The ship's gym was a dismal place. The bare minimum size to adhere to company standards ("because we care about our people" read the prospectus) with a sorry selection of equipment. The three Advanced Resistance Exercise Devices, or aRED's had barely changed technologically since the dawn of the space age.
But Brook loved it.
But Brook loved it.
Not because she was any sort of fitness freak. Rather it was because Fuller was. All those muscles, rippling as he pushed against the aRED, vest soaked with sweat, grimace on his face. Brook gave a low whistle as she drifted at the hatchway. Fuller had his back to her, so she could appreciate the view without him ruining it by talking.
Brook was a keen admirer of the male form in all its glory, just as long as it kept its gob shut. Fuller was nice enough, just a bit dull. They'd flirted a little when he first came aboard, even done it a couple of times when they got drunk, but he made for some of the most awkward pillow talk Brook had ever heard. All a bit too sincere. Brook was well aware how messed up the solar system was, but she just didn't feel the need to talk about it at excruciating length.
He did have a cracking bum though.
However, there was a job to be done, a mystery to be resolved that had been nagging a corner of Brook's brain right the way through the unpleasant breakfast with Billington. Just what the hell was going on with that spyder?
"Hey Fuller" she said, drifting into the room until she could lean against one of the unused aRED's.
"Oh, Hi Brook" the big marine drawled, briefly turning his head to glance at her, but maintaining his efforts on the aRED.
"How's it going?" Brook grimaced as she asked the question, Fuller was a swine for using a well meant, but rhetorical, question as an excuse to launch into another soliloquy.
"What do you want Brook?"
"I, er, what?" Brook was confused, Fuller was never usually that direct
"Fishing for the gossip? Find out really if Gumelar kicked my arse quite as hard as Mason told everyone?"
"Er...I have no idea what you're talking about Fuller"
"Uh-huh. Shit Brook, I even had Billington weedle his way up to me earlier, give me his 'sincerest' condolences before pinging me a list of possible return shuttles”
"Fuller, you're freaking me the heck out, what are you on about?" Brook was getting frustrated, the vehemence in her voice causing Fuller to look towards her again, this time stopping the aRED.
"You really don't know 'bout what happened yesterday?"
"I spent a depressingly large proportion of yesterday attempting to convince Phelp that life was worth living despite Si spurning her"
"Yeah, heard 'bout that. She ok?"
"She'll live. But will you please tell me what the hell's going on with you?" Brook was surprised to find that she actually meant that; usually with Fuller the last thing she'd want to hear were his feelings.
"Gumelar tore me a new arsehole"
"So? She's torn you so many new bumholes that you look like some horrifically faecal Swiss cheese"
Fuller snorted a laugh, looked down, ran a hand over his scalp before continuing
"Well, she meant it this time. I'm outta here"
"I don't follow"
"Busted off ship, sacked, fired, terminated. Come on Brook, you ain't simple"
"Shit" said Brook.
This caught Fuller of guard, his head snapping up to stare at her; Brook never swore. He frowned, forehead wrinkling.
"Don't sweat it, I'm ok with it, really. The Sergeant's a psycho bitch, but she's right. I ain't right for this"
"I, er, will miss you" Brook was staring at her feet
"Nah you won't. I ping you some immersion pics with my top off. That way you don't even have to listen to me"
This time it was Brook's turn to snap her head up. Fuller was grinning, but that didn't stop her stomach from sinking. That slightly odd feeling when it starts to dawn that you might have underestimated someone. An awkward silence built, Brook's mouth silently working as her brain tried to form a response. However, it was Fuller that broke the silence.
"What did you want, anyway?"
"So we established you weren't here for the gossip. And if you'd just wanted to check out my fine ass like you normally do, then you wouldn't have said hello. So what is it?"
Brook smiled ruefully, hands up in surrender
"It was nothing important, honest"
"Go on, indulge this not-so-old but soon-to-be-retired marine"
"Well, thing is, I was just wondering if you guys had been running any shipboard scenarios this morning? Taken a spyder out maybe?"
"Maybe, the, er, other....?"
"Other what?" Fuller crossed his arms
"Other, well, it doesn't matter"
"You mean the other marines that aren't getting their arses shipped back to Earth? That maybe I'm out the loop now?" his eyes were questioning, but with a hint of mirth; he was enjoying teasing Brook for a change.
"Well, sorta" Brook had reddened, something Fuller wasn't sure if he'd ever seen before, but liked.
"Heh. Well I might be out the loop, but I know Gumelar. She ain't interested in the onboard stuff, sees it as a waste of time. A conglom intervention ship hasn't been boarded in decades, she prefers to get down and dirty with rock under her feet. Protecting the ship is that dick Si's job"
"Interesting" Brook mused
"How comes you want to know in any case?"
"Oh, nothing really important. Just a bit of a mystery"
"And you sure hate mysteries" a statement rather than a question
"I sure do" but Brook was once again frowning - had she ever told him about her dislike for mysteries? She couldn't imagine it coming up in their previous interactions. Or was this beautiful meathead more perceptive than she's given credit for? Another mystery. Bugger.
"Well then, you better get on with solving it" Fuller had returned to the aREDs, fiddling with the resistance dial.
"You don't want to, er, talk?" Brook enquired
"I'm good Brook. You don't need to listen to me whining any more" although he said this with no malice, just a plain statement.
"Look, Fuller, maybe we got, er, each other wrong, you know?"
"You know what? I really don't think we did" he'd stopped altering the aRED settings to look at her "maybe we just get each other too well?" It might have been quite a deep assertion, but he was smiling all the same
Brook nodded slowly
"Maybe" she pondered out loud, before pushing off the aRED and lining up for the hatch. At the entrance to the gym she paused, grabbing hold of the bulkhead to stop her drift "Don't forget to send me those pictures though"