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FEBRUARY 1981

IVARSON Krista Louise, born to Melvin and Irene on 19th February. Mother and baby doing well.

SEPTEMBER 1987

Krista's bored of Lego and bored of drawing and bored of playing hide and go seek with Bobby and Deanna. It's Deanna's turn to seek and she always counts to a hundred, even when Krista and Bobby have found their hiding places by the time she gets to fifteen. The only places they're allowed to go are the break room and the front office, so really, Krista thinks, it's the stupidest place ever to play.

She watches Bobby slide into the gap between the wall and the filing cabinet – that's her hiding spot – and then she looks at Deanna. Deanna's eyes are shut tight and she's counting slowly. From her father's office, Krista can hear the sound of voices, and someone laughing.

No one's looking at her.

As quickly and as quietly as she can she slips out the door into the hangar. She and Bobby aren't meant to go in there without a grown-up, and they definitely aren't allowed to play games in there. But Krista's dad and Bobby's dad are in a meeting with some of the staff and her mom's busy and Bobby's mom's working at the hospital, so they have to be at the office being bored, and Krista's pretty sure that none of it's fair.

There's just enough light coming in from outside to see, so she runs across the floor to the plane on the far side, with its cockpit door open and a step-ladder beside it. Krista gets both feet on the bottom rung of the ladder, and then stops. If her dad found out she got in a plane, he would probably be angrier than she'd ever seen, and her mother would be mad too. Usually she doesn't care about getting in trouble – she was in it often enough – but there's a bit inside her that knew that this would be really, really bad trouble.

She could just go hide somewhere else in the hangar, and maybe Deanna wouldn't even tell her father what she did. But then she hears a footstep behind her, and she turns her head and sees Bobby standing there.

“What are you doing?” he whispers.

“Hiding,” Krista whispers back. She couldn't change her mind, not now with Bobby watching her, so she climbs up the ladder. She can't quite lift her legs high enough to get in, not even from the very top rung, so she has to lean into the plane and grab the underneath bits of the seat and pull herself in on her tummy. She scraps her nose on a pedal and bangs her elbow on something, but then she manages to get her legs up under her. She climbs into the pilot's seat and looks down at Bobby on the ground.

She could hear Deanna counting ninety-one, ninety-two, ninety-three, and Bobby's still just standing there. He was going to get them both caught when they hadn't even had any fun. “Come on,” she says, hoping Deanna wouldn't hear her. Bobby scrambles up the ladder and lands at her feet, and just as Deanna gets to a hundred Krista pulls the door shut behind them. It's heavy, and even using both hands she can't get it properly closed, but with any luck Deanna wouldn't notice a thing.

“We aren't allowed to be in here!” Bobby says, crawling into the co-pilot's seat.

“So?” Krista asks. The old don't care feeling is back, now that Bobby's here and she isn't doing this by herself, even if it is mostly her fault.

She reaches out her hands to the control yoke. She has to sit on the edge of the seat and even then she can't quite reach the pedals, but that doesn't matter. She's in a plane, a real plane, and she's in the pilot's seat.

“What are you doing?”

“Where do you want to go?” she asks. Pilot Krista, flying her plane. They had played this game before, but only sitting on chairs in a corner of the office. This was so much better.

“Um, Toronto.”

“Okay then.” Krista flicks her fingers at a few switches on the dashboard, and puts her hands back on the control column. “Yellowknife tower, this is Arctic Air flight... one. We want to take off.”

“Okay, Arctic Air,” Bobby says, being Yellowknife tower. “Just don't crash.”

“I won't.” Krista stretches out a leg and presses her foot down as if there was a pedal underneath it, and tightens her grip on the control yoke. “Okay. We're taking off. Hey, did you put your seatbelt on?”

You didn't.”

“Well, okay. Anyway, we're taking off.” Krista pretends to pull back, imagining the plane leaving the ground. She can hear Deanna calling their names, but they're busy, flying to Toronto.

“Nice take-off, Pilot Krista.”

“Thanks.” Now that they're in the air, safely away from Deanna looking for them and fathers who were going to be angry, she tucks her feet up under her and looks around. One of the mechanics had been working on this plane; part of the dashboard had been taken off and wires were hanging out. There was an open toolbox by Bobby's seat, and an empty water bottle beside it. People should be more tidy.

It had been a long day, and Krista's tired. Leaning back in the seat she closes her eyes, just for a minute, picturing the take-off all over again: the runway in front of her, her fingers moving against the controls as the plane sped down the runway, faster and faster and faster...

It's a little chilly, and she wishes she had a blanket.

The next thing she heard was Silas shouting - “Mel! Here they are!” - and then saying something to Bobby in Tlicho.

“We were flying to Toronto,” Bobby says. He sounds confused and sleepy, like her.

Krista blinks, surprised. They were flying to Toronto, weren't they? But then someone opens the door beside her and pulls her out. “Flying to Toronto – Judas Priest!” That was her dad.

Maybe they aren't flying to Toronto, after all. She blinks again, and remembers.

Her dad and Silas are pretty mad, just like she'd expected. They're mad that Krista and Bobby had broken the rules, and that they hadn't listened to Deanna calling them, and that Deanna had had to interrupt the meeting because she thought Krista and Bobby were lost or hurt somewhere. For their punishment they have to give Deanna their next week's allowances to pay her extra for babysitting, and they aren't allowed to go with their dads to Frances Lake on Saturday like they'd been promised.

“Flying to Toronto,” Krista's dad says, when they're driving home. “In a Cessna. If you were going to climb into a damn plane, play pretend and fall asleep, you should have at least chosen the damn DC-3. But don't get any ideas!”

MAY 1995

“Your landing was spot on,” Axel says. “Everything was. As usual.”

Krista grins, feeling herself relax the way she always does when she's wheels down and safe. “Thank you.” She straightens her back, ready to taxi the Cessna back to the hangar.

Axel nods. “All right. Now stop when you turn onto the taxi way.”

“What?”

“Stop.”

Krista turns onto the taxi way and does as she was told, a little hint of hope flaring inside her. Maybe, just maybe – but then, Bobby had gone up first that morning, and he hadn't -

“Congratulations,” Axel says, clapping one hand on her shoulder. “You are now ready to fly solo.”

“Really?” Krista asks, the prospect of flying this plane without a responsible adult beside her overwhelming and enticing. “But Bobby didn't.”

