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Old November 27 2008, 06:31 PM   #20
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Arc of the Wolf: True Bearings - Bookends

Title: Bookends
Rating: PG-13
Words: 7468
Timeline: 2246
Disclaimer: Scotty is Paramount's property. Everyone else is mine. Wanna borrow 'em, just ask.
Notes: If you believe that the 23rd century is a perfect utopia and none of the things that exist now will exist then, then this isn't the story for you. It is, however, a reasonably optimistic tale. It's not tightly scripted or plotted, it's just another of those 'life is close to the ground' stories that's more about the characters than anything else. Originally posted here.


The air was so cold that the snow underfoot crackled sharply with every step. On the patches of road that had been cleared, there was still a frozen cast to everything; the whole world was mostly painted in monochrome. Aside from the bright bits of color from store signs, South Bristol was buried in the kind of gray-toned quiet that could only accompany winter.

There were a few times that Scott cursed his own decision to walk, but he doubted that even if he could rewind time and make the choice again, that he would do anything differently. It had become something of a personal tradition to leave the cab at the swing bridge and walk onto Rutherford Island, and along West Side Road. At first, he'd done that mostly as a method of burning off a little energy so he wouldn't be quite so nervous walking up to the house, but now it had become more of a chance to...

He wasn't really sure why he did it. Except that in a place that seemed to be fixed, there was something both comforting about its lack of change, and likewise something just as comforting in watching the seasons change around it.

Not quite so comforting was just how cold it was, though. The air was downright biting, and there wasn't even really anything more than a tickle of a breeze. Even in two layers, plus a coat, plus good boots, he'd halfway lost touch with his legs and he was pretty sure his hands would refuse to do anything until they were warmed up again. Aberdeen and Belfast could get a bit chilly, but Scotty had never quite known what the words 'wind chill' meant until he first met winter in mid-coast Maine.

In as such, he didn't really get to enjoy any of the scenery; he had his head down and his collar up and was mostly focused on the entirely solid ground underfoot.

Even despite the walking, and the fact he'd been here a fair number of times now, he still had to brush off some measure of hesitation when it came to actually knocking on the door. It certainly wasn't that Corry's parents ever made a big deal of him showing up -- if anything, he thoroughly appreciated that when he did, they just treated it as though it was a perfectly common thing to have this relative outsider around. Their lives were like the town itself; steady, for the most part, routine and comfortable. In retrospect, it was a lot easier to see why Cor had been such a wreck when his father had been sick. It was a giant rock thrown into an otherwise calm pond.

Still, it was considerably less nerve-wracking to knock now than it had been a couple years ago.

Melinda opened the door; that wasn't much of a surprise. Corry's mother was a stay-at-home type, a breed that Scott had never known in his own family, though she freelance wrote magazine articles about various aspects of that lifestyle and had earned a respectable income for it.

"Cold enough for you?" she asked, giving him the usual once-over to make sure he was alive and in one piece, even if it was a very cold piece.

He'd gotten better at not ducking under that look, even if it did still feel a bit strange. "No, ma'am. I can still feel about a third of my body," Scotty deadpanned back.

She laughed, then, taking his coat once he managed to coordinate himself enough to get it off. Though she didn't fail to give a bit of a disapproving look at the fact he was only wearing his uniform shirt, and a work shirt over that. "Andy's running a little late. He had to track down one of his professors to turn a paper in."

"I'll have to thank him for tellin' me about it," Scott said, offhandedly, absently flexing his hands to try to get some sense of feeling back into them. Corry's habitual unwillingness to give advanced warning for things hadn't been changed by two years on Vulcan.

She chuckled again, stepping off into the kitchen once she'd hung his coat up. "He was pretty excited about some of the research topics that are up for grabs down there. I'm just hoping that he thinks twice before bringing some of them home, though. There's only so much I'm willing to donate my kitchen to furthering Starfleet's knowledge-base."

Given that Scotty had been involved in a few of those kitchen-based lab tests, he could more than easily sympathize with her on that. He was willing to do just about anything Cor asked of him, but that didn't mean he particularly liked playing lab assistant, especially since biochemistry held no real interest for him.

After a few moments warming up by the door, he finally took a couple steps into the kitchen, though he didn't really have much else to say.

"I guess that when he gets further into it, he'll probably have to spend more time in a proper lab." Melinda didn't seem put off by holding a mostly one-sided conversation; she just set about preparing to make dinner, pausing only to put the teapot on the stove. "I think I'll like reaching into my fridge for eggs and not having to move petri dishes."

