vortex. While Wang's intimidating at first, Sara appreciates her candor. It's also been a relief all week to talk to someone experiencing the same journey she is.
They sit at a booth, under the hot neon glow, taking tequila shots despite having to work in less than eight hours. Sara lets her hair down, not caring about the kink from her elastic. She's relaxed, enjoying the loud music and Wang's judgement-free company. Already she can tell her anything without worry.
“I met him here before,” Sara shouts. “I had no idea what his name was. Maybe I should have asked for his credentials before sleeping with him.”
“You're kidding. Sleeping with an attending is brilliant. You'll get the best cases. I should have thought of it first.”
Sara rolls her eyes at Wang, but laughs. So far the perks had yet to materialize. “And people called me ambitious. You're next level.” Wang just shrugs and smirks, knowing full well her ambitions and not caring who else does. A waiter drops off two waters and Wang makes a face while the waiter points to a spot Sara can't see. The shit-eating grin on her new friend's face begins to worry Sara. Only until she leans fully out of the booth and spots Harry at the bar.
“He wants you hydrated,” Wang teases. Sara smacks her wrist while Wang pretends to pull it away hurt. “Go on, just tell me how hot it was tomorrow.”
“Are you sure? It feels like a shitty thing to do.”
“No. Ignoring that to keep from offending me would be far worse. Have at it.”
Sara scoots out and Wang slaps her behind as she picks up her bag. She's still dressed in her scrubs and Harry seems to be working his best after-hours outfit. Gone is the white and red uniform that was charming. His fit form is well defined in an off-white ribbed sweater, and his leather shoes look more expensive than her entire apartment. She may have been living rent free given her inheritance from her mother, but other than a place to crash, Sara was riding on her own shabby coattails. In this situation, she appeared like someone looking for a much older sugar daddy. She didn't relish the thought.
“I imagined you'd look happier in this scenario,” Harry says.
“It's not that,” Sara says, touching his knee as she sits on the barstool beside him. She angles towards him, knees knocking, takes a big obvious drink of water for his benefit and sets the glass and her bag on the bar. “I just had a realization of what people might think of me, chasing this,” she waves a finger up and down at him, “high.”
“What do you want to do?”
Her pulse quickens as she contemplates not seeing Harry again. The sex was hot before and now that there's a forbidden element to their relationship, things can only get better. And if he'd been an asshole she would have been ready to say no, but Harry has given her the space to decide each step of the way since they realized their roles. He also seemed to be a pretty decent person, treating Charlie with much more compassion than most, and Sara appreciates good character, even when she struggles to be kind herself at times. Above all though, Harry has a charming charisma she just can't deny. Even though the logical choice is to play it completely straight and walk away, her interest is piqued.
“It’s probably bad form to admit you like someone after a one night stand and a simple follow-up make-out session.”
He chuckles into his drink. “You have those?”
“If happens.” she staggers their knees, his-hers-his-hers. She's been told before she does intimate way sooner than anyone else. Somehow, despite past let-downs she's trusting. “Look, I still think this is a bad idea, but if you're not going to give me any special treatment or jeopardize my career, I'll promise not to make any jokes about your age. But if you’re just interested in casual sex, I can do that too.“
“Preference?” he asks.
Sara transfers her hands from her knees to his and uses them for leverage to lean in for a kiss. It's a quick one, but she puts a bit of mirth into it, quirking her lips and whispering, "Can't you tell?”
They end up at Sara's place again, she leads him by the hand to her couch and tells him to wait there.
“I need to get cleaned up,” she says.”I've been in these scrubs all day.”
“Are you sure I can't join you? I'm pretty seasoned at taking scrubs off.”
“No, I think you should wait,” she teases, flinging off her top and dropping her bra as she walks to the bathroom door.
It's an agonizing five minutes, not that he's counting. Harry surveys the room from his place on the couch. There are pictures of her and a young man framed on the entertainment stand, then the same guy appears beside her in another photo with an older woman that is the spitting image of Sara. Has to be a brother and her mom. He wonders if she left them behind.
