Maybe the deal cleared the air. Maybe having the secret of Jarrett’s identity out relieved the tension. Maybe Marc took it to heart that they just had to deal with each other as men, forgetting they were meant to be enemies. Whatever it was, it seemed to relax him. After that conversation he became quite chatty when he came in to help Jarrett or bring him meals. He even stayed in the room while Jarrett ate and sat with him afterward, both of them drinking some kind of herbal tea—foul, but Jarrett didn’t tell him so. They talked of nothing too consequential, and Jarrett still sensed caution if he asked personal questions. But Marc sat by the bed and talked anyway. He must be lonely, Jarrett thought, stuck here by himself for so long. Suddenly he gets a companion. Once he got past the part where Jarrett was a wanted terrorist and all, he was apparently glad of the company.
“So when the storm is at normal size,” Marc said as they enjoyed a post-lunch cup of the horrible tea, a week after the deal, “this outpost doesn’t just monitor it; it’s also a warning beacon to keep ships from coming too close.”
Jarrett nodded. “Yeah, it’s tricky on the sensors. Screws them up. Then you’re in the storm and lose everything before you realize what’s happening.”
“Exactly. The beacon warns ships to stay well away.”
“Like a lighthouse.”
Marc looked at Jarrett blankly. “A what?”
Didn’t he know his own history? “A lighthouse. Back on Earth, ships at sea could be in danger of sailing into rocks or other dangerous waters. So they built towers with a light at the top to help ships navigate away from the danger.”
“Wouldn’t that only work at night?”
Jarrett shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess during the day, you could see the lighthouse itself.”
“I’d never heard of them.”
So much for Earth’s boasts about its education system.
Oceangoing ships used sensors and auto-navigation now. But Jarrett had always found the idea of lighthouses rather romantic.
“So that makes you the lighthouse keeper. Marc Satie—lighthouse keeper.” He smiled at the nonsense. But that was odd in itself. Most of the old lighthouses he’d read about had been manned by at least two keepers. They had to be—one man on his own could come to harm, and then nobody would light the beacon. The more Jarrett thought about it, the stranger it seemed. But he didn’t say anything. It could wait. Everything could wait. He couldn’t go anywhere, and he could barely stay awake for more than two hours at a time. Just eating a bowl of soup exhausted him, and his eyelids were growing heavy again. Marc caught the empty teacup as the handle slipped around Jarrett’s fingers.
“You need to rest,” Marc said. “I shouldn’t have sat here talking. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine. Nice.” Marc might be lonely, but so was Jarrett, after all the months in solitary with nobody but the crowd in his mind. A gentle-voiced nurse by the side of his bed made a pleasant change. He yawned and sank deeper into his pillows, eyes closing, head fuzzy as Marc adjusted the blankets. Delicious warmth. Like sinking into a hot bath. Marc brushed his fingers over Jarrett’s forehead. Maybe only to check for fever, but it felt damn good.
“Light,” Jarrett murmured, still awake enough to recall his fear of waking to darkness.
“I’ll leave the lamp on and the door open.” Marc’s voice came from what seemed like a long distance, though Jarrett knew he was close, could feel his warmth and smell him. Clean smell of soap. “Call me if you want me.”
“Will do.” My nurse. My angel.
With him close by Jarrett could brave the darkness.
* * * *
“It’s time to get out of bed.”
Jarrett blinked at Marc, somewhat baffled, trying to shake off the mists of sleep.
“Out of bed? What?” Was he crazy? Unless Jarrett had slept for a lot longer than usual, his legs were still broken. He’d only been here for two weeks.
“The computer says you have to get up, that it’s dangerous for you to stay in bed too long.”
“Oh does she?” Bossy computers. Just what he needed. Marc gave him a puzzled look.
“Ah, yes, it does. Don’t move. I know what to do.”
“Glad someone does.” Jarrett lay there thinking about how he needed the bathroom, but willing to wait to see if he was going to get to use the actual bathroom this time. Marc, meanwhile, brought in a wheelchair. Aw, hell.