Axel opens the cockpit door. “Bobby wasn't ready. You are. Nothing fancy. Take-off, repeat the pattern we just did, do a touch and go landing, repeat the pattern again, bring her to a full stop and then come on home. Got it?”

Krista bites her lip. “Got it.”

“I'll be on radio,” Axel says, and jumps out, slamming the door behind him.

Alone in the cockpit, Krista takes a deep breath and stretches out her back, her arms, her legs, steadying her nerves the way she'd done a thousand times in a thousand different circumstances. Axel is the toughest flight instructor in Yellowknife and, more than that, he's an old friend of Mel's. If he says she's ready, she's ready.

And she is. All she has to do was exactly what she's just been doing and it's really not such a big deal when she looks at it that way.

She gets clearance from the tower, and brings the Cessna back around to the start of the runway. For a moment, sitting there with the engines going and the runway stretching out ahead of her Krista stops to savour it all. In a minute she'll take off all alone for the very first time, and she wants to remember it forever, crystal-clear and perfect in her mind.

Then, with an Air Canada flight on final approach, it's time to go. Axel had always told them that when they went solo the plane would accelerate and ascend faster, and he's right. The world seems to rush past outside and before she's quite ready for it the speedometer shows take-off speed. Holding her breath, feeling the tension in her shoulders, Krista brings the control column back. The nose wheel leaves the ground and then she's in the air, climbing alone into the sky.

Adjust attitude, trim the flaps, level off at 2000ft, the way she'd done with Axel. Krista eases the Cessna's nose down, relaxes her shoulders, and takes a moment to look down. She's heading north, leaving Yellowknife and the airport behind her as dozens of tiny lakes pass by below. If she kept going on this heading she'd eventually fly over the Arctic Ocean and the top of the world and she'd come back down again somewhere in Russia. She and Bobby had pretended to do things like that when they were little, but back then they'd never had to worry about running out of fuel, or about route clearance or bad weather.

Anyway, it's time to make a right hand turn; that would take her out to the arm of Great Slave Lake and over the float plane base, and then she'd turn south again to head across the lake. The Cessna responds smoothly, perfectly, wonderfully. Pilot flies the plane, Silas always says. You have to be the one in control. She wants to work with you, not against you. You guide her right, and she'll do what you need. He usually said it about the DC-3, but Krista's pretty sure that applies to the Cessna 150 and to every other aircraft in the hangar.

Down on the ground they're all just going about their lives. Mel would be doing the books and Silas was probably in the hangar getting his hands dirty. Bobby would be helping, instead of doing his homework. Krista wonders if they know she's up here now, flying solo for the first time.

She wonders what Bobby will say when he finds out, what Mel will say, if Axel will think she did everything right.

Thinking about Axel makes the Cessna's cramped cockpit suddenly seem roomy and empty without him. Even when he wasn't talking - and Axel hardly ever stopped - he was right there beside her, breathing or clearing his throat. Now, just because she can, Krista stretches out an arm over the empty seat. She really was alone, 2000 feet above the world, and it was wonderful. Right up until that minute, the student pilot permit in her wallet had been nothing but a useless piece of paper. It had meant nothing. Now, though, it means everything.

Now she's a real pilot, not just Mel Ivarson's daughter messing around with planes.

It was a short enough circuit that she'd been flying, and a little sooner than she would have liked she brings the Cessna round for the landing, adjusting flaps and throttles.

"Yellowknife tower, this is Charlie Tango Victor Alpha Kilo, request clearance for a touch and go landing on runway 27," she says, knowing her voice is being hear clear and confident on the ground.

"Copy that, Victor Alpha Kilo, you are cleared for a touch and go landing. Flying solo, Krista?" Every air traffic controller in Yellowknife was a friend of Mel's.

Krista lets herself grin, and punch a fist into the air. There's no one here to see her. "Yes."

"Nice work."

"Thanks." She makes her final turns, as far below her the land seems to bring itself into position. “Victor Alpha Kilo starting descent now.”

That's the moment the confidence vanishes.

It's stupid and it's irrational, especially for someone who practically grew up in a cockpit but sometimes there's this moment, as the tarmac below her rushes closer, where for an instant she's convinced that she'll land too quickly, that her plane will bounce along the runway like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon before planting itself on its nose and bursting into flame with her still aboard. Sometimes she dreams it, and wakes ashamed of herself and struggling for breath.

Now, monitoring air speed and rate of descent and forcing herself to breathe in and out, the old fear battles to take control. Without Axel here to tell her she was doing something wrong, if she screws up it'll be too late to fix things. The instruments tell her she's doing perfect and yet her pounding heart and the nausea twisting in her stomach don't care much for logic.

Gripping the control column way too tight, feet on the rudder pedals, Krista sucks in a breath as the wheels touch the tarmac. For a moment she can't even think rationally but her body acts where her mind can't. Bring the Cessna back to take-off speed, rotate the control column back, she's in the air and she's not dead.

Level again, she stretches out cramped fingers and shaking hands, and then slaps a hand on Axel's empty chair a few times just to work out some of the frustration and shame. Pilots weren't supposed to get scared. Axel would have - and had - told her that everyone got nervous, even and especially fourteen year old kids learning to fly, but Krista's spent enough hours watching Mel and Silas to believe that fear has no place in the cockpit.

Now, flying the pattern again, she bites her lip and pulls herself together again bit by bit. She's only getting one first solo, and there's no way in hell that a few stupid dreams and irrational thoughts were going to ruin it. She wants to tell Bobby everything, and she couldn't tell him she got scared. If anything worried Bobby, he sure as hell never talked about it and she wasn't going to be any different.

For this landing she's going to be Mel Ivarson. Screw being a fourteen year old kid learning to fly; her last dozen or so landings had been perfect and if there had been the slightest chance she would mess up there was no way Axel would have let her solo.

She would, and could, be Mel.

This time, as she brings the Cessna down, she makes herself breathe even slower than usual. In two three four five, out two three four five. Ignore the sweating hands, the quickening heartbeat, because that didn't happen to Mel Ivarson, champion of the world.

Down.

Safe.

This time, following Axel's orders, she brings the Cessna to a full stop just before the turn-off to the taxiway. It's over, and done. Her first solo flight and she hasn't fucked anything up (much) and now she has to stop shaking before Mel sees her and knows.

