10.5

Sam let Jessie tag along as he went to retrieve Calvin for lunch. She hung behind him as they entered the room. Calvin was staring out the window but turned his head as they entered.

“Okay, so that was a reaction, good.” Sam stood at the foot of the bed and Jessie went to Calvin’s side, poking at the little cleaning bot, “Are you feeling up to lunch with regular-”
He hesitated as Jessie made a face at the robot “-ish people?”

There was no reaction at first and Sam began to feel foolish standing there when Calvin looked at him and nodded slightly.

“Yes? Yes, excellent. Um.” He wasn’t sure what to do next but Jessie tugged on Calvin’s arm and picked up the bot.

“I’ll carry your friend so you can focus on walking. He’ll like the first floor, there’s a lot more room.” She backed up a little and Calvin pulled back the covers, swinging his feet off the bed. He wavered as he stood and Sam grabbed an arm to help him balance.

“Okay, so we’ll take it slow but it’s not that far… just across the house. You’ve done it before.”

Calvin pulled his arm free and made his way to the door with only a slight wobble. Jessie followed behind him and Sam joined them in the hallway, taking the lead. They made their way down to the first floor and Jessie set Calvin’s robot on the floor, letting it run loose and explore around them as they went through the library. Nobody else appeared but the sound of feet running up stairs greeted them as they entered the house proper. The smaller dining area next to the kitchen was almost next to the front door and Sam held the door open for everyone.

Jessie crawled into a seat opposite Calvin, who pulled a chair out with minor difficulty and sat down heavily. Sam sat next to Jessie and mussed her hair until she batted his hand away.

The door from the kitchen swung open and Sarah backed into the room, turning to put a large bowl of salad in the middle of the table.

“Sam can you serve that while I get the soup and bread?” She didn’t wait for a reply, retreating to the kitchen again.

“You want salad?” Sam gestured to Calvin’s bowl. Calvin handed it to him and he filled it before serving himself and Jessie. Jessie made a face at her food as Sarah returned with bowls of soup and a basket of bread.

“Eat your food, Jessie.” Sarah patted her on the head and sat at the far end of the table. Jessie ignored her salad, dunking a piece of bread in the soup instead and chewing noisily on that.

Calvin focused on eating in silence. This half of the building was much quieter and more restrained, only talking to inform him of the temperature and a possible rodent hole in a room down the hall. A giggle from across the table made him look up to see Sam carefully balancing a fourth piece of bread on Jessie’s head. She was covering her mouth with both hands, trying to hold still.

“Sam, you’re as bad as her sometimes. Just eat the bread, don’t play with it.” Sarah said, not looking up from her salad.

“Oh come on, Sarah, it’s a balanced meal.” Sam grinned at her.

Calvin snorted a little at the joke and started coughing violently as some soup went down the wrong pipe. Sarah started to get up but he got himself under control and cleared his throat awkwardly.

“See, Misa, those bad jokes are gonna get someone killed.” Jessie’s stern tone caught Sarah off guard that time and she sputtered into her soup. Sam sighed and held out his palm for Jessie to slap.

“You two are awful.” Sarah was grinning despite herself and grabbed a piece of bread to chew angrily.

“Mr. Calvin liked the joke.” Jessie finished off the last of her soup and reached for another piece of bread but Sam scooted it out of her reach.

“Have some salad too, Aunt Sarah worries when you don’t eat right.” He pointed at her salad and she huffed, shoving a forkful in her mouth. She chewed it loudly until Sam cleared his throat and frowned at her.

“Did you need anything, Mr. Sutro? Water, juice?”

Calvin wasn’t particularly thirsty but could see the expectant look on her face. He ran a hand through his hair, trying to focus. He could hear the word in his head and the house was repeating it back, trying to be helpful. Jessie was too busy stabbing her salad unhappily but he could tell her father was watching too. He took a deep breath and tried to remember how to form the word.

“Wa’r” was the best he could manage and the humiliation of that burned deep, but Sarah nodded and headed back to the kitchen, returning with a pitcher and glasses for everyone.

“Jess-a-bell I’m pretty sure your salad is already dead, try eating it now.”

“I already ate some!”

“Finish your bowl.”

“You finish your bowl!” Jessie pointed at his half-full bowl and he frowned, eating a forkful pointedly. Once he’d chewed a moment he gestured to hers again.

“Now you.”

Jessie took another bite and they chewed salad at each other while Sarah shook her head and tried to ignore them. Calvin looked down at his empty bowls, it was good food. There was more salad in the middle of the table. He took the soup bowl instead and held it out to Sarah, who noticed and looked up at him.

“Mo’ese?” He’d tried to form the P but it had failed him. She parsed what he was saying after a moment.

“Of course. Be right back.” She took the bowl and disappeared into the kitchen. When she returned with the bowl he dunked some bread in it and ate it readily. Food on ships never tasted as good as food planet-side. Even the last large ship had been a little lacking. The thought of his old job made his stomach knot up and he struggled to finish off his bread so no one would notice.

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