More than just a useless... what Cass had called him.

“Are you going Alex?” Enquired the merry Irish one.
“Uh, yeah. Obviously.”

Phi rolled her eyes.</snip>

Jade scampered on past, like she had a new lease of life. It made Alex chuckle. He hoped she’d temporarily forgotten about poor Cass, and whatever else might be plaguing her (thoughts of Tony after their recent conversation, perhaps). Not that these things shouldn’t be considered, but because it would likely do her good to have a break from them.

“Alex you’re so shallow.” Phi informed him. “You just said you weren’t going… Minute Jade pipes up and you’re all ‘ooh yeah, I’m going’.”
“I’m not shallow.” these days “I just like spending time with Jade. That’s all.”
Crikey, he was still drunk. Fancy admitting that.
“Well, that’s sweet I suppose.” She shrugged. “It’s not like you to be so nice.”
He scowled. “What do you want, Phi?”
“I came to point out you’ve not been for counselling lately.”
He groaned.
“Don’t whine. It was good for you. And,” she shuffled her feet. “… from what I hear, you could probably do with it more than ever at the moment.”
“Smegsake Phi, I can’t be thinkin’ about all that crap right now!” It sounded harsher than he’d intended.
“All right! No need to snap. I’ll talk to you when you’re in a better mood, Grumpzilla. Geez.”
And with that, she wandered off, a disapproving “hrmmm” sound which Marge Simpson would be proud of, floating back over her shoulder.

“Aw, Phi. I’m sorry.” He mumbled, watching her stride off. He'd been really glad she'd gotten over her weird nervousness around him and hoped he hadn't blown it.
She turned and called: “And for God’s sake, find some smart clothes to wear. No-ones going to be impressed by your pyjamas or greasy overalls.”
Good, she wasn’t mad. She knew what he was like.
She had a point about the clothes too.


As most things on the promenade these days had been designed as rodentwear, it was a bit of a task finding a nice outfit for Whiskermas. Maybe he’d have to borrow something from someone. Or nick, er, salvage, something from long-abandoned quarters. It’s not like he didn’t have any smart clothes, but probably nothing good enough for a posh ball. Why was he going to a stupid ball again?
His gaze found Jade and Katrina sitting at a table outside a café, chatting over a drink and some lunch.
Oh yeah, that was why.

“What are you wearing later, then?”
He jumped at the unexpected voice in his ear and turned to see Jamie. He took a couple of paces backwards and stared at him.
“Uh, hello?” The other man waved a hand in front of his face.
Solvay’s expression didn’t change and he didn't say a word.
“Clothes?” Jamie prompted.
Nothing. Just an awkward silence. But then, a sudden grumped. “What you been up to then?”
“Oh, Artemis and I have been making some plans for repairs and upgr-“
Alex growled, tiger-like.
“Smegsake. Yeh. Bet you ‘ave.” He’d snarled it before he’d realised what he was saying.
Jamie pulled a face. “What do you mean by that?” He sat down on the wall that surrounded a statue of Chutney the fat ferret, beckoning for Alex to join him. Solvay sighed and sat on a nearby bench.

He lit up a fag, thought about his answer, and let out a long smoky breath before replying.

“I just think it’d be nice for you and Artemis to consult some of us others on what you’re up to.”
“Oh!” Jamie seemed a little taken aback. “Erm…”
Solvay snorted irritably.
“Look, I ain’t got no problem with you mending stuff up, okay?” He swallowed and ran a hand through his hair. “Not in general.”
He took another draw on his fag, and coughed a little as he began to speak again.
“But you gotta realise, for a long time before we found you, after stasis, … well things were tough. It was gritty, it was survival. It wasn’t all like this.” He waved a hand around the civilised shopping centre. “And during that gritty time, my fr- my colleague, Gomez was… killed.” He shuddered. “So then it was mainly down to Bedge and me to be the repair team, fixin’ up what was possible.”

