“Have you slept yet?” Ambrose asked quite as a mouse.
Odin spun around in his chair. He slumped to one side holding the armrests, blinking at the recessed lights. Still a little stunned, he saw Ambrose standing in the middle of the shuttle's bridge.
In his two-toned PJs, Ambrose rubbed his eyes. A blanket was draped over one of his shoulders. A yawn escaped from his lips.
“It hasn’t been that long since you went to bed,” he said, twisting back towards the control counsel. He tapped on a screen and gritted his teeth at what he saw.
Coming up behind him, Ambrose confirmed what Odin saw. “It’s been six hours since you told me I didn’t need to keep you company because you’ll be going to bed in a bit.”
“Look-” he changed the screen - “we’re almost home, no reason to sleep now.”
“Odin,” Ambrose cried, plopping in the co-helmsman spot, “you haven’t slept since we left Earth yesterday morning.”
“I just want to get home,” he whined. Straightening, he stated, “We're almost to Martian space and I'd rather be awake for that.”
“We won't be in sensor range for a half hour. Why don't you take a nap?”
“I'm fine, Ambrose!” He sniped.
His voice made Ambrose shrink back in his chair. He clenched the armrest as if to stop being blown back further. His lips shivered and his eyes glassed.
“Ambrose, I'm sorry-” he dropped his head - “why don't you watch the screen for me while I lay down.”
Ambrose pulled himself up. He nodded with an ear-to-ear grin.
The chair span as Odin got up. “Thanks, bud.” He quickly rustled his hand through Ambrose's hair.
“Goodnight,” he replied, activating his screen.
Odin didn't want to risk falling deeply sleep by going to their bedroom so he decided to lay down on the couch still in view of the helm. But, as soon as his head got in the vicinity of the cushion, he crashed face-first like a bad belly flop. He laid half off the couch for longer than he wanted and Ambrose had no intention of changing that.
Like every night, the only time he woke up was being closely introduced to the floor panels. “How long was I asleep?” he asked, push-uping from the floor.
“Hour and a half,” Ambrose answered. He was wearing jeans and a violet polo shirt that Odin’s mom bought him before the two of them went space exploring.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” He scrambled to the controls. Checking all the switches and buttons, he missed the view right in front of him: the back wooden wall of a shuttle garage.
“I did all the things you wanted,” he said, crossing his arms.
“You turned the cloak on?”
“10 minutes before getting into sensor range, just like you told me.”
“Missed the Deimos' satellites?”
“Yes-,” he breathed
“And landed in my uncle's garage?”
He extended his hand towards the front window.
“Good job,” Odin stuttered.
“It's almost five, your mom will be starting dinner soon.”
“Yeah. Yeah,” he said, wiping his hand down his face. Shaking his finger, he continued, “Let me get change and we can go.”
He was barely in their room for two minutes before coming back, still buttoning up his burgundy dress shirt. A clatter rang out and a group of miscellaneous objects - which usually sat on Odin’s bunk, followed him out the room. “I’ll pick those up later,” he announced through a cock-eyed grin and a pity laugh.
He plopped a backpack on one shoulder and handed another to Ambrose. “Ready?”
Ambrose just walked for the door.
No one was on the docks outside of the garage. The knolls in the summer sun, too, were desolate from the normal crowds of gawkers. And the streets were still clean from that morning routine sweeping. The whole Phobos colony seemed abandoned.
Odin climbed the stairs to his house on his toes. His gaze swiveled left to right. His fingers could barely grip the doorknob. “Mom, ya home!” he said, peeking his head in the door.
“Come in, honey!” she announced, leaning into view of the foyer from her chair.
A smile came to his face as his fears of the emptiness outside drifted away. But in the next second, it faded with the voice belonging to the reason for all it.
Mentally he wasn’t moving, but his feet were in the living room in no time. Even though he knew the man who was there, his eyes and mouth grew to capacity. “Hello, Agent Venice,” he shook.
“Hello, Odin,” he said, raising a hand. He slightly leaned over the armrest to see Ambrose, who was mostly eclipsed behind Odin. "Hi, Ambrose."
Scooching closer to Odin, Ambrose gave a little wave and an even smaller ‘hi.’
Venice gave out a laughing grin towards Ambrose.
Getting out of her chair, Odin's mom hovered a hand over Ambrose's back. “Come make dinner with me. Odin needs to be alone.”
He opened his mouth to object but after her mom-look, he took off his bag. Like a little puppy, he followed her without protest.
Alone with the agent, Odin teetered on his feet while his smile shivered.
Leaning back in the chair and making himself look big, Venice stated. “Come, sit, we need to have a chat.”
Odin did as he was told. He rounded his mom’s chair and fell back faint-like into it. He clenched his teeth to stop their chattering.
Venice stared at him a moment. It made Odin shrink in the already large chair. “Iii-eye-eye I didn’t run away again. My mom, my parents knew Ambrose and I were going and knew - for the most part - where we were going,” he rambled.
“Oh-oh-no, we know that.” He used his hand to cut Odin off. “The only problem the directorate had it was hard to get ahold of you. No. You’re not in trouble.”