She taxis back to the hangar a little slower than she usually would, giving herself extra time to collect her composure and her dignity, to force shaking limbs to behave. Ahead of her she can see a Navajo in Arctic Air's colours rolling out onto the tarmac pushed by Cece and a couple of rampies; if she'd wanted to make a quiet entry - assuming Axel hadn't got there first - she was screwed. But as if that wasn't bad enough as she gets closer she notices Mel and Silas, Bobby and Axel and a few others clustered around outside the hangar.

Yeah, Axel had organised a welcoming committee.

Krista brings the Cessna to a stop and shuts the engines and other systems down. Her hands are still damp, and everyone's looking at her and she doesn't want to talk to any of them right now. Damn Axel. The only thing to do is rip off her headset and wipe her hands on her jeans, get out of the plane looking like she flies solo every day, and try not to look like an idiot as everyone cheers.

The whole thing is just painfully awkward.

Mel waits until everyone had started to drift back to work before he walks towards her. "Good to see you didn't crash my plane."

Except that had been the thing she was most afraid of doing, the fear that had taken her over and almost gotten her into a whole heap of trouble. It's pretty damn ironic that being afraid of crashing could have made her screw up and crash. “Wow, thanks,” Krista says, taking relief in snapping at him. It takes the edge off a bit.

If he even notices, Mel doesn't seem to care. "Well, anyway, nice work. Now you and Bobby get that plane squared away."

"Of course."

Mel turns to march off back to the office and Krista finds Bobby at her side, hands in his pockets, wearing an Arctic Air t-shirt a few sizes too big for him. "Was it awesome?"

She's not quite over that burst of fear, not yet. "I guess," she says, and gestures at the plane. "Help me with her?"

*

That afternoon, with Bobby busy doing his economics homework, Krista takes her English book (Romeo and Juliet, boring as hell) into the corner of the hangar, and tucks herself away behind some drums and boxes. She's always been good at finding those cramped little hiding spots where nobody would think to look, where she could see without being seen.

There's a folded, faded receipt from Weaver and Devore's tucked into the book to act as a bookmark. Krista turns to her spot - Act 2, scene II - and starts reading without any real comprehension of the words on the page. She keeps seeing the tarmac rushing up to meet her, keeps feeling her racing heartbeat and sweating palms, and it's almost worse now that she has the time and space to be embarrassed as well as scared. Even if no one knew about it she'd still lost her nerve up there. It's stupid. She'd landed planes dozens of times, all of them without crashing and bursting into flames, and she's Mel Ivarson's daughter. Aviation is her life and she was born to fly, that's what everyone says.

Krista drops her book on the floor, not caring if she loses her place, and tips her head back against the wall, closing her eyes. Next time she's not going to be scared. Next time she's going to be perfect.

She pictures herself back in the Cessna's cockpit, beginning her descent, and begins to silently talk herself through the landing procedure as Axel had always had her do. Airspeed, altitude, flaps, glide path, communicate with air traffic control, bring her down just right...

In her imagination the plane skips, bounces, hit the tarmac. Krista opens her eyes, and without thinking wraps her arms around herself trying to steady her fucking nerves.

It's not fair. She's a better pilot than Bobby and yet she is the one who gets scared. Bobby thinks he can do everything and he's probably right, because he wouldn't freak out and panic over nothing. All her life she'd wanted to fly. All she'd ever wanted was to be a pilot - and not just any pilot, but the best pilot. Like that's going to happen now.

"Krista?"

She's so on edge that she jumps, and knows that Silas had noticed. She looks up. "Yeah?" she says, putting on her best calm and collected face.

"You okay?"

"Sure."

"You don't look it."

Krista snorts. She and Bobby sometimes joke that Mel and Silas had learnt their social skills at the same place. "Thanks."

“I've got some things to pick up from Twin Lakes, and I need another pair of hands. Doesn't look like you're doing anything.”

Krista picks up Romeo and Juliet, intending to demonstrate that she actually is doing something. If Silas really needs a hand, he can enlist one of the rampies. But almost as soon as she looks at the cover, some impulse makes her put it down again. She could use a walk and some fresh air. "All right then."

"Good."

Silas says nothing as they walk down to the Twin Lakes hangar, or as he loads her up with a box of spare parts. It's not until they've left Twin Lakes that he starts talking, and by then Krista's wishing he would. "What happened up there?"

"What do you mean?" Krista asks, using every bit of her self-control not to look away.

"You don't look like someone who's just finished her first solo flight."

"What does someone who's just finished her first solo look like?"

"Happier, for one. And probably not hiding in the corner of the hangar."

Krista can't deny either of those facts. "Well, I didn't crash."

Silas laughs. "Whatever your father might say, no one thought you would."

Krista readjusts her grip on the box. They're almost back to Arctic Air, and then she can dump her cargo and get away from Silas and pretend nothing went wrong. "I did," she says, the words bubbling out of her before she could stop them.

"You thought you were going to crash?"

"Yes."

Silas stops and turns to face her. "Why?"

Looking up into the clear, perfect sky, Krista tries to find some way to say it. "I keep dreaming that I'm going to screw up my landing and crash into the runway, and sometimes when I'm flying - it's like it's really happening. I know it isn't but - I don't know." She stops talking, and scuffs the soles of her boots against the tarmac. Her mother would have told her off for that, if she'd been here. "Guess I just let myself freak out today."

"And yet you landed perfectly."

"Because there was nothing wrong. I just let myself think there was." Krista's starting to wish she hadn't said anything, that Silas had left her alone so she wouldn't have to argue with him. She spends enough time fighting with Mel without adding Silas to the list.

"Look. I know you're an Ivarson and I know you're Mel's daughter, and that seems to mean you were born to be hard on yourself. But you weren't the first student pilot to panic in the cockpit and you won't be the last, so you can stop moping around the hangar and get on with it."

"I bet Mel never got scared."

"Then there are plenty of stories he's never told you." Silas tucks the box he's carrying under one arm and puts a hand on her shoulder. "Look, Krista. I've said this to Bobby and Deanna a hundred times. It doesn't matter how scared you get, it matters what you do with that fear. You didn't panic and give in; you kept flying and you got that plane down like a veteran. All right?"

Krista nods, slowly. She's not quite sure she believes him, not yet. "And what happens next time?"