Scott nodded, not sure if she saw it or not. He usually felt more comfortable in the kitchen than he did anywhere else -- the only other place where he felt pretty much at home was the recliner that had unofficially become his in the livingroom, where he had a very bad habit of nodding off while Corry gave a heartfelt dissertation on cells and things that were, in Scott's mind, completely boring.

It was all pale yellow and white, completely different than his mother's kitchen, classically plain and it felt like morning in there most of the day. Except in the late hours, when there were only the lights on over the sink, and then it felt mellow and mild like evening. The only contrast was the kitchen table, old hardwood, though usually there was a white cloth on it. Frankly, he was shocked that Cor's mother put up with lab testing on that table -- it had to be a century old.

She talked idly about things, and he made it a point not to tune her out, even though his mind was devoted more to introspection than anything else. He didn't indulge in it that often, but these people seemed to provoke it. It was a mystery to him why, just as much as it was a mystery that he let himself be drawn into the routines here, even if it was only for short periods of time amidst the much longer stretches of work.

"Here, sit down," she said, after outlining her latest writing projects, and Scott obeyed it without a pause. That was another thing he had figured out gradually over the past year or so -- that in a manner almost disconcerting, Corry's mother could tell him to do something and he'd answer it more willingly than he did orders from his commanding officers. Didn't understand that one, either.

On the other hand, the fact she gave him a cup of lemon tea with a little honey in it might have had something to do with it. "Thanks," he said, immediately holding the cup two-handed in an attempt to finish thawing his hands out.

"You're welcome," Melinda replied, ruffling his hair up, then going back to her dinner-making ventures.

He didn't bother fixing the mess she'd made of his hair. Random, casual affection in this household was the rule, and not the exception. Scott still wasn't all that good at accepting it, but he'd had little choice but to get good at enduring it. Well, sort of enduring it. It was nice, but it was very foreign as well. A pat on the shoulder or a hug hello or goodbye came as easily to these people as everything else seemed to.

At least it didn't make him want to bolt out the door anymore, though.

"I'm hoooooooome," Corry sang out from the front door, dragging Scott out of his train of thought, and making him grin. Corry loved to call him melodramatic; Scotty loved pointing out that it was the pot calling the kettle black. "Man, is it cold out!"

"It'll be cold in if you don't close that door," Melinda replied, smiling to herself. Then the click of the door closing made her shake her head.

Cor shed his coat in record time; unlike his best friend, he was wearing more like four layers, and he had his own skimmer now that ensured he didn't have to do any walking if he didn't want to. He breezed into the kitchen, kissed his mother on the cheek, then promptly dropped into a chair at the kitchen table, addressing both of them and neither of them at once, "It's supposed to get even colder tonight, too. I should go out, I still haven't shaken off all that Vulcan dust."

"That's mad," Scott said, shivering briefly at the thought. It was far too cold for him in the daylight, let alone after the sun was down.

"It is not." Corry grinned, setting his gloves on the table, then leaning back again. "Just because you're part reptile doesn't mean we all are. But hey, it might do you some good. Toughen you up a bit, get some proper Maine blood into your veins."

"Ayuh," Scotty said, and smirked when Cor winced.

"No late night, sub-zero ventures." Melinda handed her son a cup of tea, giving him a pointed look at the same time. "He's not dressed for it, and you both have to go to work in the morning."

"Guess I'll entertain myself with the thought of testing the cryonic capabilities of island winter, since I won't get to put it into practice."

"Bastard," Scott muttered, hoping it was loud enough for Cor to hear, but not his mother.

Corry grinned, mouthing back, "I know."

"What're you two doing tonight, anyway?" Melinda asked, unaware of the two taking mild, age-old potshots at each other behind her. "And should I bother making you dinner, or not?"

"The plan is..." Corry stood up, taking a deep and unnecessarily dramatic breath before saying, "I am going to make science history! I am going to push the bounds of reality, making mankind rethink their entire place in the universe! I am going to--"

"What he's sayin', ma'am, is that we're probably goin' to sit here talkin' about what to do with ourselves, and that we're gonna end up watchin' bad movies in yer livingroom the rest o' the night," Scott said, speaking up loud enough to cut Corry off. "That's the rough translation, anyway."

"--I am going to strongly reconsider testing the cryonic capabilities of island winter on certain parties in this room right here and now," Cor continued, unfazed.

"And that's him sayin' that I'm right."

"All right, dinner for four," Melinda said.

