"I always knew I'd die alone in space."
Dale Volker slumped over the table, staring out at the glow of light as the ship danced through FTL. He looked at the dazzling array without really seeing, mouth drawn down dramatically, posture defeated.
"You never told me that." Adam Brody said, pouring them both another shot from the thermos. Hesitating slightly, he added an extra splash to the one he pushed towards the other man.
"Yeah, but I always knew it." Volker said, reaching for the test tube serving as a double shot glass.
Brody held his thermos cap at the ready, plastic and glass clinking with a muted sound in a toast. He turned to stare out the window, shifting so their shoulders brushed. "Me too," He offered finally.
They watched the space in silence for a good long while. Finally, Volker made a sound not unlike a sob and sank his head down into the crook of his arm.
Brody's hand hovered uncertainly over his shoulder before gently patting him twice. "You wanna talk about it?" He asked finally, clearing his throat.
"...We are talking about it." Volker muttered, voice muffled in his sleeve.
"About dying or about Lisa and Greer?"
Holding his thermos lid in both hands now, Brody watched his reflection bubble and ripple as he squeezed rhythmically, making the liquid dance. "Yeah."
Volker sat up abruptly, sniffing breath through his nose as though he'd just thought of something. "Am I an idiot?"
"Yeah," Brody said easily, taking a long drink of the bitter liquid.
That earned him a snort of laughter at least. "I mean for not noticing. I mean, I guess everyone else knew it."
"We don't see stuff we don't want to, sometimes." Brody offered eventually, leaning his elbows on the table to stare ahead.
"Yeah." Volker ran a hand through his tangled blond curls. "I need a hair cut."
"We all do. At least you're no Rush."
The silence was more comfortable now. Brody turned to watch the light play across Volker's face.
"It's hard to hate a guy when he gave you a freaking kidney," Volker murmured quietly.
Brody poured himself another drink, and wished, not for the first time, that he had been born with a different tissue type.
“Do you ever think about having kids?”
Brody glanced up, looking at the other man, puzzled, before continuing to twine the wiring back into the panel. He lay on his back in the hallway, head and shoulders inside the wall, repairing cables damaged in a power overload following a refueling in a particularly volatile star. “Can’t say that I have,” he replied, reaching for another bit of wire.
Volker stood above him, holding the flashlight and occasionally referencing Rush’s hand-written notes. “I was just thinking that… The longer we’re out here, the more likely it’ll be that someone’ll end up with kid. Wouldn’t that be weird?”
Brody sighed. “Is this about Lisa again?”
“She mentioned the other day how hard it would be to teach a kid to write now, what with the lack of good paper and her… uh… problems.”
“She’d figure it out, though. We’ll have better paper eventually.”
“Yeah,” Volker dropped down to a crouch, peering into the opening. “So how’s it going in there?”
“I’m about finished here. Want to grab something from the mess before heading back to the bridge?” He finished tightening the last bit of wire before pushing himself forward on his elbows, coming up short a few feet from the other man’s face.
“Do you think you had kids on Novus?” Volker asked softly, looked down at the flashlight with more care than was necessary as he switched it off.
“Nah, that doesn’t sound like me,” Brody replied, rolling onto his side to push himself up out of the floor. He offered Volker his hand, tugging him back to his feet.
“Maybe that’s why you were such a mean old man,” Volker joked, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “You were all bitter about being alone.”
“Yeah,” Brody said quietly, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as they strolled through the winding corridors. “I bet that was it.”
“It doesn’t work that way.” Brody snapped, recalibrating the energy array to alter power flow through the next section allocated for repairs.
“You don’t know that,” Volker protested, rolling his sleeves back before continuing his typing on his own console.
“Yeah, I do. It can’t work that way. They say it at the beginning.”
“Well, did they even try?” He shook his head sarcastically.
“They don’t have to try. They know they can’t do it.”
“What was stopping them? I get that there were all these troops on the ground, but what was the tower-thing going to do? Look them to death?”
Brody sighed, running a hand over his hair. “The Nazgul have flying dragons.” He held up his hands, rolling his wrists for emphasis. “Dragons can eat eagles. They couldn’t just fly the ring in, or they’d have been picked off like … something easily picked off.”
“Yeah, but they have a wizard. Can’t he just… wizard them away?”
“Shut up.” Brody snapped.
“You shut up.” Volker retorted.
“Let’s do some work.”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be nice?” Rush cut in rhetorically, punching the buttons on his consol with more force than necessary.
They lapsed into silence for a few minutes, the only sounds that of the consoles chirruping in response to their programming.
