"Ye've gotta tell 'em."
By that point, not even an hour before the light would really fade into the sky, Corry had already insisted Scott call off from work -- it had been another of those moments where they stared at each other, testing the seriousness of their respective stances, and Scotty was the one who gracefully bowed out of it. Give and take. Corry didn't want him working in space after a night like that, and he had plenty of personal leave time.
This wasn't quite so easy or graceful.
"Do you have any idea what that would..." Cor stopped himself, then paced a few steps in the kitchen, before stopping and trying again, "It's not that simple."
"Didn't say it was. But ye'll not do her or them any favors by dealin' with it yerself."
The idea of informing Melinda and Aaron Corrigan, two of perhaps the most decent, well-adjusted people in existence, that their daughter was a screw-up of the finest caliber wasn't a pleasant prospect. And Scott could definitely appreciate the strong desire their son had to just deal with it on his own, and not throw another big rock into the calm waters of their lives. If not for the fact that these people... these people mattered
to him, he would have probably been perfectly willing not to pipe up about it himself.
"How do I even do this?" Cor was on the jagged edge of nervous exhaustion, sometimes pacing, sometimes just stopping and staring off at something for a moment. He'd been handed a cup of coffee about a half-hour ago, and it was still full and now cold. "I... geez. I don't know. How do you even...?"
"Preferably with comfort food close at hand," Scotty replied, half-joking, dragging things out of the cupboard. "Breakfast."
Corry eyed him for a few moments, almost incredulously, but it went away. Then he shook his head with a tired chuckle, "Comfort food? French toast?"
"Sure, if ye want." It really didn't make much of a difference what he had to whip up, so long as he could do something. Scott couldn't help but admire the organization of Melinda's cupboards; it was easily as neat as his own mother's kitchen, though admittedly, not quite as stocked with everything under the sun. "Anything else?"
"Bacon." Corry thought about it, his agitation fading. There was a bit more to comfort food than the actual finished product -- the process of making it was the most important part. "Except for Dad, he likes ham."
"Bacon, ham, french toast. Aye aye." Scotty smirked to himself as he set Corry's lab experiments out of the way to get the eggs in the fridge, then slid the crate down the counter. "Break up five o' those in a wide pan."
Corry smiled dryly as he moved to do as he was told. "Aye aye."
Corry wasn't very good in the kitchen, and he tended to be about two seconds away at any given point from a cooking catastrophe, but Scott didn't kick him out. Just kept intervening before breakfast could become a disaster, falling into a routine he'd never actually been a real part of in this house, and finding it about as absurdly comfortable as that damned recliner.
These people were early risers, really; Aaron had retired from the SCE after the incident that nearly killed him, and had opened up a consulting firm in Damariscotta, which meant he was home far more than he used to be. He still took the occasional business trip, but his usual life now was to wake up early and go to work, then come home. Last evening, he'd done that and commandeered the vidscreen to watch the news for an hour, then he'd spent the rest of the evening in the kitchen talking to his wife over tea, the occasional sound of laughter making it back to the livingroom.
Just like Melinda, he pretty much treated Scott as though he were just another member of this household, right up to delegating the occasional chore, and right down to an unstated and silent expectation that Scotty would keep himself out of trouble. It was next to impossible not to respond instinctively to that kind of thing. But in a good way, not in a whiskey-bottle-on-the-table's-edge way.
"Did I miss a holiday?" Aaron asked, when he stepped into the kitchen and found them cleaning up from the cooking part of breakfast. Outside, the horizon over the bay was starting to just really get colorful, past the frozen windows.
Scott shook his head; Corry did the actual answering, "No, Dad. But breakfast is ready. Coffee?"
"Sure." Aaron sounded a little puzzled, but he wasn't given to all that many words and was probably waiting for an explanation as to why his son and his son's best friend had commandeered the kitchen.
Melinda wasn't too long in following. She had the rather impressive ability to always look like she was awake and ready for things; Scotty had yet to see this woman genuinely frazzled. She could convey disappointment in a glance, and she could get pretty angry, but he'd never really seen her be anything less than fairly composed about it. He had to fight down two things at that realization: The first, a frown at the idea that even her composure was going to be shot by what was going to be said soon, and the second that he really wanted to go and read Rach the kind of riot act that would involve lots of words he almost never resorted to using.
That fight got about fifty times harder when she was so grateful for breakfast, too. Wisely, he left the talking to Cor and just kept washing dishes. The ability to focus thought into action was a handy one to have. He was really more expecting that when this went down, he'd probably be kicked to the curb. Or, he wanted to expect that, even if somewhere deep down he was starting to have an unexpected faith that it would take a pretty serious crime on his part for these people to ever cast him out.
The faith turned out to be right, in the end; after the halting explanation, still Corry's talking, and the silent backing-up of the facts on Scott's part, both of them temporarily ceased to exist. And when Rachel stumbled down, looking drowsy but sober again, it didn't take her a nanosecond to realize what had happened -- she stopped in the doorway, looked at her parents, then leveled a reproachful look at the two who had ratted her out.
She got nothing but identical stony looks back.
"C'mon," Corry said, one step above a whisper, and they made themselves scarce, leaving Rachel to face the parents alone.
Hiding out down in the basement was sensible; it was quiet, out of the way, and they could do laundry. There was also a heavy bag down there to box with, but neither of them had the energy to throw any punches, even if there was plenty to be angry about. Or, there would be plenty to be angry about, but after the night and after the morning, it was hard to really feel much of anything but tired and wanting to not think much more about it.
But they couldn't have stayed there forever; after the occasionally raised voices filtering through the floorboards above died off, Cor had found his humor somewhere, even if it was rather sorry at the moment. "C'mon, let's go test some cryonics."