"You do exactly the same thing."

"Okay." It sounds so easy. It was easy for Silas to say.

"You remember that," Silas says. "Doesn't matter how scared you get. What matters is what you do with it. Now, you can take that box back to the hangar, and go and rescue that book of yours before it gets covered in dirt and oil. Got it?"

Krista takes a long deep breath in, and lets it out. "Got it. I guess."

JULY 1995

Krista's sitting on the back deck with Amy and Jess when she hears the phone ringing in the house. She'd gone home from Arctic Air after lunch because they'd been going to walk up to the bush pilots' monument – Jess had been living in Yellowknife for five years and had never been there - but all of them had been feeling too lazy to do anything of the sort and so here they are, sitting in the sun talking about nothing.

Krista hands the packet of cookies she'd been munching on to Jess, and goes to answer the phone. It's Gina, who works the front desk at Arctic Air.

"Your dad wanted me to tell you he was going to be late," Gina says. There's something off about her voice, something distracted and uncomfortable.

"Is everything okay?" Krista asks, gripping the phone as a kind of dread settles over her. Mel -

Gina sighs. "Silas is overdue and he's not answering his radio. Your dad and Bill are heading out now to see if they can find him."

"He probably just had to put down somewhere," Krista says, as if saying it out loud will make it true. "They'll find him. I bet he's really annoyed."

She doesn't believe a word of it.

"I hope so," Gina says.

"Is Bobby there?"

"Mel sent him home to look after his mother and Deanna and the baby."

Bobby wouldn't like that. He would have wanted to go with Mel, and Mel wouldn't have let him in case - in case Silas was dead. "Well, that's good. Can you get someone to call me when they find him?"

"Sure thing, Krista. If you need anything let me know."

Krista hangs up, and then boosts herself up onto the kitchen counter. She can hear Jess and Amy giggling outside.

Silas is missing.

He can't be missing, because he's Silas Martin, hero of the northern aviation community.

He can't be missing because he's Bobby and Deanna's dad and Hailey's grandfather, and because Krista loves him and she can't deal with losing him, not after everything.

Krista shakes her head, trying to force the unwelcome thoughts away. Mel and Bill would find him and they'd bring him back and it would just be another story to add to the pile of legends. It wasn't even worth worrying about, because Mel and Silas were untouchable.

Everything's going to be fine, she tells herself. She just has to wait and let it work itself out.

Krista thinks that if she gets down her legs might not work so she sits there, her gut heavy and her head filled with some kind of fog, telling herself over and over again that any second the phone will ring again and Gina would tell her that Mel had found Silas alive and well. He's Silas, and these things happen to other people.

"Krista?"

She blinks, and notices Amy standing in front of her.

"Is everything okay?"

Krista shrugs, a little unsure as to how much she should say. But then, it'll be all round town by sunset. "Silas is missing. Bobby's dad."

"Oh. That sucks.” Amy makes an uncertain, sympathetic face. “But they'll find him, right?"

"Yeah," Krista says. "Of course."

She doesn't believe that, either.

*

By ten pm, when Amy and Jess have gone home and left her alone in a silent house, Krista's feeling so sick and scared she thinks it might be a relief to vomit.

Alive or dead, if they'd found Silas she would know by now, so they hadn't found him and that means he's going to be out there alone overnight. Sure he's got the best survival skills of anyone she knows, but if his plane had gone down and he was hurt that might not help him much.

Krista had spent hours pacing the house, waiting for the phone to ring. Now, too keyed up and scared to sleep, she curls herself up on the couch under a blanket her grandmother had crocheted, and waits until she hears the sound of Mel's truck pulling into the driveway.

She stands up and goes to meet him as he came inside, and the look on his face tells her all she needs to know.

"Now what?" she asks, sick to her stomach.

"We keep looking," Mel says. "First light. There was no sign of him on his flight path, so we'll widen the search."

"I want to help."

Mel sighs. "Krista.”

All he ever did was stop her from doing things she wanted, needed to do. “The more eyes, the better. And if Bobby's helping so am I.”

“Who said Bobby was helping?”

“You know he will.”

Mel snorts. He pulls off his hat and tosses it onto the dining table. "Bloody teenagers." He sighs then, and under the dim light of the one working bulb in the room Krista sees how tired he looks. "All right, fine. All hands on deck." Mel rubs his hand over his eyes. "Have you had something to eat?"

"No. But I'm not hungry."

"Yeah. Me neither."

Krista searches Mel's face for any sign of hope, and sees none. On impulse, surprising herself and probably him, she steps forward and hugs him. Mel hugs her back, tight, and for a second Krista feels somehow better. "He's going to be okay, right?" she asks, wanting nothing more than for Mel to say of course with all the certainty she'd lacked talking to Gina and Amy.

But Mel says nothing at all.

*

Krista sleeps badly that night and dreams the old dream of crashing into the runway. She wakes feeling cold with Silas's words in her head: It doesn't matter how scared you get, it matters what you do with the fear, and she repeats them over and over to herself until she drifts off to sleep again.

Mel knocks on her door just before six. She skips her shower, and they go to the hangar without having had breakfast.

Bobby's waiting outside when they got there, his face pale. Krista has no idea what to say to him, just like he hadn't known what to say when her mother left, but he looks so forlorn that it's easy to forget all the weird things she sometimes feels for him and just hug him. When she puts her arms around him it feels like he's trying not to cry, and Krista has to bite her lip to stop from crying herself. Mel would probably take any excuse to keep them grounded, and she sure as hell isn't going to give him one.

As soon as they hear another car arriving, Bobby pulls away from her. He makes a face and sets his shoulders and looks like he doesn't care about anything as they make their way inside. Krista's done that herself plenty of times.

By 6.30 the whole staff is gathered in the hangar. Leaning against the wall with Bobby, quiet and still, close beside her, Krista sees a few people she knows are pilots from the other airlines. Whenever one pilot's in trouble, everyone who can comes out to help. Krista likes that about Yellowknife, and about pilots.

Bill, one of Arctic Air's senior pilots, is on the phone to Search and Rescue, and Mel's crouched on the floor with a map spread out in front of him and another couple of pilots beside him. They're planning search areas, trying to cover as much ground as possible without too much overlap.

Gina comes by while they're waiting, handing out donuts and sandwiches. “Here,” she says. “Keep your blood sugar levels up.”