The melancholic thought is swept away when Sara steps out of a steamy bathroom. She wears a snug, short grey robe that clings to her damp chest. Her legs are long and athletic, her waist curvy and her breasts are absolutely stunning. He's seen it all already, but now with more detail about who she is, Harry feels like he's started coloring in what was just an outline before. And the colors are lush and vivid.
Sara wastes no time. She straddles his lap and loosens the robe. A shoulder is revealed along with her chest. She reaches down and undoes his fly, and finds him well prepared. The sight of her walking out of that room was good enough to get him there. Harry slides his hands over her freshly shower-soft thighs and then between them. He finds her wanting and with that jolt of information, hurriedly gets his pants down further and her seated in place.
What unfolds is just as edifying as the other night. She leads, he follows, it works for them both. Sara kisses like someone reading great poetry, romantic and dramatic and soul-consuming. She doesn't just use her mouth, she gives her whole vulnerable self away, conveying how much she wants and needs. He's never experienced anything like it before, and he almost cares more about what's happening above the waist. Of course that's only partly true. She's also riding him, chasing her own high and when she's close, she stutters and sharply breathes before the euphoric smile crosses her face. Harry wants to make her do that more often.
Eventually after they've finished and Harry stops lazily kissing her neck, it seems natural to stay. Sara doesn't apparently mind, which was fortunate considering he couldn't make himself leave if he tried. She disrobes fully on the way to her bedroom, while he actually undresses. Sara sits in front of a dark wood vanity that and probably ate up a lot of her weight allotment coming over. She gestures towards the bed with the brush she's using to comb out her wet tangles (his fault).
“There's probably more pillows on there than necessary,” she says. “If you put your stuff in the closet, you can throw some in there.”
Harry looks at the pile of pillows. They're not decorative, but just regular ones in overabundance. “So this is why you made me sleep on the floor before.”
She drops her brush and comes for him, knocking him backwards into her mound of pillows. “I need to snuggle at all times,” she says. “Probably lack of affection and too many meaningless sexcapades.” She says it like a joke, but of course, it's really not. She's on top of him, forearms across his chest, drying hair tickling his skin.
“Then I'm glad you changed your mind.”
He runs his hands down her back and they both pause for a moment saying nothing, feeling something there. The moment is fleeting and then Sara bolts up and dashes out of the room.
“Just locking up,” she says, already out of sight. Harry lays back against the dozens of pillows and stares at the ceiling, drumming fingers on his chest and considering all the ways he could fuck this up.
Weeks pass and the rhythm of their relationship is easy. Harry stays over each night, they have sex at least once, if not twice, before leaving for the med bay in the morning, and both manage to keep it entirely professional at work. Rodrida still penalizes Sara in small ways, but she takes it in stride.
He and Sara don't plan to see each other during the day, but today found themselves in the break room at the same time with a few other staff. Normally they draw all sorts of looks, but the Pathfinder is apparently on ship, and people are quick to speculate what he'll be sharing. Harry could swear Sara perks at the news, then tries to hide her excitement through a few hard, hot sips of coffee.
“Alright there, champ?” He says, patting her on the back after she grimaces.
She looks at him guiltily. “I haven't told you something yet, but I think you're going to find out sooner or later. Probably soon if I know him.”
Harry's stomach drops for a second. Were the Pathfinder and Sara once a couple? He immediately thinks the worst thing possible first. Maybe she followed him here. His nerves feel a bit frayed, and Harry shifts uncomfortable in his chair.
“Don't look so upset. It's not like I'm harboring a secret affair,” she laughs. He should feel better, but his gut sinks more. Harry is on the verge of admitting something himself when she leans in conspiratorially and touches his arm. “Scott Ryder's my twin brother.”
That's surprising, so much so that he forgets his other issue momentarily and takes her hand in a rare show of workplace affection. “I know your brother. I was going to be on the Tempest. We were on Habit 7 together, he saved my life. But twins; that means your father is, was...”
