This is my first Andromeda story ever; I wrote it after I'd only seen a few episodes. I didn't have a very good feel for the characters yet, so they're not quite the Beka and Harper we know. And it was before we ever got any kind of back story on them, so of course by now it's glaringly inaccurate and completely non-canon.

That said, I still kind of enjoy this one. Because Mercenary!Harper is always a good thing. And Rafe is... always an interesting thing. And Beka is always a worship-worthy thing.

Not my characters, blah dee blah disclaimer et cetera. In my own imaginary timeline, this is set right after Beka's father dies.

Building A Better Fire
by Maya Tawi

part one


Maru: The Polynesian/Maori war-god, co-Creator of man, and commander of the heavenly hosts. He is the initiator of quarrels, envy and friction. He possesses a huge fire in which the evil demons he has vanquished are burnt. When a great man, a war-leader, prays to Maru with the right karakia (hymn) the god may be persuaded to join him in battle and so decide the day in his favor.

"How long is this going to take?"

The legs emerging from the hole in the wall, encased in frayed nylon pants tucked into heavy workboots, briefly stopped moving, and for a second Beka Valentine wondered if she had violated some kind of unspoken mechanic's code. Then a muffled, disembodied voice said, "Hey, lady, if you wanna get your ass down here and learn how to reassemble a slipstream drive in three easy steps, be my guest. Have you been in touch with the Divine? You're probably gonna need his help."

Beka scowled at the legs, and after another moment the disturbing clanking noises started again, the kid apparently satisfied by her silence that he had made his point.

She knew she should have waited, should have pushed on back to the Rhiemann station, where at least she knew a good mechanic, one she could trust. Would have if she thought for a second that the Maru would make it. But the slipstream drive had started to come apart in mid-flight, and she didn't want to risk irreparable damage or, worse, a forced ejection that would end in permanent abandonment of the ship. Besides, this kid was supposed to be good.

Accusingly she voiced her thoughts. "You're supposed to be good at this."

The voice came again, with a smart-ass tone that grated her nerves like sandpaper. "And you're supposed to be some kinda pilot, but you don't hear me complaining. See large objects, steer the other way. That's what, Flying 101?"

"What are you talking about?" Beka demanded, stepping forward and folding her arms across her chest, unconsciously adopting an agressive stance.

The kid, possibly sensing the threat in her voice, quickly withdrew his head from inside the walls of the ship and raised his hands placatingly. One hand was still clutching what she could only assume was an essential component of the Eureka Maru's guts. His short blond hair stuck out in all directions, defying gravity by some paste mixture of sweat, dust, and engine grease, and his strangely angular features seemed impossibly young; the data port buried in the side of his neck still looked out of place, shockingly so, far too mechanoid to be real. When he spoke, his words were slightly less irritating and more placating. Slightly.

"Hey, boss, I'm doing the best I can, all right? Something blew the hell out of your drive here, and putting it back together's gonna take days, not hours. You sure you didn't, you know, sideswipe any planets or anything on the way here?"

"I didn't hit anything," Beka said testily, but she forced her arms back down to her sides. "It just happened. So can you get it running again or not?"

The kid grinned, a rakish, disarming, surprisingly appealing grin. "Hey, I'm not just good, lady. Seamus Harper is the god of all things mechanical. All I'm saying is, if you keep bitching like this, I'm gonna have to start charging hazard pay, 'cause there's a distinct danger of me having to bury my nanowelder in my ears."

And then, before she could react, the punk dove back into the bowels of the Eureka Maru.

Beka exhaled loudly and started to pace, unable to take her eyes off the forlorn outline of the fallen ship, counting down the seconds until she could be back in space.

It was less than two hours before Seamus Harper hauled himself out of the engine bay of the Eureka Maru, scrubbing his hands on the worn fabric of his tool belt, and announced, "Lunch break."

"What?" The uptight redhead chick stopped her pacing and stared at him uncomprehendingly. Her eyes were an ethereal, startling blue, and she would've been hot, Harper thought, then cut himself off- she was hot. If only she wasn't so freaking focused on things that weren't him- namely, her junk heap of a ship. He eyed her again, uncomfortably reminded of the nature holo-documentaries back on Earth. She was like one of those spiders that bit their mate's head off after screwing- aimed straight for the end result, and the hell with everyone else. Now she looked like she wouldn't even wait for the fun part.

Harper just shrugged, stripping off his goggles and work gloves and tossing them in the pile with his other tools. "You paid for my services, boss, not my body. Much to my regret, but that's not the point right now. A guy's got needs, and right now I need food, not to mention a massive caffeine fix."

The chick, Beka something, frowned distractedly. "I'll bring you food. You just keep working."

Way too focused. "Don't think so," Harper said, stretching and wincing at a cramp in the small of his back. He slung a casual arm over the redhead's shoulders- he had to reach up a little to do it, but he was used to that- and went on conversationally, "I think it's time for us to talk about exactly where this relationship is going. I'm gonna fix your ship for you, and then you're gonna pay me. In between, I'll be taking breaks to eat, drink, sleep, relieve myself in various ways, and yes, even party. And just as a gesture of my faith and goodwill, I'll gladly give you permission to do the same-"

And then his arm was being whipped off her shoulders, around and up between his shoulder blades, and she was pulling up hard enough to make Harper arch his back, going up on tiptoe in an attempt to escape the sudden pain. He broke off with a faint choking sound as all the air rushed out of his lungs.

Her lips were directly behind his right ear, brushing against his data port as she spoke. "You listen to me," she hissed. "This isn't just some old junk heap you get to play around with. If you fuck up my ship in any way, I will make you regret it. Understand?"

Harper finally got his breath back. "Listen, lady, me and mechanics-"

She twisted harder. "Understand?"

"Yes ma'am," he squeaked, and she let go. Harper quickly moved back a few steps, flexing his sore arm muscles. "Hey, you ever think about going professional with that act? There's tons of guys'd pay good money to get smacked around like that by a babe like you. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything, since you're obviously happy to do it for free-"

Beka turned and glared at him, and he smirked and beat a hasty retreat. Some people just didn't need caffeine. And then, of course, there was Harper.

The dock she had rented for the Maru was near the back of the station, not far from the on-deck pub. Harper sauntered through the doorway, answering the bouncer's suspicious stare with a wink and an obscene gesture, and immediately veered towards the blonde at the bar.

He never made it that far. Just as he was passing a shadowed alcove near the emergency exit, something reached out, grabbed him by the back of his collar, and yanked him in.

Harper struggled instinctively for a few seconds, scrambling in his tool belt for his knife; then his attacker's face registered, and he groaned. "Oh, man, it's you. What the hell are you doing here?"

The other man scowled. "Funny, I was going to say the exact same thing. You were supposed to be gone by now."

"Yeah, well, I got work." Harper shoved him away and started to edge back into the crowd.

"So I noticed," the guy said shortly, and something in his voice made Harper stop and look up. His face was scarred by lines of tension; his usual charming, easygoing smile had been replaced by an expression that was considerably darker. "What are you doing with Beka Valentine?"

Harper took a wary step backwards. "What's it to ya?"

"I'll tell you what," Rafe Valentine growled, advancing. "She's my kid sister, and whatever you're planning, you're going to leave her the hell out of it."

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Epilogue


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