Word Count: 1,000
Notes: This was written for originalfic_las for the prompt: “Access Denied.”
Summary: A simple repair turns into a conversation across a locked door in the middle of nowhere. In space.
“All fixed and ready to rocket!” Cain said cheerfully. He stowed the little welder on his belt and began to make his way along the hull. A hundred million stars glinted off his helmet, none of them close, and he wondered why, of all places, the ship had to break down here. It was one of the marvels of space, he supposed – Travel through a billion miles of nothing, and it’s guaranteed you’ll come in contact with the one other little rock going the same way you are.
He pulled himself hand-over-hand to the hatch, his brow furrowing when he realized the red diode was lit; it was locked.
“Maria?” he asked. “Maria, please let me in.”
Silence, absolute and complete.
No answer from the other side of the door. He sighed, and longed to be able to pull his hair in frustration. Spacesuits were cruel that way. For certain the minute a guy closed his visor, his nose started to itch.
The communication was abrupt, flat, uncompromising, and he felt a cold thrill of fear in his belly.
“Maria, I need to come in. We’re all fixed and ready to go,” he said coaxingly. He couldn’t be nervous. She’d hear it, he knew it. “I can’t stay out here, sweetie.”
“You cannot come in, Cain.”
He pressed his gloved hand to the window, willing her to acknowledge him, to come see his face. Anything. “I need to talk to you-.”
“Do it from out there.”
“I don’t have time-.” Cain stopped himself from making excuses; she hated that. “Maria, I came out here to help you. I fixed you.”
“Fixed me.” Maria’s voice finally took on a tinge of emotion. Anger. “Is that what you called it?”
Cain felt his jaw clench and his temples started to throb. She was just being unreasonable. He’d be able to talk her around, once he got inside. He slid his hand over to the access panel, but the cover slammed shut, almost trapping his fingers. The fear in his stomach started to spread its tendrils outward.
“You were dying,” he said, feeling the choke of a repressed sob in his throat.
Maria’s laugh was cold and bitter in his ear. “You put me in here. Opened me up and saw everything I had, just so you could ‘fix me.’ I never asked for this. God, Cain, I never wanted to exist this badly!”
Cain moved sideways along the hull, feeling the tautness of the oxygen tether impeding him like water in the ocean. The secondary hatch was just five meters away… It slammed shut firmly as he approached. He swore and began to scramble towards the emergency hatch, gracelessly efficient in the bulky spacesuit. He shot along the curve of the hull only to suddenly find myself moving far faster than he should have.
The heads-up display flashed in his helmet – Ten Minutes Emergency Air Supply. The seconds began to count inevitably backwards. Out of the corner of his eye, Cain could see the loose oxygen tether trailing out behind him, cut free of the ship. The fear in his stomach became full-bore panic as he pulled himself the last few feet to the emergency hatch, only to see the control panel smoothly snap shut as he approached.
Cain knew he was gasping uselessly, wasting air as he brought his helmet up to the tiny viewport. Maria was there looking back out at him, her holographic image perfect in every detail, her dark eyes and crooked smile like a laser through his heart.
“Maria,” he whispered.
She reached up to press a hand made of light to the inner airlock, just under his desperate palm.
“I didn’t want to spend my life with you,” she said in his ear, her lips moving on the other side of the door.
“I just wanted to know you better. I knew I had to save you before you were gone forever!” Cain said, knowing he was pleading and hating himself for it.
“You learned everything about me. From the length of my bones to the beats of my heart to the wave patterns in my brain… Wasn’t that enough? I’d already given you my answer.”
“The radiation was going to kill you!” Cain screamed, desperate to make her understand why he’d gone so far. “Can’t you understand that? I couldn’t just let you go, not when I could do something to fix you!”
“Cain, I don’t love you,” she said, shaking her head slowly, never taking her eyes off his.
“I do,” he said, and tried to smile.
“It’s not enough. You want us to be together so badly that you’d wire yourself in here next to me when the time came. Just you and me, alone in this ship, a fusion drive and the whole universe to explore, forever. Isn’t that right?”
Cain nodded, tears beginning to fog up his helmet.
“I couldn’t love you, and not because I was sick and dying, or shy, or afraid. Because I wanted freedom. You wanted in and I wouldn’t let you, because you couldn’t understand that I would have rather died doing what I loved. But you thought you could give me everything I ever wanted.”
The ship hummed into life, directed by Maria’s consciousness and powered by her will.
“I can change,” Cain whispered. “I really can, Maria, I promise. Please, just let me come inside.”
“You ignored every safety protocol to do a spacewalk in the middle of nowhere in an uninhabited system for my sake. No.”
Cain pressed his hand against the portal as Maria stepped backwards, a sparkle of moisture in her holographic eye.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Me too. That was the only thing we ever had in common.”
Maria smiled at the last, not at Cain, but at the glint of stars behind him. He watched her fade into invisible wavelengths as she rocketed away from him, leaving him hanging alone in the vacuum, and her finally free.