Not his favorite mode of transport. Didn’t exactly put a man in a position of strength.
“How am I supposed to get into that?” Jarrett asked, feeling grouchy and ready to question everything.
“Wait,” Marc said. “Please, be patient for a moment.”
“I am a patient,” Jarrett said, making Marc click his tongue and roll his eyes. Jarrett grinned. “But I’ll try to be a patient patient.”
“Well, if you’re making jokes, you must be feeling better.” Marc pressed buttons to adjust the bed. Jarrett instinctively grabbed on to it as it sank down until it reached the level of the wheelchair seat. The chair had a leg support, kind of like a recliner, which Marc extended, and he lowered the back until the whole thing was as flat as the bed. He dropped the armrest of the wheelchair and the safety rail of the bed. “Now you just need to slide across.”
Jarrett looked at the chair dubiously. “This looks like a two-man job.” A skinny little thing like Marc couldn’t lift him. He had twenty kilos on the guy.
“We are two men.”
“I meant two men in addition to me.”
“I’m sorry. I, um, don’t know how—”
“Never mind. Okay, I see how to do it. I can swing and slide my upper body across if you support the legs and move them.” He reached up for the handle he’d been using to help himself sit up and adjust his position. He didn’t have the upper body strength he’d had once, but he thought he could manage this. The legs were going to hurt like a son of a bitch, but he could deal with it. Marc took the blankets away, revealing the little tent Jarrett was making in his hospital robe.
“Um. Sorry,” Marc said, flushing bright red.
“I just need to piss.”
“Do you want to do that first?”
It might be a good idea. If the pain of moving was bad enough, Jarrett feared he might well piss involuntarily. Not an appealing thought. But no. He wanted to get himself to that bathroom.
“Let’s just get this done. Get into position.”
Mac went to the foot of the bed. The casts had handles on the end for lifting. Someone had thought these babies through. Jarrett tried not to look too close. The cuts were healing well, but his skin was still a hundred gruesome bruise colors, mostly black, purple, and a sick-making yellowish green.
“We have to go at the same second,” Jarrett said. “The straighter I can keep my body, the less it should hurt. You understand?” Marc nodded, his eyes bigger than usual, face now pale rather than bright red. Jarrett took hold of the handle again, with both hands this time, and tried a couple of experimental lifts. His back and ass came off the bed, and he thought he could hold the weight long enough to swing across. “On three. One. Two. Three.”
Jarrett’s scream of pain echoed off the walls. They must have heard it back on Chindra. Marc flinched, but he did his part, lifting Jarrett’s legs across as Jarrett swung his body across, lowering them gently onto the leg support as Jarrett’s ass dropped into the chair. Jarrett collapsed in the chair, sweat pouring off him.
“Son of a fucking bitch! Bastard! Fuck, fuck, fuck!” The words relieved his feelings a little. The room spun, and he closed his eyes, panting, trying to escape the nausea with some deep breaths. Marc scurried about, and something covered Jarrett’s mouth suddenly. He batted at it until he realized it was an oxygen mask. Then he grabbed it and held on and gulped the cold air, which he knew had painkillers in it too. Once he had a hold on the mask, Marc let it go, and a moment later Jarrett felt a prick into his arm.
The pain and nausea diminished after a moment, and Jarrett opened his eyes and moved the mask away. Well, he hadn’t pissed himself at least. That counted as a win. Marc hovered over him with concern all over his face.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Did it hurt too much?”
“I’ve had worse,” Jarrett said in the most gruff and macho voice he could summon at present. Any resemblance this had to the mewing of a day-old kitten was something he’d deny under oath. Marc smiled at him, apparently recognizing the posturing for what it was.
“You did so well. I didn’t think you’d be strong enough to swing yourself across.”
“Strong as a horse.” More posturing. But Jarrett was feeling better every second as the drugs took effect. “Okay. Let’s try the bathroom.”