Harry lets go and wipes his face with the hand. Flashes of trying and failing to save Alec cross his vision, as well as Scott Ryder on a gurney, moments from death.
“I'm so sorry, Sara.”
Her brows wrinkle. “Why are you sorry about that?”
It slips out before he can think better of it. “I couldn't save your father.”
She blinks in shock and sits back in her chair. He thinks he should do something, say something, but he has no words. Alec's death hit him hard at first, that's why he was on the Hyperion instead of following Scott around Helius, patching up his wounds again. Why does she go by Harlow, he wonders. It's too late now though. He may have avoided entangling himself with Alec's daughter had he known, but he wouldn't, couldn't, change that entanglement now having been with her, slept next to her, laughed with her and watched her become ever more confident in herself in her new career. They just started their relationship, but he already felt so invested in it.
A flurry of voices whip up suddenly in the break room. Scott walks in and directly picks up Sara in an enormous hug. She isn't smiling when he sets her down and Scott looks about as confused as Sara was a minute ago.
“What's the matter, Sar?”
A few nurses whisper behind Harry. “ She's in trouble now.”
Sara pulls her scrub top down where it's ridden up. “I wasn't exactly telling people we were related.” Scott puts his hands up and gives his sister the same sheepish smile Harry's seen her make.
“Ah, shit. Sorry, sis.” He turns around and addresses everyone else in the room. “My sister's always embarrassed to have a twin that's so much better looking and charming than her.” Harry rolls his eyes and Sara claps his arm playfully, a small smile creeping across her worried face. If people were talking about her before...
Scott finally spots Harry once his showmanship ends. “Harry. Nice to see you.” He expects Harry to get up for a hug and he does, albeit slowly.
“Hey, kid.” they share a one-arm embrace. Scott is a good guy, has a bit of a big presence, as did his father. At least Scott doesn't rub people the wrong way with it.
“So you guys know each other. Why didn't I think of that? Of course.” People snicker and Scott looks around. “What I miss?”
Sara stopped talking to her dad shortly after her mom’s death. There wasn’t an event or moment or incendiary word that tipped her over the edge, but rather a slow chipping away of a years-built tolerance. Sara just realized there wasn’t a reason to subject herself to his company. She’d only interacted with Alec for the benefit of her mom, and once she was gone... The balance Ellen Ryder had kept between a nurturing home and a critical one disappeared.
Sara couldn’t forgive him for trying to take Scott away from her either, for pressing the Initiative at a time when they both were in pain from loss, when Scott wasn’t wholly convinced he could leave a place where he was doing so well.
Standing in the break room, with Scott’s face full of doubt and a little fear, brings Sara back to the miserable days between her mother’s death and meeting with Doctor T’Perro. Scott was all she had. She may like Harry, but Scott, he is what matters most.
She takes his warm hand, squeezing it so he looked back to her instead of the accusatory eyes in the room. “Can we talk later? I have to get back to work. My resident will ring my neck if I don’t come back. You know my code, right?”
His concern melts away and Scott leans forward to kiss her cheek. “Ya, sis. I’ll find my way down there later. Message me when you leave?”
She sighs in relief. “I will. There’s so much. I’ve missed you.”
“Miss you too, Sar.” Scott backs away, tipping a fake hat to the staff in the room and casually walks out. “This show’s free,” he jokes.
Sara raises her brows at Harry, then blows a deep breath of air between her teeth. “Well, I better get back.” Harry wavers with a hand near her elbow, unsure of whether to comfort her or run away. She lets him off the hook. “I’ll message you,” she says, and gets back to work.
Stop whatever you’re doing and come find me.
Already in your apartment this place is a messsss 😷☠️
It is not that bad.
yOU HAVE clotheS everYwhERE
your bedroom floor is COVERED in PILLOWS
Get out of my room!
What are you 10?
I have to go talk to my brother, catch up. Maybe we can see each other after?
I don’t want to put you on the clock, Sara.
It’s your brother.
