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Over the course of his life, Hicks had had more than his share of long, drawn past breaking moments. He knew the ones where you held your breath, afraid if you let it out you’d die horribly, and he knew the ones where you couldn’t stand it, waiting for someone to just say something, even if it broke your heart. He’d endured the ones where you knew to your very core that your best wasn’t going to be enough, that your people were about to die, and he’d been lucky enough to experience a few where pleasure and belonging and sheer joy in another person stretched time out to infinity, when it seemed that that was all there was, or ever would be, or that you could possibly need.

But he’d laughed at Ripley when she’d told him that some of her very longest had been over a damn cat. He’d never known a cat, and that was fine by him, but now he was going to have to apologize because...

Because sitting there, waiting, useless, for Ellen to settle her accounts and fetch thrice-damned Jonsey the fucking cat from Al’s Hypersleep Pet-sitting Clinic where anyone or everyone could possibly--no, would likely--have figured out she might go? That was easily the longest moment of his life so far.

She was trying to kill him, and he was going to have to apologize.

The clinic doors opened and she walked out, a spring in her step and a carrier in her hand. She smiled at him, glowing, and no nasty death rained down on them from above. She kissed his cheek when she slid into the car. As he began to pick a careful trail back to where he’d insisted Newt and the baby stay, safe from the insane errands of cat lovers, she pulled the orange troublemaker out of its box and started cooing at it.

Okay, this was Ripley, so a lot of people wouldn’t call it cooing when she babbled, “Did you have a good nap, you little shit,” at the cat in the low, affectionate tone Hicks had learned to cherish, but he knew.

But then they rounded a bend, and the road opened wide into a cloudless sky ahead of them, and the tail sensors he’d insisted on purchasing remained mercifully silent, and, as she kept chattering at the cat, he found he didn’t mind sharing that tone at all, really. Actually, he’d go to pretty great lengths if it meant she got to use it every single day, and he didn’t care on who.

Okay, he clearly wasn’t a cat person, but he thought he could learn.

He was a Ripley person, though, through and through.