Jamie scratched his cheek and indicated he was still listening with a "mmm?"

Alex gave him a slight smile. He had absolutely no problem with Jamie as a person - and Artemis was interesting (even if he owned a horrific uber-spider) – but, as he’d touched on with Jade when she'd enquired about his Jamie-ware, he just felt funny about some of the stuff they were getting up to around the ship without mentioning it to him or the others.
There were a few reasons. He felt protective of the absent Bedge, and to some degree himself. In fact, he wondered if Jamie had even realised he was an engineer until lately, and not a bad one actually, not that he'd say that aloud unless pushed. At any rate, whether anyone realised it or not, he was more than just a useless… what Cass had called him.

Perhaps, he considered with a vaporous sigh, one of his problems with the ship-fiddling, was the fact that he was also protective of Bluey itself these days. Things had changed after the incident. He’d gone from one of many, many mechanics/engineers/technicians/repair crew, to one of very few.
And he’d become extremely fond of the post-‘apocalyptic’ rustbucket, dangers an all. The thought of another man’s hands over certain familiar contours…

Despite his grouch Solvay was a humble and unassuming man, but he had his pride. In his opinion, the way things'd been, it was only right for anyone fixing stuff up to consult him.

He nodded his head to himself. Yeh.

With a double take he noticed Jamie was waiting for him to continue. He cleared his throat and hauled his thoughts to the present.
“So uh, yeah, while Pancake - the little tosser - is probably still officially Chief Engineer, he’s been…” how could he put it delicately? “… Particularly preoccupied of late.” That’d do. "And for a while during the grit I've sort of had to be 'primary' engineer if you like." He normally preferred to refer to himself as a mechanic, but it wasn't the time or place to get into all that. He'd also been known as a glorified janitor but he wasn't about to admit that to Jamie right now.

Jamie squinted, thinking as he followed. This was probably the most Solvay had ever said to him. Oh... wait, he was off again…

“Now, I’m not saying I wanted to head anything, mind. Don’t like that sort of thing. I’m more than happy to follow, y’know? Ain’t into responsibility or leadership.” He blinked. "Really." There was a pained gravitas behind the word, and he shuddered, thinking of his forced sergeancy and all its terrible consequences.
Jamie nodded again, seeming to understand a bit, probably recalling the Roo tunnels.
“But it’s just the way things were, out of necessity for a while.” His cast his eyes downwards. "And now... And now Bedge's gone too."

Jamie cleared his throat. “So what’s your point?”
“Uh… My po-oint…” Solvay’s voice wavered just a little, but enough for Jamie to realise he was drunk. God that was awkward, but it did probably explain his wordiness and the way he kept stopping to frown as if mere thinking was an extraordinarily laborious task.

He pulled it together. “My point, Jamie…”

Damn, so overly serious. Now he'd clocked it, the inebriation was obvious.

“ …is that in my personal opinion, it’s just polite to check with the existing engineers before fiddling about with the ship, yeh? Particularly ones who’ve become accustomed to managing the tasks. You see?”

Jamie blinked. Solvay the grouch talking about politeness…
Alex seemed to read his thoughts. “Maybe not polite… But at least courteous” he clarified. “Kind. Yeh?”

Jamie thought about it. And opened his mouth to speak. Before he could, though, Alex was off again. There was no stopping him today.

“Ain’t your boss and don’t wanna be," Alex mumbled on "but seeing as how things’ve been, it’d be nice to be made aware of, and talk over any plans with you. Issjuss nice to check, you know?”
Jamie got it. “Okay.”
“And" Alex pointed out "... it’s likely more efficient that way too, rather than picking things up blind. You know what I mean?”

Jamie nodded and let out a large sigh of his own.“All right. That does make sense.”
Alex nodded. “Cool.”