Yes, sorry I didn’t tell you before.
You don’t have anything to be sorry for.
We’re still getting to know each other.
Now I know.
This isn’t weird for you?
That isn’t the word I would use.
But, of course it is surprising.
It isn’t the biggest shock I’ve had in the recent past either.
I’ll miss you. Don’t fall asleep unless Scott bails on me.
I don’t imagine I’ll be able to sleep without you.
Scott lounges on her couch, elbows on knees, examining the picture of them with mom on a beach in Rio. Sara offers him a drink, gin just for him, and scoots him out of the center of the couch with a hip. They lean against the cushioned back and Scott puts an arm over her shoulders, photo on his lap.
“This was weeks before her diagnosis, wasn’t it?”
“Yea,” she says, taking the photo. “I remember we were so happy to finally have a vacation for once. Dad wasn’t there and we got to meet all the family we should have known all along.”
Scott’s watching her speak, a little furrow between his brows. “He knew you hated him.”
“What?” She almost drops the frame out of her hands. “I may not have liked him, but I didn’t hate him.” He twitches his lips before taking a drink. “Scott? Really?”
He raises his free hand and shrugs. “He was sorry, when he died. He didn’t have time to say much, but I know he was regretting how distant he’d been. And he saved me, Sar. You’d think he’d just give two shits about anyone but himself, but he saved me.”
They remain silent for a moment. She’s not sure what to say, whether Scott is still grieving or processing. He probably isn’t trying to guilt her, but his words are effectively doing the work. She has to tell him about Harry, but this hardly feels like the right moment to do so. Scott sighs, sets his gin and tonic aside and scratches his scalp with both hands, burying his face afterwards. She pats his back.
“I think maybe he made a mistake.”
The gentle patting turns into a smack.
“You deserve that. Of course he didn’t make a mistake. You’re his kid, it was the only option he could have chosen.”
He peers up from the side of one hand. “I didn’t tell you this before, but SAM killed me yesterday. Stopped my heart. I told you the Archon trapped me. Just didn’t want to go over the logistics of how I escaped over messaging.”
“Scott! You buried the lead.” Her nerves bungle. He’s risking his life day in and day out and she’s not on his ship helping. Sara jumps up and heads to the fridge to find herself something to drink. She hates the AI. Just another wedge between her father and his family, an obsession. Now it murders her brother on a Tuesday. She leans against her counter and pries off the cap of a beer, taking a drink to settle herself. “Did Doctor T’Perro examine you fully? Is SAM putting strain on your heart? You should really let me take a look at you. If not me, then Harry.”
Scott shoots up and steals her beer. “Ha! I knew you guys were screwing!”
Sara’s mouth falls open, stupefied that she’d fallen for one of her brother’s roundabout conversations. He was the master at getting exactly what he wanted out of her, their mom. Not Alec, but that’s because he was a bull-shiter too. The entire “feel bad for me, I’ve lost my father” bit had thrown her off her game. Scott knew no bounds.
“You played me.”
“Yes and it was so easy. But stop stalling. How long have you been doing your boss?”
She wrinkles her nose and takes back the beer that is rightfully hers. “He’s not my boss, technically. And it’s kind of a funny story.”
“Good, I could use one. I died yesterday you know.”
After a few days in his own bed, alone, Harry was all too eager to see Scott off if only to return to routine. It was still new, but Sara was not someone he wanted to share. He didn’t even feel bad about admitting it to himself. At the docks, he’d shaken hands with Scott, who had no issue with his sister dating him. Harry was relieved. Scott asked Harry to look after her while he was gone. Sara hardly needed someone to take care of her, but Harry would certainly not let her out of his sight for the next few hours until their shift started.
The two of them walk back to her apartment with a bit of haste like teenagers, barely able to hide their desire to get back to her bedroom and lock the rest of the world out for a while.
