“I put extra shells in your pack, and you should have enough jerky to last until I get back.”
“We’ll be fine,” Iris said. It was cute how he was worrying for them. No, not cute. Well, cute, but not like that.
Apparently, Si had been ready to head out in search of the other half of the Samsara when Iris and Peter had come up the hill in search of the only other shelter she knew about. Despite its mausoleum-like feel, she had no better option, but when Si and Cato came down to greet them she nearly cried in relief. The fact that her emotions had gotten the better of her when he’d given her that small nod of approval at the amputation of Peter’s leg was embarrassing.
She had to remind herself more and more lately that he was a Yakka, but as he spent the last two days teaching her how to use the guns and even went ‘hunting’ to feed them, the term began to take on a more positive aspect in her mind. For as long as she could remember, Yakka had been something negative, something to, if not ignore, then to overlook. They were people, sure, but she’d been taught that they hated her for her relative wealth and that she needed to be careful around them.
Si did not hate her. At times, like when he hugged her, and now, while he worried over their well being, it seemed like he liked her. She had to admit. When she looked past his status, he was physically appealing. He was strong, and the way he handled the guns…it was like he had been born with the ability since there was no way he had previous experience with them, being a Yakka. He moved fluidly, as if ready for anything. Simultaneously stalking while fully aware that he might in turn be hunted himself. Graceful would describe him if it didn’t have such a feminine connotation. Lithe maybe.
Then there was his mind. He looked at the world differently than anyone she’d ever known. He looked at everything like it was a puzzle to solve, something he could take apart and fix. In the scenario they currently found themselves in, she decided that that was the best kind of person to be with.
When she’d asked him how old he was he smiled and said something about being pretty sure that he had passed a birthday somewhere on the trip. He had been reluctant to divulge his age, perhaps because he knew that she was a little older than him, but such things were starting to lose importance in Iris’ mind. Fifteen, was the answer she’d finally gotten from him. Not much younger than herself.
“It's okay. We’ll be fine. You’ve done enough,” she repeated her assurances.
“Are you sure you don’t want to keep Cato with you? I’m still not sure he should go. He’s pretty beat up.”
“I don’t think we could stop him. He’s clearly attached himself to you.”
Seeing Cato follow Si around the past couple days was all she needed to know that, to Cato, Si was king. She did feel safer around the big dog, but she knew that he would be far more useful for Si, and she realized that she wanted the boy to come back. He was a capable accessory to her and Peter’s survival, she told herself. Nothing more than that.
Si smiled and looked at the dog, obvious affection in his eyes, then looked back at her.
“Alright. I should only be gone for three days, tops. If I’m not back by then, just wait longer.” She laughed, recognizing the movie quote.
“You know that we might be the only two people in the universe who appreciate Jim Carrey movies. After all, they are before our time, let alone those who are back on earth.”
He brightened and smiled broadly.
“Well, as soon as I can get power to this thing,” he slapped the interior wall of the Samsara’s ancient hull. “We’ll have to have a movie marathon. I’m sure the CSM were considerate enough to include Jim Carrey in their movie archives…you know, for posterity.”
“Those movies are important to our cultural identity after all,” she smiled. Were they flirting? She wasn’t sure. It felt too natural to be flirting. Friendly, she decided. That was okay.
It was okay to be friendly.
The thought of watching a movie was exhilarating, and she knew that if anyone could do it, it would be this Yakka boy. Si clipped the surprisingly light, but still heavy, shotgun to his sling and shouldered his pack, still smiling. He had found clothes other than the ubiquitous no-longer-white jumpsuits that all of the hibernating passengers had worn and they felt strange, but were a welcome change. She tried not to think of the dead person who they belonged to. Si wore a khaki colored ensemble that was too big for his smallish figure, but he’d rolled up the sleeves of the shirt and his defined forearms were an indicator of the ropey muscle she was sure she’d find elsewhere. She kicked herself, and she hardened the muscles in her face.
Iris told herself that her strange new feelings and thoughts toward the Yakka were reasonable given their situation. He’d protected them. He was a stable, logical piece that she’d been missing in her life since awakening in this strange place. Si was kind and secure, strong in ways that Geoffrey would never understand, and she felt safe with him, she realized. It wasn’t just Cato that was a reassuring presence. It was Siris. The differences between Geoffrey and him could not have been more stark, and so it was natural for her subconscious to cling to Si.
Peter was petting the dog, of course, and giving them both a pep-talk of sorts.
“It’s okay, Cato. You’ll be back soon, and we’ll be fine here without you for a while. We’ve got guns now,” Cato, for his part, sat patiently, accepting the love and adoration he obviously believed himself worthy of.
Iris didn’t really understand what the rush was, but Si had been visibly impatient about leaving for the wreck. She had reminded him just the day before that it had been there for about a thousand years so it probably wouldn’t all disappear in the next week or two if he wanted to take his time. He’d just nodded his agreement to her point, but then countered with “it’s been here for that long, but who knows what it has that will be invaluable to our survival. I have an inventory” holding up the tablet. “ and if only a tenth of the stuff still works, we’ll need it if we want to live here.” it had been her turn to cede the point. ‘Live’ instead of ‘survive’.
She realized that she was still thinking of just survival, while he was at least one step ahead, already striving for a life here. He understood the situation. This wasn’t just a dream from which they would wake. They had to start living if they wanted to make it, and in order to get to that next step, they’d need the stuff on the other half of the Samsara.
Si smiled his goodbye and started down the hill. Cato, ever afraid of being left behind, ran to catch up.
“Bye Cato! Bye Si!” Peter yelled after them. Si waved over his back a final farewell. She stood there on the outside of the hanging curtain of vines that marked the doorway to the Samsara for a long time. It felt as if, with each step, her short lived security dwindled. Despite what she’d told Si, she was scared. Suddenly it felt like the decisions that would come were weighing down on her and her alone.
“You like him,” Peter’s teasing voice drifted over.
“No,” she rushed to deny. “I just…never mind.”
“It’s okay. I like him too,” Peter said. The look on his face was thoughtful, as if he was being profound. “He helps…you know?” and she did.