There was a long pause, while Corry looked as sinister as he could manage (which was about as sinister as one of those baby seals or whatever animal it was with the big, heartbreaking, liquid eyes), and then in true form, he shrugged. "Okay, I'm gonna go put a vid on."

It wasn't really that they didn't go out and get themselves into trouble; in fact, since getting back from Vulcan in mid-September of the year before, most of their days off and some evenings besides were spent doing something. Sometimes barhopping, sometimes working on Corry's schoolwork, sometimes working on that skimmer, sometimes just wandering around. Scott had even been talked into sailing a few times when it was still fall on the family's little ketch, and found out that he got seasick just as easily as ever. But he still, inevitably, let Cor talk him into going out on the sea again.

If most of his existence had been more about endurance than anything else, about living by the day or the moment and moving forward without much connection to a past, then South Bristol was where he suddenly had something to measure his life off of.

Scotty blamed it on the chair.

The recliner was big, built for Aaron Corrigan's tall frame, and since he was close to half a foot shorter than Corry's dad, he had a lot of room in it. It was also absurdly comfortable. In the morning it caught the eastern sun, and it was more positioned for reading a book in the afternoon than watching the vidscreen at night.

He told himself, every single time, that he would not get so comfortable in that chair that he'd end up sleeping there all night. And every single time, he ended up nodding off anyway. So, for about four months now, he'd ended up knocking out there not quite two dozen times, and it was after the first dozen that he'd sort of figured it out.

It was one of those mornings where the sun was coming through a frosty window, very low and yellow still, that he'd drifted back to his senses to the sound of Corry's mother making breakfast in the kitchen. Buried in a fleece blanket, his boots set neatly beside the chair (which couldn't have been his doing; he was no better about putting them away nicely now than he had been as a cadet) and the realization was just as drowsy as the process of waking up.

Even before the Lady Grey, before everything, back over that Thanksgiving break he hadn't even wanted to take, he'd slept in this same spot knowing somewhere that he was safe. And for a moment, he felt the time, and the same things, and the different things.

Then he'd promptly pulled his blanket back over his head and fell back to sleep until Melinda woke him up for breakfast.

Nonetheless, he didn't protest to himself quite so hard after that about the possibility of spending the night in a recliner. It was more of a token argument than the real thing; even on the mornings where he'd have to wake up before it was decent in order to beat it back to work, he didn't really regret it.

This was one of those nights. He wasn't much for watching movies or anything else, and never had been. It was in the middle of some really badly made one where Corry was ranting theatrically about the impossibility of biochemistry creating radioactive zombie Vulcans that he put up his token protest for all of two minutes and then dove headfirst into oblivion.

He didn't even know exactly what woke him up again. Just that something had, something in the back of his head, something half-familiar and all worrisome.

The kitchen light was on, but it wasn't morning; a quick look at the clock built into the vidscreen told him that it wasn't more than two hours or so after the last time he remembered it being. He managed to drag himself out of his warm little enclave there, and was still rubbing at his eyes when he stepped into the kitchen.

Corry looked like he was wide-awake and all distracted, that look that echoed back to when he found out his father was sick, but there was no sign of anyone else. He nearly leapt out of his skin when he turned around and saw Scotty there, though he didn't yell out. After a moment, staring, he breathed out hard, "Cripes, you scared me."

"What's goin' on?" Scott asked, squinting a bit from the kitchen light.

"Just... nothing you need to worry about." Which, of course, had the exact opposite effect. Corry picked his skimmer keys up from the kitchen table. "Go back to sleep, Wolf. I'll be back before morning."

Without giving himself time to think about it, Scott leaned out of the kitchen, grabbed his coat off of the peg it was hanging on in the hallway, then eyed Cor. "So, where're we goin'?"

Corry's expression went from half-distracted anxiety to wholly exasperated. "Scotty..."

"Corry." There could be no doubting that tone.

After a very long, silent moment where they measured each other's conviction, Cor sighed. "It's Rach. She called, and she's in some trouble, and I'm just gonna go down to Boston to get her, okay?"

"What're we waitin' for?" Scotty asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Damn you," Corry said, though it was far more resignation than curse. He shook his head, still scowling a bit. "Go get your boots on, then." And with that, he stalked out of the kitchen and headed upstairs.

Not having the vaguest clue of what was going on, Scott went and did just that. He was already back in the hall and about to drag his coat on when Corry came back down and threw a sweater at him. "Put that on."

He did as he was told, though he had to roll the sleeves up a bit. "No cryonics tonight?"

There was a pause and then Corry shook his head with a slight, wry grin. "Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow."

Scott nodded, pulling his coat on. "After work, though."

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