Krista hasn't eaten since yesterday afternoon, so she takes one of each without looking. Bobby seems like he's going to refuse then takes something, nodding. “Thanks.”

Gina pats his arm. “I'll bring some coffee around in a minute,” she says, moving on.

As soon as she's gone Axel arrives. Krista doesn't know whether she's glad or annoyed that people can't seem to leave them alone. He puts a hand on Bobby's shoulder, and for a moment Krista thinks Bobby's going to hug him. He doesn't, just looks at the ground. She's never seen him look quite like this before.

"Coming up with me today, Bobby?"

"I can go by myself," Bobby says. He'd been allowed to solo a month after Krista had.

"You look like you could use some company. Anyway, Arctic Air hasn't got an unlimited number of aircraft."

Bobby shrugs, and Krista nudges him with an elbow. The idea of him flying alone in this state scares her, because God knows what sort of stupid things he might decide to do, and what he might find out there by himself, and maybe it makes her over-protective but she wants to know someone's looking out for him. Better Axel than almost anyone else.

"Fine," Bobby says, quietly. "Whatever."

"Good man," Axel says, and goes over to talk to Mel.

Bobby goes silent again, and Krista eats her sandwich, barely tasting it. Together, side by side, they wait.

It seems like hours until Mel calls everyone to attention and silence falls on the hangar. "I wanted to thank you all for coming," he says. "I know - and I guess you all know - how much Silas will appreciate this. Now, I've been talking to Arctic Search and Rescue, and they're gearing up ready to leave. I'd like to get all of you in the air as soon as possible. The sooner we find Silas, the sooner we get him home." Mel stops and looks around the room. He's not much for crowds, and Krista's pretty sure that's the longest and nicest speech she's ever heard from him. Usually if Mel said that much he was firing someone. "Nothing in the world like Yellowknife pilots," Mel says, finally. "I'm going to call you all up and give you your search areas. If you see anything, or if you need anything, contact Gina here at Arctic Air. Axel and Bobby."

Bobby seems to startle, as if he'd been somewhere else. On impulse, Krista grabs his fingers for a moment and squeezes. "He'll be okay," she says, needing it to be true as desperately as she'd needed it last night.

Bobby nods without looking at her, and goes to join Axel.

Krista's called up with Liz, a British pilot who'd joined Arctic Air the year before. Liz has a supply run to make to Wrigley (because even with Silas missing and the other airlines lending a hand, they still have a business to run), so their search area is along that route. As Krista looks at the map, Mel pulls Liz aside. Krista doesn't exactly eavesdrop - she's standing right there, after all - but she knows Mel's going to be talking about her and she can't help listening. "If you find a wreck, don't let Krista near it. I don't want her to see -" Mel doesn't finish his sentence, but Krista knows.

I don't want her to see Silas like that.

She pretends she hadn't heard, and when Liz comes back over she straightens her back and says "the Navajo, then?" as if this was any ordinary flight.

Liz nods, and tugs on the end of Krista's braid. "The Navajo. Come on then, let's see what you can do."

*

No one finds Silas that day, or the next day, or the next, and after three days everything seems to blur together. Krista stops knowing what day of the week it is, let alone where she'd been on any given day or who she'd been flying with. She eats nothing but cereal and toast when she eats at all and sleeps only because Mel threatens to ban her from the hangar if she doesn't. Bobby stops talking to anyone, including her, about anything other than him going out to look for Silas.

Krista thinks, sometimes, in the silent hangar at Arctic Air or in her silent bedroom at night, that this is worse than Irene left. She'll see her mother again – Toronto, next summer, Irene's in Australia now but they've got it all planned already – and if Silas is dead, then that's the end in a way that makes her want to be sick. She sees Deanna sitting in the office with tears in her eyes while Hailey plays on the floor like Krista and Bobby used to do, and she sees Yvonne standing outside, her fists clenched, staring up into the sky, and all she wants is for Silas to come home.

There are times when it feels like this is all there ever was – the look in Bobby's eyes and the dread in the pit of her stomach and the way Mel snaps and yells at anything, the endless days of waiting for Bobby to land and worrying that one day he won't come back either – and nothing else seems to matter. It surprises her again and again to discover that everyone else's lives are going on as normal. Amy and Jess drag her out for coffee but she can't even crack a smile for their benefit, and Jim McAllister stops her in the street to say Bobby won't talk to him and ask if she can make sure Bobby's okay.

“He won't talk to me either,” Krista says, feeling like she's betraying her best friend.

“You think there's anything I can do?”

“Not unless you can bring Silas home.”

*

Two weeks after Silas disappears, Mel tells her, quietly, that the official search is over.

Bobby freaks out, goes on a rampage through the hanger, hitting things and kicking them and knocking them down, shouting in English and Tlicho. “We have to find him,” he says, over and over and over. Krista stands in the doorway, watching him, arms wrapped around herself. She doesn't even recognise this version of Bobby, the one that's hurting so badly that he'd let everyone see it.

Krista doesn't know she's crying – for Bobby, for Silas, for Deanna and Hailey and Yvonne, for herself and for all of them – until Liz pulls her into the breakroom and presses a mug of hot chocolate into her hands. “Sit down,” she says quietly, “and drink this.”

Krista's legs give way and she sits, sipping at the drink. One of Liz's hands is on her shoulder, heavy, like an anchor to reality when Krista half wishes she could float away. Everything about this feels wrong, upside down, back to front.

It's probably only a few minutes, really, until the crashing stops and Bobby stumbles into the breakroom like he's not seeing or thinking and just acting on instinct. Krista goes to stand up but then Mel appears out of nowhere and wraps his arms around Bobby. They seem to drop together, ending up on the floor, and all Krista can do is sit there and watch them and wish, with everything she has, that she could bring Silas home and make everything right again.

MAY 1999

“Look at us,” Bobby says. “Seriously.”

Mel's in Cambridge Bay for the night and Bobby's supposed to be staying with Deanna, but Hailey's puking and running a fever, so Bobby and Krista are home alone together. Mel has this thing where he doesn't trust them overnight when he's not there, so tonight's a coincidence and a first, and Mel is going to be as pissed as hell when he gets back tomorrow.

Especially if he discovers the beer bottles. Jim McAllister had owed Bobby a favour, and that favour had come in the form of a six-pack delivered via Jim's older brother and stashed in Bobby's room for a few days. With Mel gone, they're making the most of it, just the two of them in a way it hasn't quite been for a while.