“Did you even read the books?” Brody snapped finally.
Volker pulled up short, crossing his arms over himself. “Sure. Yeah. I did. …Once. When I was a teenager.”
Brody threw up his hands. “Oh, come on! How can you even be arguing this if you never even-“
“I read the books! I just… don’t really remember every little-“
Brody wheeled on him, interrupting him loudly, “I can’t believe this. You just saw the movies and decided you knew every little thing about the Lord of the-“
“Gentlemen, please,” Rush snapped, slamming his hands down. “Would you care to continue this conversation later when we are not all very busy?”
“Yeah, sure.” “Sorry.”
Suitably chastised, both men looked down at their hands, shoulders hunching. Work resumed for a few more minutes.
“…You know, you kind of look like a hobbit,” Volker said, looking sideways at Brody with a grin.
“Oh, thanks; that’s very nice of you.” He replied, not looking up from his screen.
“I’m just saying.”
“I’m not the shortest guy on this ship.”
“I never said you were.”
“Yeah, but you implied it.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Whatever.” Brody continued staring at the monitor, activating the illuminated display, eyes tracking over the data. “Power relay’s rerouted into the second sector. And what’s wrong with hobbits anyway?”
“Nothing is wrong with them. They’re just… hobbits.”
“Yeah, okay, well, what would you be, then?”
Volker’s eyebrows lifted in surprise as he considered. “Uh, I dunno. Like a ranger, maybe? Like whatever Aragorn was?”
Brody scoffed, powering down the display.
“What?” Volker protested, raising his hands in a questioning gesture.
“You wouldn’t last five minutes being a-“
With a sudden snarl, Rush launched himself away from his console, staggering past the two of them through the open doorway. He stalked off down the hallway, ignoring a passing scientist’s greeting.
“What’s with him?” Volker asked, surprised.
“I think he realized he’s the shortest guy on the ship.”
“Is he, really?”
“I dunno, maybe.”
“So…” Volker said finally, gathering up his satchel. “You wanna hit those power relays?”
Brody lay back on his bed, arms behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. He glanced at his door in surprise when the wheel spun and unlocked. Volker stood there, hands in his pockets, shifting back and forth.
“Hey.” Volker said finally.
“Hey.” Brody replied weakly, sitting up on his elbows. “Is something… Is something wrong?” He glanced over at his radio, resting on the bedside table.
“No, I was just…” Volker raised his hand, rubbing the back of his neck. “I was just heading down to the Observation Deck for a while… I thought I’d ask if you wanted to come, too.”
Brody’s face split into a soft smile. “Yeah, sure. Give me a sec.” He sat up, slipping his shoes on with one hand. “We drinking tonight?”
“If you want, sure.”
“Doesn’t matter to me.”
They ambled their way through the ship, stopping at the still to pick up a thermos after another brief consult. Finally, they settled down at the table, side by side, staring out into the aurora effect, elbows on the table.
“Have you ever noticed that we always sit… right next to each other?” Volker asked suddenly.
Brody glanced over at him strangely, quirking his eyebrows before opening the thermos. “Hard to observe with your back to the windows, right?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Volker took the offered glass tube, drinking deeply right from the top. “We, uh… We spend a lot of time together.” He said finally.
“The Volker and Brody Show,” Brody replied, smiling. At Volker’s questioning look, he shrugged. “That’s what Eli called us, the other day.”
“I like to think we’re funny.”
He chuckled depreciatively. “Yeah, you’d like to think that, wouldn’t you?”
“Adam…” Volker cleared his throat, peering at the liquid in his flask as though it held a secret. “Have you ever…” He stuttered at the other man’s look. “What I mean to say is… Have you ever considered… That you and I are…”
“I’m gay, Dale.” He said softly, gaze unflinching, expression heavy.
“Oh. Yeah. Okay.” Volker took a long drink. “You just… You never said anything…”
“Well, isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?”
“Apparently not anymore.”
They settled into silence. Volker drained his flask, setting it aside on the table. Brody reached for the thermos again and hesitated. He let his hand drop to the tabletop, taking a deep breath.
With a faint sigh of his own, Volker reached over and let his hand settle on the back of the other man’s, fingertips brushing his knuckles. Brody shifted to look at him, eyes widening. “But you’re…”
“Does that really matter out here?” He replied. “I mean… It’s not really that important. Not really.”
“I guess I get what you mean.”
“You always do.”
Brody chuckled at that. “The Volker and Brody Show.”
“It’ll go into reruns.”
Volker didn’t move his hand. Brody never pulled away.