That didn't happen, of course; if anything, Scotty felt like a mummy in that many layers, and all of them aside for his own trousers too big on him, but he had to admit that it made sneaking out the back door and walking a lot less frigid and uncomfortable. Looked like a fisherman, too; Corry's civilian wardrobe mirrored his hometown, and even if he wasn't a native, Scott sure looked the part of Midcoast Maine.
Felt a little the part of it, too. They ended up in the cafe, sitting at a booth, both of them with their legs stretched out on the seats and an arm on the table. Bookends. Very tired bookends, even with a carafe of coffee and two cups in hand.
"I'm kinda surprised we're all still here," Corry said at length.
"I dunno. It's just..." Cor shook his head. "I don't know. I guess I probably wouldn't blame you if you never wanted to come back here."
Scott frowned at that, looking over, though he only echoed his own prior question. "Why?"
"Because," Corry replied, and managed to fill in all of the reasons in that one word.
"Take the bad with the good," Scotty said, and he meant it. "Lab testin' on a kitchen table or tryin' to help stupid sisters."
Cor chuckled at that, but only nodded. And they fell quiet again, but it was a comfortable kind of quiet. The kind you find when you're just too beat to really do much more than appreciate that you're still alive, still breathing, still in one piece even if you're not sure it was the same piece as it was the day before.
After awhile, Scott pushed his coffee out of the way and propped his head on his hand; not a steady enough stance to sleep, but more than secure enough to drift there awhile, and not do any thinking about what would happen in the next hour or day, or week. Just knowing that the before was safe, and the now was the same.
He was probably actually pretty close to being asleep at the table when he heard Corry sit forward, and that was enough to make him open his eyes and look over to make sure everything was all right.
There was no mistaking that attentive look; Scott followed it himself and found himself looking at a woman up at the counter. Pretty, if not a little stocky; her brown hair was pulled back severely into a tight braid, and she looked like she could probably put up a mean fight if she were so inclined. He chewed down a grin and looked back at Corry. There was a different dimension to that expression, though -- it was like the far deeper cousin to the infatuation they'd both shown towards Maggie back at the Academy. "Who is she?" he asked, keeping his voice down.
"Abigail Hanson," Corry replied, not looking away from her.
"Really?" Scotty had to look again. He remembered Corry had once pointed her out as one of Rachel's friends, years ago now, but it had been at a distance. Though, he remembered her looking a lot more fragile then than she looked now. "Followed her father?"
"Kinda. He was a marine, she's shore patrol. Her Dad still lives here, but..."
"But ye haven't gotten the nerve up to ask her out?"
Corry managed to tear his attention away from Abigail long enough to give his best friend an irritated look. "I'm working on it, I'm working on it!"
"Right." Scotty got to his feet, and was thoroughly amused at the horrified look Cor gave him. He didn't even make it two steps, though, before Corry had gotten up and dragged him back. "What? I was just gonna ask if she wanted some coffee," he said, innocently, though he didn't put up a fight. That might end with him in a headlock.
"I'll ask her out, I swear. But gimme a little time, okay?"
There was enough sincerity in the exasperated plea. After a few seconds of pretending to think about it, Scott let Corry off the hook and sat back down. But he still found it kind of funny that Corry watched her all the way until she was out the door again. There was something about the whole thing that felt like hope.
And for a moment, he was aware of the before, and the now, and in a way that was almost wonderful, something down the road that was only an impression. But a good one.
Maybe even a great one.
It didn't last long, but it lasted long enough.
had already been launched back in late November of the prior year, but despite the fact that he missed her being in the Fleet Yards, Scott was still able to focus pretty much on the work of the day, and the occasional dream that one day when she left, he'd be going with her. Nonetheless, there was enough to tie him to Earth that he didn't pine too hard; far less than he ever would have expected before all of this, when everything in him was focused entirely on getting out amongst the stars.
He still had no intention of living his life grounded. On the other hand, it was starting to dawn on him that no matter how far he ended up getting from Earth, some part of him would be tied back to his home world. And back to Maine.
There was no neat and clean ending to the whole mess with Rachel; a week later showed no resolutions, just that it would be an ongoing process and that life would continue regardless.
Corry showed up in the Fleet Yards at the end of that week, something that sort of shocked Scotty, who had been expecting to finish up his usual shift plus half another and then just go planetside tomorrow on his day off.
"Figured I'd keep you company on the way home," Cor said. "Well, that and things are still a little stilted in the house. But not like it was the first few nights."
"No surprise there. But I wasn't plannin' on headin' down 'til tomorrow." Scott dropped on his bunk long enough to start pulling his EV suit off, after he tossed his gloves on the table. He'd worry about making it all neat later.
"Plan's changed, then." Corry grinned, setting the bag he'd brought along on the table beside the gloves, and was awarded one of those 'what else is new?' looks. "Plus, I've switched my focus from testing the cryonic capabilities of island winter to testing the protective factors of insulation on skin cells by proper island attire."
"In English?" Scott asked, getting his suit off, and feeling a quick chill when he was back down to his usual uniform.
"Mom went and got you a proper wardrobe. She said that you're not allowed to wander around Maine without being dressed for it."
Scott shook his head, a little exasperated if not touched. "She didn't have to do that..."
Cor shrugged. "Take the good with the bad, right?"
"I'm guessin' no protests are allowed."
Scotty just nodded; give and take, fair enough.
"And I picked up the sequel. Radioactive Vulcan Zombies, II
," Corry paused there dramatically, then in a loud whisper added, "The Return."
Though, in that moment, Scott wondered wryly just how far that philosophy had to go.