It's been a rough few years, what with Irene and Silas and then the total painful unfairness of Yvonne's death. Bobby had changed, had started hot wiring cars just because joy-riding was fun and had slept with half the girls in school, and it was only in the last few months that he'd started to seem like the boy she used to know.

Now they're sitting out on the deck with beer and a pizza two weeks out from graduation, both of them suddenly single. Bobby had had an argument with Petra Hossa in the cafeteria that had ended with her pouring milk on his head; Krista had dumped Philip Doyle when, in a sudden moment of clarity, she'd realised he was self-absorbed and annoying and even if she liked having sex with him she didn't much like him.

“We're better than them,” Krista says around a mouthful of pizza.

Bobby leans back in his chair, propping his feet up on the low railing that surrounds the deck. “What are you going to do about graduation?”

Krista knows what he means. It's a school tradition, the graduating class walking into the gym with a partner – friend, classmate, family member. She was supposed to walk with Philip, because that was what you were supposed to do when you were dating someone, and she'd assumed Bobby would walk with Petra. Now she looks at Bobby. “Walk with you, I hope.”

“Not one of your friends?”

“You are my friend,” Krista says, a little too quickly. She has another drink and adds, “Anyway, Amy's walking with her brother and Jess is going with Dave Sahcho, so, no.”

Bobby looks at her, smiling, and there's something about his face in the evening sunlight that makes Krista come out in goosebumps. “Okay,” Bobby says. “I guess I wouldn't want to walk with anyone else, anyway.”

Krista nods. “Good,” she says, but it's not like there's anyone else she really wants either. She shifts on her chair, tucks her feet up under her and looks up into the sky as a Twin Lakes DC-3 soars overhead, its landing gear down. That'll be her one of these days. “Won't you miss this?” she asks on some impulse, meaning everything, meaning drinking beer with her on perfect summer evenings.

Bobby pulls a face at her, and she knows it means he's thinking. “Yeah,” he says, finally. “But Vancouver's not that far away, and it's not forever.”

It's far enough, and it feels like it's going to be forever. Krista says nothing. She's tired of people leaving.

“Don't you ever think about going somewhere else?”

Krista had thought about spending the summer in Toronto with her mother, but Mel had put his foot down about it at the last minute and refused to let her go. She'd also spent many a long winter wondering what it would be like to live in Australia. “I don't know.” After a moment, some impulse – maybe it's the beer – inspires honesty. “Yeah. Some days I just want to get out of Yellowknife, you know?”

“We should go somewhere one day,” Bobby says. “Somewhere exciting.”

“Somewhere warm.”

Bobby cracks open the last two bottles of beer and hands her one. Krista thinks maybe it's coincidence that their fingers brush together as she takes it from him; she catches herself smiling anyway and instinctively looks away.

“You could get a bikini,” Bobby says.

“I could not.” Krista looks up again and knows he's just trying to mess with her head. “I will if you will.”

“Is that a dare?”

“Maybe.”

“You're on, Ivarson.”

“Am I now?”

Bobby tips his head sideways and smiles at her. “Next summer.”

It sounds like a promise of some kind. Krista breathes in and holds her breath for a moment, just looking at him, and then she makes up her mind. “All right. Next summer.”

“Good. Can't wait.”

They've got a whole year to get through first, graduation and exams and two different cities, and it's moments like these she's going to miss the most. If she thinks too hard about that she might start getting tearful, and she could blame it on the beer but she'd rather not have to. Leaning back in her chair, she stretches out her legs and purposefully kicks Bobby. He grins and kicks her back but Krista's ready for him: she grabs his ankle and tickles his bare foot, laughing at the look on his face. Bobby jerks his ankle out of her hand and – apparently going for the first thing he finds – flicks his beer bottle at her, sending a shower of beer over one of her arms.

“I'm going to get you,” Krista says, her impulse control hampered by beer and adrenaline. She leaps to her feet and goes to catch his arm, intending to wrestle him to the floor and subdue him in a tickle war. But Bobby's on the move and it's his hand she gets hold of, and she pulls him or he pulls her but whichever it is, they end up standing so close to each other she can feel his breath on her face. She's had two and a half bottles of beer and it had all happened so quickly that she's off-balance in more ways than one, with her heart pounding and her hands sweating. Krista has to take a step backwards to get her balance back and stop herself from kissing him, and as she does she knocks over the small table they've been putting their empty beer bottles on. Bobby catches her with an arm round her waist but the table falls, smashing one of the bottles in the process and scattering glass across the deck.

“No more beer for you,” Bobby says, still holding onto her.

Krista's pretty sure the problem is him more than the beer. “Good thing there's not much left, then.” She's leaning against Bobby's chest, and she'd happily stay there all night. She gulps, and steps backwards again, this time more carefully. “We should get this cleaned up.”

Bobby just looks at her, and for a moment all Krista wants to do is kiss him. But she'd screwed up once before, with Philip, and she doesn't quite trust herself at the moment. Forcing herself to look away she crouches down and begins to make a nice pile out of the bigger bits of broken glass, and after a moment Bobby joins her.

Two weeks until graduation, dry grad, the Saturday night party Jim McAllister's been talking about for months. Once she sobers up she can think about things properly, and then if she still feels the same way she can finally let things be different.

*

Their graduation goes off without a hitch. No one trips and falls on their face, the valedictorian manages not to cry during her speech, and Mel doesn't notice Krista and Bobby holding hands as they walk into the gym together.

(Krista hadn't intended that, really, but she'd had butterflies in her stomach and she'd needed something to hold onto and Bobby was right there, and then she'd decided that if he wasn't letting go neither was she.)

They do the family celebration thing, where Krista keeps herself so busy talking to other people's parents and hiding behind the punch table with her friends Jess and Amy that she doesn't have to dance with Mel, and then it's off to the locker room to change out of their dresses for dry grad. Krista's more than a little relieved to ditch the dress - she'd liked it when she'd gone shopping with Jess, but possibly she shouldn't have just bought the first dress that fit and didn't make her feel like a pumpkin. In retrospect it's far too blue, and she hates standing out in a crowd. With her jeans on she feels a little more like herself again, and the world seems to settle down into normality as they make their way back into the gym to help move chairs out of the way.