"You wouldn't wanna do some of the shitty stuff Bedge did anyway."
“Who exactly is Bedge again?”
“Simulant. Saved my life. Bit of a murderer to begin with, turned things around. Cooks a good egg.”
Jamie raised his eyebrows.
Now Alex became irritable, worrying again that the whole thing might be disloyal to the hulking sim.
“Ah, you... you might be experienced and a good engineer, which from what I've seen you are by the way, but you were from another ship and then a planet. And Artemis can't know what’s been going on, he’s been frozen for smeg’s sake!”
Perhaps paradoxically, Alex's nature made him spiky when people weren't, what he deemed, considerate.

“Listen, Alex,” Jamie soothed, comprehending. “I honestly wasn't trying to replace your friend Bedge, if that's what you think.”
Alex ignored the statement, remembering Jade had said the same.
“There’s plenty to do" he grumped "And I’m sure Jay’s got stuff he wants done. Seymour or Jay’ll probably give us some orders soon. You've probably noticed by now it's not just a small scale operation...”
“I like mending things…” Jamie told him. Alex let out a snort of understanding, he could relate.
“Fair enough. There’s plenty of ongoing maintenance and fixing up that needs doing around this rustbucket.”
And it was true, the ship was vast and sprawling, and city-sized, and lifeform-evolvingly ancient. It had taken the survivors a long time just to get their ‘safe’ zone habitable after stasis. There was still who-knows-what to contend with in the deeper, darker places of the ship. Much still needed doing. It was an ongoing, crew-wide effort which had started the moment they'd been spat out of stasis.
It was a task on a gargantuan scale and, Alex thought grumpily-but-accurately, not something for a recently unfrozen scientist and an engineer unfamiliar with the ship to be attempting alone without telling the right people.
A generally honest man, Solvay said as much.

“I think Artemis is just keen to get Cass back.” Jamie murmured in reply “And er, I uh… I am too.”
“Yeh” scowled Solvay “We all are.” A distant part of him wondered why Jamie sounded so keen on Cass and he found himself drifting into another daydream. While he was extremely relieved that Jay was no longer dying, part of him actually felt angry with Cass for leaving them.
Huh, he realised, startled, maybe he should go and see Phi for more counselling…

Jamie's words cut across his thoughts again. “I’d like to get to know you better Alex.”
Solvay nearly laughed. Then, shaking the Cass-clouds from his mind, he realised Eastlick was serious.
“What? Why?”
“We’re both engineers, we’d probably get on well. I’d really like it if we could work together or be friends.”

After the Roo, and the desert, he did feel a little more comfortable around Jamie, but for a host of reasons, Solvay was a difficult man to get close to. People weren’t often let in, and they generally had to work very hard just to open the door. It was pretty much a miracle when anyone made it past the porch.
Most gave up when he turned the light off. And that suited him.

While he couldn’t imagine why on Titan Jamie would want to be friends with him, (he was well – and happily - aware that he wasn’t the nicest of people), he did appreciate the thought.

He gave him a half smile.

“That’s real nice of you” he said, noncommittally. “Thanks.” He meant it.

Jamie took a deep breath and blew out his cheeks. “So what are you going to wear, anyway?”
An offer of friendship and suddenly they were discussing clothes!?

Alex screwed up his face. “Er, not sure. Gotta go… Stuff…”
He got up and walked a few paces then looked back, poor Jamie appeared a little bewildered at the sudden action.
Alex nodded. “Cheers.” And he gave him a tight-lipped smile.
Jamie nodded in return, shrugged, got up, and headed over to join Jade and Katrina at their café table.


Alex stood and finished his fag in the ‘shade’ of a plastic bush which sprouted from behind another little wall. Then he pulled his hipflask from a coverall pocket and sipped languorously, as he watched Eastlick sit down and begin talking with the two women.

He tilted his head as Jamie put his hand on Jade’s shoulder.


<NB. I only know what he would say about wanting to be Alex's friend because he mentioned it couple times via email.>

<This might need further editing, but I wanted to post it before my 20.00 phonecall. You'll get the gist.>

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