A weight lifted from Odin’s chest but it stuck around his shoulders. His eyes went from wide with fright to squinting with confusion. “Why would the defense directorate try so hard to talk to me?”
“Well, Odin, after our encounter with you and… Ambrose last year, we found that we need to reevaluate some of our regulations… especially our ones pertaining to colonists.”
Odin slow shook his head as Venice explained and danced around the point.
“We’ve decided to take on six colonists at the academy: one science department, medical, engineering, communications, piloting, and for you, if you’re willing captaincy.”
“How?” Odin stuttered.
“Don’t hold it against Ambrose. It came up in our conversation last year.”
“You’re offering me a captain’s position because Ambrose told you I’ve wanted to be one for as long as I can remember?”
“Not entirely, but yeah. I am.”
“Can I think about this?”
It was Venice’s turn to cock his head in confusion. “Sure. Sure-,” he rose from his seat - “I’ll be here on Phobos until tomorrow morning. If you decide to take me up on our offer, meet me at the cafe by the docks. I’ll wait until 9:45.”
“Thank you,” Odin said, dazed with his hands cupping his chin.
Venice smile in return, waiting to be escorted out. After hurting his cheeks, he got his jacket and said goodbye to Ambrose and Odin’s mom. Odin was still frozen on the chair when he left.
An hour later his mother called his serval times to come get dinner. Ambrose, much to his own discomfort, had to drag Odin to the dinner table. After all Ambrose’s hard work, Odin just forked at his plate in a similar posture as out in the living room.
“Odin, honey, are you alright?”
“Yeah.” He ran a hand through his hair. Excusing himself from the table, he continued, “I think I need to lie down. Sleep on some things.”
“Good night, then, honey.” She placed a hand on his arm until he bent down for her to kiss his forehead.
Odin disappeared deeper into the house leaving the two of them with their dinner. Without Odin to protect him, Ambrose defenses couldn’t stand up to Odin’s mom’s noir interrogation skills. He told her everything about their trip barely able to keep back what Odin made him promise not to tell.
She had him against the backboard when her husband came through the front door. Bypassing the welcome homes, he immediately said, “Shouldn’t you be in bed, Ambrose.”
Looking up above the dining room window to the clock, she said, “I guess it is that time. You ready for bed?”
Ambrose got out of his chair before she could say anything else. He didn’t waste time changing into PJs. He just crawled into the bed across from Odin’s.
Odin was sprawled out on his bed with no covers on. His hair was plastered to his forehead and jutted out in every direction. Besides the random spirt of mumbling, he was a rock.
Ambrose, in turn, rolled up in his blankets like burrito contents. In his force field of comfort, his eyes lulled shut. It only seemed like minutes went by before he was startled awake.
A percussion of bangs pounded on the ceiling.
Odin was propped up against his pillows, tossing a blue ball up in the air. The same ball that made dents in the shuttle’s ceiling. The one that left several years worth of blue marks on the bedroom ceiling.
“Odin?!” he cried.
“Sorry, bud. I don’t mean to,” he said, catching the ball for the last time. “Agent Venice offered me an academy position. That’s why he was here today.”
“That sounds amazing. You always wanted to be a captain. Now you can be.”
“I don’t know if I want to go. I just got back.”
“We’ve been gone for a year. I kinda just wanna be home.”
“You can always come back.”
“What?” He jumped to attention.
“You can always come back. Your home is still here and will be if you go away.”
“What about you?”
“What would you do if I left?”
“I can’t go with you?”
“I don’t think it’s a package deal.”
“I can come visit?”
“Then I can stay here, visit you, visit Dorothy and Serenity and all our other friends.”
“And if I didn’t go?”
“I would be happy, but I don’t think you would be. No one can drop a dream that easy.”
“Thank you, Ambrose,” Odin said, laying back down.
“You know want you’re going to do?”
“Yeah, I think I do.”
At seven o’clock sharp, Venice walked into the cafe with a newspaper in hand. He slowly surveilled the seemingly abandoned cafe.
A young lady popped up in front of him. “Hi? Hello. Table for one?” she asked out of breath.
Before answering her, he finished looking about. He smiled. “I think I already have one,” he said, pointing to the only inhabitant.
“Very well, I’ll be over in a minute to take your order.”
“No need. I don’t think I’ll be here long.”
As soon as he turned away, she trembled.
“How long have you’ve been sitting here,” Venice asked, making Odin jump.
He looked down at his glass. “Probably since they opened,” he laughed, as Venice sat in front of him. “Sleeping was quite an option after I made my decision. And your visit yesterday - being alone with my mom - did not make my dad very happy.”
“I hope I didn’t cause a ruckus.”
“They don’t yell when Ambrose is home. You know sensitive,” he said, gesturing to his eye. “No yelling, but still unbearable.”
“Speaking of Ambrose how is he taking you soon departure.”
“Well… he would be mad - or as mad as Ambrose gets - if I didn’t ask… There’s no way he could accompany me?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
Odin’s gaze dropped.
“Not at this point,” he continued, “I’ll look into it.”
“Thank you.” he smiled.