It wasn't like Reed had been completely oblivious to Sue's frustration. He had been feeling it, too. House hunting was taxing, physically and emotionally, worth of being made into an spectator sport in this new age. Their realtor was trying to approach it more as a negotiation than a search, and Reed couldn’t completely blame them, when they had such specific needs, and their budget was more of an interrogation point than a number.
That Reed had started off by passing the ball to Sue, instead of listing out a litany of issues, or giving a definitive no had certainly perked her up, but, at Sue’s response, she deflated once more. The last one had definitely not been fine. As Sue slumped into a visibly soft, covered, oddly shaped piece of furniture that Reed could only assume was a contemporary take on a chair, as opposed to the hard ones that he took for tables, the realtor tried to make eye contact with Reed, which he failed to notice, and, left to make a decision for herself, she slunk away, her professionally upbeat clacking of heels completely gone, as she went up the stairs to give them some privacy.
Reed remained locked in place, as he tried to make the best he could of the incomplete puzzle, until he could either figure it out as it were, of be given more pieces. Sue recentered herself, and, either because she needed to unburden herself, of because she took pity on him, she offered him a question. Reed was momentarily thankful it wasn’t about the place, because he really didn’t think they’d find a better one.
There were many answers to Sue’s question. It was the sort of thing Reed disliked about personal issues; there were so many circumstances involved, it was impossible to know what was the right one. Reed could make a poorly-timed joke about how California was still on the table, which would definitely set her off, but anger was a feeling that tired itself out. He could give her the technical answer of how, no, they were not, all they needed was a new ship, and some rework to his theory, and he could figure it out in a few weeks (a few dozen and a few hundred, he couldn’t tell). He could tell his own personal answer, which was to ask why would she want to go back.
Reed was not an empathetic man, that was for certain, but he could still sympathize with others. He could consider their situation, and understand their behavior. “Yes.”
His tone wasn’t lecturing, or demanding, but obliging. “It’s...”
Most people considered Reed a restrained man. He was not stiff, but, instead, carried himself with an enviable ease. There were no wasted gestures, as if he always knew what to say, and his words were all he needed to express himself. If you didn’t understand them, it was your fault, it was the implication, for being so limited. Inside, however, Reed was a constant whirlwind. He had so many ideas and concepts shuffling around, and he worked tirelessly to make them fit together, to have them all make sense, to make it whole. When he worked, when he gave himself into it, he quickly shifted between going completely still, lost in his own thoughts, and moving around endlessly, as if he tried to use his body to grasp what his mind was failing to.
Instead of sitting by Sue, all he could do was look around, trying to find that one, nonexistent, perfect answer, the one that would make everything okay for her. For all of them. The one answer that would make them as happy as he was.
He raised his arms midway, then lowered them down, the idea stuck between his brain and his mouth. “It’s not so bad, is it?”
He tried, his arms lifting again to point around them, at the floor, at the building, at the world. “It’s...”
They fell down again.
When he invited them in, he had been completely honest, to the best of his abilities, about the dangers of the situation. As completely sure as he was of his theory, his ship, his calculations, accidents were always a possibility. Injury, maiming, death, he warned them, in as many different ways as he could conceive, and ‘other possibilities not yet considered’
, it finished. Well, he hadn't considered this. He hadn’t considered turning them to stone, moving them through time. They had signed off for something else, not for this.
He couldn’t do anything about this. He couldn’t have warned them about this, and, when it happened, he couldn’t stop this. This
was not the real problem. This
had always been, as predictable and as understandable as everything else in the multiverse. He
was the problem. “I...”
They were doing this, they were staying, because he had brought them here, and he turned them into what they’d become, and he couldn’t do anything about it. “I’m sorry.”
He said, for the first time since it all happened.