Marc looked dubious, but he raised the back of the chair into a sitting position and wheeled it to the bathroom, Jarrett’s legs sticking out in front, multicolored toes the only part exposed to the air below midthigh. The bathroom was big and had some clever gadgets and arrangements for someone in Jarrett’s position, so it was a slightly easier job than getting from the bed to the chair, and with the drugs still swirling, the pain wasn’t so bad.
“Okay. Some privacy, please,” Jarrett said once he was securely on the seat. Standing up to piss lay some time into the future, he could see.
“Of course,” Marc said. “Call me when you’re ready.”
“Go make us some coffee,” Jarrett said. “I may be some time.”
After the whole victorious claiming of the bathroom, Jarrett got to see the next territory he’d have to conquer. Marc helped him back into the wheelchair, gave him a fresh hospital gown, and covered him with warm blankets, then wheeled him out of the infirmary. The room outside seemed huge after days confined to his sickroom, not to mention all the months in his cell. But after a few minutes, Jarrett calmed down and saw it wasn’t so big, and he studied the layout.
This center room, a general living and recreation area, was an octagon, and each face of that octagon held a room. To the right of the infirmary lay doors marked BEDROOMS. On the left was an airlock. Jarrett made a note to find out exactly what lay beyond that. Going counterclockwise from the airlock, he saw a room marked GREENHOUSE. Next was an open area without a front wall, the kitchen he could see into from his bed. Then MACHINE ROOM, and then another open area with a control desk and a load of monitoring screens, all displaying information. Next another one with a door. COMPUTER ROOM. He might have to pay that a visit if he needed to dig real deep into the system. That completed the circle back to the bedrooms again.
The central room held comfortable chairs, entertainment screens, and a table with six chairs. One area had an exercise bike and a multigym. Jarrett vowed to start using the multigym as soon as possible, start getting back his upper-body strength before he wasted away entirely. He couldn’t let himself get too weak. He had no idea what was coming when they storm passed, but he had to be ready.
“Nice place,” Jarrett said. It was nice. Neat and tidy. Marc was domestic. “How about that coffee?”
He got coffee and cake, and then a grand tour as Marc wheeled him around the different rooms. “Just curious,” he said when Marc frowned at him asking to see the machine room and computer room. “Tired of the same four walls.” A door in the monitoring area led to the plant, Marc said, the installation where all the monitoring equipment lay, recording data about the storm. And the warning beacon, no use at present and closed down, waiting to come back online.
Behind the kitchen lay a food store, which he took Jarrett into, but he wouldn’t take him into the freezer, saying it was far too cold and it was just a freezer. Nothing to see. Last of all a tiny laundry room.
He didn’t take Jarrett through to the bedrooms.
“There’s only mine and four empty ones,” Marc said. “Nothing to see.” Jarrett didn’t push it. Nothing odd about not wanting a terrorist to see your bedroom, was there? Maybe he hadn’t tidied up. Jarrett would get in there later if he needed to. He had no doubt about that. If nothing else, he’d like to sleep in a proper bed, not a hospital bed. But the infirmary would be his bedroom for a while.
Jarrett stayed out in the rec room for a couple of hours while Marc puttered around, working, cleaning up, and taking instructions from the computer. The wheelchair was well padded and quite comfortable. With the warm blankets covering him, Jarrett eventually started to drift off. He didn’t want to sleep. He wanted to scope this place out and figure out an escape route or how to take control. Anything useful. But the drugs made him drowsy, and he started when Marc leaned over him, smiling kindly.
He’d have bristled if he’d felt awake enough. “Not a baby,” he objected, but with no heat in the words. Marc pushed Jarrett back to the infirmary, and Jarrett had to wake up enough to reverse the earlier ordeal, getting back onto the bed. It wasn’t so bad this time. Maybe he was more prepared for the level of pain. Or maybe the drugs took the edge off. He only swore a bit and didn’t scream as he slid across and Marc lifted his legs. He relaxed into the pillows with a sigh. They felt crisp and cool. Marc had changed the bed while Jarrett was up.
“Thank you,” Jarrett whispered as he slipped away again. “Angel.” Had he said the last word out loud?