With the door partially ajar, Sara jumps into his arms and cups his face in hands. He carries her into the bedroom, and they undress quickly, helping each other until they realize they're actually hindering the process. The sex is hurried and hot, even though there’s time, but three nights were three too many for either of them. Harry can’t remember a time when he wanted someone this much before. Was it too long since he had a relationship, or was Sara just that addicting? To think he first accused her of the addiction. Now he can’t get enough.
She stretches luxuriously beneath him, breasts lifting, languid smile forming. He cages her ribs with his palms and her skin pebbles, nipples hardening again.
“Quit, I need food before we do that again.”
That seems reasonable, but hardly fair. He doesn’t want to wait another minute. “As long as again means before we go in.”
She leans up and kisses him softly, then quickly pats his cheek. “Of course.”
He watches her walk away and thinks he should make it up to an observation deck and count his lucky stars. There’s just no reason for her to be spending time with him like this, and he knows his peaceable days are numbered.
After a few hours of fooling around, Harry and Sara make it to work. It isn’t long before Charlie sticks to him like a newborn foal, following a few tentative steps behind Harry at all times. Not asking for anything, just waiting. When Harry turns to inquire, the kid busies himself with whatever is nearest by, as if Harry couldn’t obviously tell he was being trailed. By the afternoon Charlie ditches him and ushers Sara into the break room. He tries to ignore it as some casual jealousy -- Charlie had wanted Sara from before they even met, but an unsettled feeling trickles down his spine. Rodrida shoots him a dirty look over their data pad as Harry comes to consult, and Sara is still nowhere to be found. It carries with him from patient to patient, until Harry's stomach knots and a sweat breaks out on his brow. A nurse asks him to come double check something wrong in the cryo bay, and that's when Harry realizes he’s already fucked.
“I imagined you'd look happier,” his wife says, seated on a bench in cryo, woken far, far too soon. Ismelda is impeccable as always, beautiful dark hair, expressive eyes. Even a six-hundred-year nap can’t change that. Sara's face turns colorless at the expression she uses, as if with those words Ismelda confirmed what crazy Charlie said was actually true. Sara looks like the one who's just came out of stasis. She takes his wife's pulse and Charlie has the gall to linger nearby with the stasis pod, deactivating it.
“But maybe you were hoping you didn't have to explain your wife to your girlfriend.”
“We're separated,” he says automatically. Sara’s eyes narrow and he knows how defensive he sounds. He can’t stop himself, it’s like a collision with the sun, he’s being sucked in and scalded alive. He can feel the flames coming from both women. “You cheated on me. I don't have to explain you to anyone.”
Charlie tries to sneak off and Harry points at him. His voice is venom. “You better stay put. This patient was not supposed to be taken out of stasis until colonization.” Sara begins to walk away, resisting looking at him, and Harry starts to stop her until she pushes back.
“I didn’t revive her, Doctor Carlyle. This isn’t my business either.”
He watches her walk away. He imagined he’d of had more time.
Vortex is nearly empty save for two doctors who should be on the clock, but when aren’t they on the clock in Andromeda? Sara sits rigid, one hand tipping the metal cup of whiskey to her mouth the other readying the chaser. She’s not sad, yet. Anger makes her laser focused, and nothing makes her angrier than whiskey.
“Want another?” Wang pushes over her cup.
Sara takes the shot and slams the cup. Her stomach feels surprisingly fine until a harried Charlie comes stumbling in looking for her. Now the anger boils dangerously.
“Oh, shit,” Wang says. Charlie tries to scoot in the booth opposite Sara, but Wang doesn’t budge. “You can’t be serious.” He stands instead, his hands twisted together, shoulders slumped.
“Sara, I’m sorry--”
Sara raises a hand to stop whatever was coming next, but he continued, heedless.
“I thought you’d want to know. He’s taking advantage of you. I only did it for you.”
“I don’t remember asking you to do anything for me. I think you did it for you. Because if you had any concern about me you wouldn’t of humiliated me where I work.”
Sara can’t help but raise her voice to a level that may have been described as shrill by any man in the vicinity. Luckily Anan the asari bartender could care less, and Wang’s enjoying the show. “I don’t want to hear it!”
