Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The view from the peanut gallery

Celina and Maia drifted out of the office, quietly exchanging a few words with the others that Tom Chambers had hand-picked for the meeting. They spoke of nothing in particular as the left the BCG compound, headed back towards the clinic for Celina to resume her afternoon's work.

When they'd finally walked out of earshot of the buildings, Celina exchanged a glance with her wife. "You know, for a man who claims he's not coming back to take charge, he certainly seems to be taking charge."

Maia held back a smirk. "You noticed that too, did you?"

Celina took her wife's hand as they walked. "Is he always like this? I only met him the once, when he offered me the position. Well, and at the gala."

"Like what? Melodramatic? Take-charge?" Maia shrugged. "I suppose. I don't think I've ever seen him do anything simply when there's an alternative that'll push people's buttons."

"Yours, too?"

The smirk broke through onto Maia's face. "Especially mine. Don't ask."

Here in the centre of Khayr-ad Din, the trash heaps were less apparent and more ordered. They passed shops and businesses as they walked the broad streets. "So what is this about you being the BCG duelling rep, and a lucrative deal with Paxton?" Celina cast a sidelong glance.

Maia shrugged again. "Haven't the foggiest. I'll have to ask him once his other people are done pestering him. What about you? Any ideas on how to expand the clinic with no money, no time, and no one noticing?"

Celina shook her head. "No clue. I've been here two weeks; I still get lost looking for the supply closet. But I'm sure some of the staff will have a few ideas, when I find out what Tom is really looking for."

For a few moments, they walked in silence, listening to the call of the hawkers. "What ever happened with Kain, by the way?" Celina asked it gently, but Maia could feel the stress behind the words. She shook her head.

"Didn't happen. I was planning on talking to him this morning, but a semi-secret meeting got in the way." She exhaled sharply. "I swear, sometimes I wonder that Terra Nova hasn't tipped on its axis, with so much ego concentrated in one place."

Celina laughed aloud. "I've never heard a better example of the pot calling the kettle black."

Maia stopped walking, mouth agape, and pulled her hand from Celina's. She bit back a rejoinder. Then she realized the ridiculousness of the situation and laughed also. "Touché. I'll fit right in here as soon as I figure out what the hell I'm supposed to be doing."

She took Celina's hand again and started walking. "In the meantime, why don't we go out for dinner tonight? I've heard that the restaurant at the Lucky Shot makes a mean steak, and after two weeks of nothing but caravan food, a steak sounds absolutely sublime."

While she was talking, Celina's face darkened. "Maia..." her voice was soft and tentative.

Maia stopped and took both hands in hers. "What's wrong?"

Celina took a deep breath. "Look, I've crunched some numbers... The salary I'm getting here is good, definitely better than what I was making on the ward back in Peace River..."

"Good," Maia interjected, trying to maintain enthusiasm while figuring out what Celina was getting at.

"...But it's nowhere near what you were making when you were working for Paxton," Celina finished. "I don't know what Tom's paying you, if anything, but we need to cut back. We can't eat out all the time anymore, or go on shopping sprees, or..." Her voice trailed off.

Maia traced a hand along the side of Celina's face. "Okay," she said gently. "So we'll cut back. The important thing is that we're both here, and Tanya's here, and we're starting over. But can we at least go tonight? A welcome-home dinner after you haven't seen me in three weeks?"

Celina hesitated. Maia gave a small smile, and Celina mirrored it. "All right, but only because I've missed you so damn much I thought I was going to explode."

They walked the last few blocks to the clinic quietly. When they reached the front gates, Celina gave Maia a quick kiss and squeezed her hand. "Pick me up at 2900, I should be done my shift by then. But this better be a damn good steak."

Maia grinned, "If not, you get to pick the restaurant next time."

A dark cloud flitted across Celina's face, and she shook it off. "Absolutely. And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got lives to save."

She walked into the clinic and Maia turned around, towards the BCG offices and whatever new unexpected surprise was waiting for her when she arrived.


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