"Question is," Amy mutters, as she and Krista drag a stack of chairs to the side of the room, "is the alcohol here?"

Jim McAllister has a reputation for being able to get any alcohol anyone wants, and if he and his older brother take a cut on it no one minds. A month back he'd gathered up half the class, told them he figured he could sneak alcohol into dry grad. They'd handed over a good twenty dollars each, hard-earned from part-time jobs or saved from their allowances, all with the hope of making the night somewhat less than deadly dull and boring. "It's Jim," Krista says in response to Amy's question, once that she's checked that there's no one around to overhear them. "When does he not get the alcohol?" The beer she and Bobby had been drinking a few weeks back was McAllister stuff, even if they hadn't had to pay for that lot.

"He'd better."

Bobby comes over then, looking a lot more relaxed now that he's out of his suit. The sight of him in it had taken Krista's breath away, but she couldn't help remembering that the last time he wore a suit was for his mother's funeral, and the time before that for his father's. Those weren't times she really wanted to think about so she'd had to keep searching for distractions and hadn't had much luck. "What are you two whispering about?"

"Beer," Amy says, giggling. She's never been drunk in her life.

Bobby grins. "Oh, we've got beer, vodka, tequila, and more for the party tomorrow as well. And breath mints."

“Breath mints?” Amy asks.

“The key is not to let the adults know we've got it. If they start smelling alcohol on people's breath, it's over. And there's no point getting this party finished early, right?”

"Where is it?"

"Boys' locker room." When Krista looks at him, Bobby shrugs. "We put it in there after they checked it. That's what the window's for."

Amy giggles again. "This is going to be such a good night."

*

With vodka in her water bottle (and in the punch, and in the Coke), it's definitely a good night. Krista spots Philip in the corner with Laura Tse and can't bring herself to care. That's got to be a sign that she's well and truly over that idiot, and at least it's entertaining watching one of the parent chaperones pulling them apart.

They get through the quiz some over-eager parent had put together (the winning team is almost entirely sober, and appears to believe their classmates are suffering from sugar highs), and through a few stupid games. Round about three a.m, when the parents are starting to look like they wish they'd never heard of dry grad and a few kids are asleep on mats in the corner, someone brings in the TV and video set used to show educational films in class, and puts on a movie.

Krista's pleasantly buzzed on vodka and she's exhausted. Amy's been sick in the toilet and is now asleep, or pretending to be, and Jess is having some kind of deep and meaningful conversation with Dave on the bleachers, so Krista figures the movie's as good an option as any. She heads out to the bathroom first, and runs into Bobby on her way back into the gym.

She hadn't forgotten him, not really, but the alcohol was doing weird things to her mind and he'd spent half the night helping with Jim's alcohol smuggling operation. "Hi," she says, stepping aside to let Katie Moore past.

"Hi."

"Having fun?"

"I was. Now I'm just tired."

"Yeah. I know the feeling."

Krista wanders over to the locked glass door leading outside, and Bobby follows her. She'd give anything to go for a walk right now, to feel the cool night air on her face. It might clear her head. But they're not getting outside for anything short of a fire or alien invasion in the gym, so all she can do is lean against the wall and stare out, with Bobby beside her. "Whose bright idea was it for this to be an all night thing, anyway?"

"Someone who doesn't want us wandering the streets and getting wasted."

"So every year kids get secretly drunk at dry grad instead." Krista closes her eyes, and feels Bobby put an arm around her. Her head drops onto his shoulder without her quite telling it to.

"Pretty much." Bobby puts his head against hers, and someone's mother promptly arrives to shoo them back into the middle of the gym.

Krista takes Bobby's hand as they follow the woman, half wanting to make a point. "This is just stupid. What do they think we're going to do, have sex right here?" That had sounded funny in her head, but when she hears herself say it she wants to fall through the floor. Said out loud it sounds like she wants to have sex with Bobby, which actually she kind of does, and also sounds like she thinks Bobby wants to have sex with her.

Which maybe he does.

Bobby just shrugs and laughs. "Probably. Don't adults think teenagers are horny all the time?"

"Isn't that just boys?" Krista asks, feeling a little bolder now that Bobby's continuing the conversation she started.

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

Some irrational part of Krista's brain decides that, because she's been drinking, she can say whatever the hell she wants, and it won't matter in the morning. "Maybe I would."

They've been walking across the gym to nowhere in particular, and now Bobby stops and looks at her. Krista's glad most of the lights have been turned off for the movie, because at least if she's blushing he won't be able to see. "Serious, Krista?"

"I do if you do."

"Wow, I do, I just didn't think you would ever want to - not with me."

"Of course I do," Krista says, and finally stops to think about what's happening. They're standing here deciding to sleep with each other and they haven't even kissed and somehow, suddenly, that seems pretty important.

She pulls him into the corner by the sleeping kids - it's the darkest in the room - pushes him up against the wall, and kisses him. He tastes like beer and breath mints and his tongue's in her mouth and she thinks her hands are going all over the place just trying to touch more of him. He's got one hand on her hip, the other on the back of her neck and she can feel her breasts pressed against his chest. They should definitely have done this forever ago because this is pretty much perfect -

"And you two can go and watch the movie with everyone else," says a voice in her ear - someone else's mother.

Bobby pulls back and Krista rolls her eyes at him, not caring if their chaperone notices. She'd just started to feel something pressing against her leg, and even as she's rolling her eyes she notices Bobby tugging his baggy t-shirt down a little further. They're escorted over to the TV and the woman watches as they sit down. "Behave yourselves," she says, walking off, and someone giggles.

"You still want to?" Bobby whispers, his breath light and tickly against her ear.

Krista wants to even more now. She nods.

"When?"

"Tomorrow, when Mel goes to work." She looks around quickly to assure herself that no one's paying attention. "Have you got any condoms?"

"No, but I can get one."

"Okay." She reaches out, rubs her hand over his because the urge to touch him is so completely overwhelming and she knows they're being watched. Last thing she needs is for someone to get uptight and tell Mel. "My room?"

"Yeah."

“Good.” Krista looks sideways at Bobby, and doesn't even bother trying to suppress the grin.

*

As the front door closes and she hears the sound of Mel driving off, Krista lies in bed, body tingling with excitement and trepidation. She wants this, maybe more than she's ever wanted anything in her life, and now that they're on the edge she can't understand how or why they waited so long.