“He--” Charlie strains to be heard, hands trying to articulate some hidden brilliant point.
“You better leave,” Wang smiles. “We’re mean drunks.” She bites at the air like a mad creature.
“Fine, but Sara, he’s not a good guy.”
“You’re not either, Charlie.” She turns her head away and watches the wall like a petulant child, but if it is the only way to make him leave, fine. Sara hasn’t been this angry since her dad pulled her and Scott into their apartment under the pretense of looking at her mom’s things, only to ambush them with another Initiative pitch. Now she doesn’t have Scott to talk her down. Wang is proving to be a good friend though. She knows how to keep the alcohol flowing.
“He left,” she says, checking her Omni-tool. “But someone just came into the med bay reporting symptoms of takotsubo cardiomyopathy.” Sara throws a balled-up napkin at her.
“He’s fine.” She can’t help but smirk though.
Half an hour passes and Wang has to get back to work, only willing to test so much for friendship. Sara sits alone, watching Nexus workers filter in after second shift ends, grabbing their drinks and flirting and gossiping. Someone tries to grab the booth but her wild eyes drive them away. She think she should try Wang’s bite trick next. Her Omni-tool dings, a message from Scott.
~Tied up-- tmrw?
She sighs, ordering another drink on the device instead of messaging her brother back. A few, brave men try to hit on her, undeterred by her glare and the growing pile of empty glasses. Perhaps it's the empties that keep them stopping by. Weeks ago, fucking one of these men would have been her solution -- the next fix to keep her high going. A naked guy on the floor. Harry’s gone and wrecked her from casual sex for a while. All she wants is him.
Sara kicks the other side of the booth beneath the table in frustration. “Fucking Harry!”
“Sara?” She looks up from her misery to find Doctor T’Perro staring down at her. Sara stops slouching.
“Doctor T’Perro -- what are you, why are you here?”
The asari slides into the booth with her, concern marking her features as well. She sets down her drink and folds her hands in her lap, pulling herself together.
“One of your brother’s crew members made a comment that impacted me more than it should have. But it would be unprofessional of me to talk about it in more detail. What about you, Sara? It looks like you have been here a while.”
“You were cursing Harry when I walked over. Is that in reference to Doctor Carlyle?”
Sara isn’t sure how to respond. Does Doctor T’Perro somehow know? Did Scott tell her? All she needs is information like this to spread beyond the med bay -- soon everyone on each of the settlements will know she’s the first human idiot to be duped by an older, married man in Andromeda.
“I don’t mean to pry,” she says. “I just know Harry well. If he’s been hard on you, perhaps I can offer my perspective?” Sara laughs and the asari tips her head in an entirely human way. “You aren’t worried about your working relationship.”
“I’m sure our work relationship will suffer too. But no, I’m not upset about anything he’s done in the medical bay.”
“Do you know his wife?” As if a foul smell has filled the room, Doctor T’Perro’s nostrils flare, then her nose crinkles. She tips her head in a very regal way and an edge enters her smooth voice.
“I used to. She’s not here is she?”
“Yeah, met her this afternoon.”
Lexi’s Omni-tool flares up. She begs a moment and starts typing away. Sara’s not sure what’s going on, but it doesn’t feel good, whatever momentum is building.
“I asked Harry to come down here.” Sara’s already halfway out of her seat. “Please, before you leave, hear me out. Sara, please.”
“It isn’t my place to explain Harry’s relationship with his wife. However, I will stress that he’s been an invaluable colleague and mentor. He convinced me to join the Initiative and I convinced you.” She smiles. “I’m sorry about that last point. I know I haven’t measured up to my end of the bargain, Sara. I should have been mentoring you, but Harry was very clear about his emotional distress after Habitat 7. I felt it was best to switch places with him in that moment, and I did believe he could be as good a mentor to you as he was to me. I didn’t intend for him to--” she cuts herself off. “If I assisted in putting you in an impossible position in any way, I am truly sorry.”
Even the cold cockles of her heart have to admit that the intent was innocent. Maybe the alcohol is wearing off, but Sara warms to think of her and Harry’s first night together. The flirtation the next morning, the feeling of intrigue that followed her that first week before giving in.
“Doctor T’Perro you didn’t do anything. We met before we started working together and neither of us knew. Apparently I didn’t ask enough questions.”
“No,” she insists, touching Sara’s hand. “This situation is complicated. I understand if you need space to process, but I do not want to fail you too.”
Sara wishes she could press her for more, but a familiar figure cuts through the crowd near the bar. He looks left and right until he settles on Sara, straight in front of him. Harry’s collar is askew, his color a little flushed as if he just ran down to the bar. Sara thinks her immediate reaction should be rage, but of course the body isn’t as quick to hate as the head.
“I’ll leave you two.”
Harry slides in where Doctor T’Perro vacates. Sara’s been holding down this bar since 15:00. It’s as if she’s got a rotating cast of guests on a talk show vid. It’s not really funny, but the thought makes her snicker darkly. “We should move, to another spot. I’ve been sitting here all day.”
She bolts to the bar, and Anan simply serves her another drink passing no judgement as a bartender should. Sara lets the tequila sting her throat and burn her chest. Harry touches her shoulder as he comes to sit across from her and she wants to flinch away from it, but doesn’t. Stupid body, she thinks.
“I’m sorry,” Harry starts.
She stares blankly at him for a second when he doesn’t say anything more. “That’s it?”
“No, I was letting it sink in, because that’s the only time I’ll be saying it. I am not misleading you, I wasn’t ready to tell you about my wife because we were estranged. Stop me if this is sounding familiar.”
Sara’s actually never been spoken to like this before by a guy she’s seeing. She’s taken a bit aback by his approach, unsure if she should be appreciative of his direct nature or annoyed he’s not more sympathetic. Though, it is a very similar situation to what Harry just went through with her estranged dad and the shock of being twins with Scott. She didn’t warn him, because it wasn’t his business yet. And he’d been fine, supportive.
“I actually have no idea what to say.”
“That’s probably a first, isn’t it?” Harry asks. She accedes the point with a tip of the head. “There’s more to it, but I don’t make it a habit to turn myself inside out early in a new relationship.” He draws a deep breath. “But you didn’t ask to be brought into any of my drama and I do care for you, Sara. I hope you can believe that.”
“I could consider it,” she says stubbornly, fussing with the empty shot glass. He smiles, warm and inviting. She wants to curl up with that smile, in her giant mound of pillows. He’s making reasonable points, but is it just because she’s drunk and a mess? “Can you at least tell me, why would you come to Andromeda with your estranged wife?”
The smile disappears. “I didn’t know she was coming. She joined on her own and a different doctor put her into stasis before we left. Coming here was a way to get away from her. I only found out a few weeks ago after we kissed in the administrative office. I was running patient look-ups and Charlie was shadowing me. He must have figured out there was a connection.”
“He’s in trouble, right? Because if she wasn’t supposed to be taken out yet...”
“Yes, he’s going to get reprimanded. I asked Rodrida to figure out the punishment and run it by Doctor Hailey. Seemed like a better idea to take myself out of the equation entirely.”
Sara laughs. “But Rodrida hates Hailey.”
“And so? Rodrida is an ass to you. I’ve been waiting for a reasonable way to exact justice on them too.” He takes her hand and she melts a little bit. “If you’re going to be with me, I want it to be worth it. I’ll take out our enemies one by one if I have to.”
Harry’s not a fighter. She doesn’t know everything there is to know about him -- yet, but she knows that. Sara stands from her bar stool, pushes between his knees and hugs him tight. He folds his arms around her and she knows she’s not made a grave mistake.
Sara’s heart thumps wildly in her chest. The right kind of high to chase, though she’s not going to say it just yet. It is way too early for that.
“What do you say we get out of here, throw some pillows on the floor and call it a night?”