A few minutes after Mel leaves, Bobby knocks softly on the door. Krista almost laughs. As if she wouldn't let him in! “Come in,” she calls as she sits up, and wonders, too late, if she should have changed into something sexier or at least brushed her hair. But Bobby comes in wearing t-shirt and pajama pants, closes the door behind him, and sits down on her bed. He puts something small and flat on the bedside table and Krista feels herself turn pink as she recognises the condom packet.

Yeah. This is really, actually, going to happen.

Bobby looks at her, and shrugs, and smiles. “Hi.”

“Hi,” she says.

They sit there like that, he on top of the covers and she under them, grinning at each other. Someone, Krista decides, impatient as always, has to make the first move, so she puts her hand on the back of his neck, and kisses him.

After that it's easy.

She wants everything, she wants all of Bobby, and she wants it now. Her fingers find the hem of his t-shirt; she has to stop kissing him to pull it over his head, but flinging it across the room almost makes up for that. And now he's half-naked on her bed and she can't stop looking at him because he's perfect and beautiful.

Bobby kisses her again, slower, softer, and then there are fingers brushing down over her collar bone and down on to her breast. Krista bites her lip, breathing in deep, watching Bobby's fingers against the soft grey cotton of her tank top. She can see her nipple hard through her top and for a moment she feels ridiculously exposed as if she's given something away, some secret of feeling or emotion. But then Bobby has a hand on each of her breasts and it feels so good she has to kiss him again, and again, and again.

His hands slips down to her waist and then back up, taking her tank with them. Krista raises her arms to let him pull it off and then, topless in front of him, finds herself gripping her sheets because she has no idea what else to do with her hands, and it all feels kind of weird and kind of awesome at the same time.

Bobby's fingers circle the base of one breast, and then the other. Krista can hardly breathe, her gaze shifting from Bobby's face to his hands and back again. Light enough to tickle, his fingers make their way back to her nipples and now, without the layer of fabric separating her skin from his an electric sensation floods her body. She has to bite her lip again, this time in an attempt to stop herself from moaning, but what comes out instead is a noise somewhere between a gasp and a squeal and Bobby – damn him – starts laughing. “Just relax, Krista. No one's going to hear – except for me.”

“I know,” she says, feeling momentarily stupid and tightening her grip on the sheets. “It's just – well, I don't know.”

Bobby drifts a finger down to her bellybutton and back up again. “You are allowed to enjoy it, that's sort of the point.”

“I know. And I am.” Krista makes herself let go of the sheets, and stepping back from the sex thing for a moment she wraps her arms around Bobby again, pulling him into a hug. “I'm glad you're here,” she whispers into his ear. There are a lot of things she wants to say, but she has no idea how to say any of them, so that will have to do, and maybe he'll understand what she means.

He kisses the curve where her neck meets her shoulder. “Me too.”

Krista gives it a minute, and then she pulls back and looks at him. His pajama pants are loose but there's a bulge in the front that, a few weeks ago, might have made her blush. “Your turn,” she says. She leans in to kiss him again, and as she does so she put her hands on his hips and, as deliberately and as slowly as she can, slips them under the waistband of his pants and down to his dick. Bobby gasps and shudders as she wraps her fingers around it, feeling the warmth of him under his hand. Her heart pounding, the sound of her own breathing too loud in her eyes and the wetness on her thighs undeniable, Krista strokes him slowly, up and down, watching his reaction until his face twists and he pulls back.

“Sorry,” he says after a moment, panting. “But if you kept going then – you know.”

Krista bites back a grin. She could guess. “Okay.” She still has her hands in his pants, and she wants to see him, so she tugs at the waistband and between the two of them they get his pants off.

She doesn't quite dare touch it, not so soon, and there's some stupid impulse suddenly telling her it's rude to stare. She looks at it, looks away, swallows hard. It's not like she's never seen a guy's dick before but this is Bobby and for some reason that makes everything different.

“Now who's turn is it?” Bobby asks, his voice familiar, teasing, a distraction from her sudden confusion.

Krista's still under the blankets. “Get up then,” she says, feeling bold. Bobby stands so she can kick the covers off, and then he sits down beside her again. He puts one hand on her knee, and Krista holds her breath as he rubs it up the inside of her thigh, curving away to her hip at the last moment. “Bobby.”

“What?” he asks mock-innocent, and taps her gently on the end of her nose.

“No fair.” Krista makes a face at him, and decides to take matters into her own hands. She grabs pajama pants and panties together and pulls them down with Bobby – finally – lending a hand to get them off over her feet.

For one moment she's aware just how naked she is, but then Bobby's hand slides up her leg again, and this time it doesn't change course. Krista's back arches as she feels the rough skin of his fingers against her, touching, exploring. It's pretty obvious he hasn't got much of a clue what he's doing but for a few moments it doesn't matter.

She wants more then - needs more - and as Bobby bends forward to kiss her she reaches out a hand, fumbling for the condom he'd brought. There's a thud and a thump as her water bottle, a pilot's manual for the DC-3 and – presumably – the condom fall to the floor.

“Shit,” she says against Bobby's mouth, giggling despite herself.

He breaks away, leans over and comes up holding the condom packet between two fingers. “Looking for this?”

“Uh-huh.”

He seems to hesitate for a moment. “Now?”

Krista thinks that might just be one of the most annoying questions she's ever been asked. “Yes, now.”

“Well, okay then.” Bobby tears the packet open and shifts a little to roll it onto himself.

Krista waits, every nerve, every inch of her body ready for this as Bobby settles himself between her legs. She can feel him pressing against her, and then all at once he's inside her, warm and hard and real. Emotion and sensation seems to flood over her, stripping her of the last of her conscious thought. She holds him tight and pulls him down, needing to kiss him again, feeling the press of his skin against hers. Bobby's eyes are closed tight but he kisses her back, his breath hot on her face, and after a moment he starts to move.

Krista forgets who she is, where she is, forgets everything except for Bobby on top of her, inside her. It's electric and unreal, like the rush of take-off but almost better. She has no idea what either of them are doing, just that they need each other and want each other and in that moment that's all that matters.

It doesn't last long. Bobby grunts and stills inside her, his forehead and nose against hers, gasping for breath. Krista holds onto him, because it seems the least she could do and she's not ready to let go yet, but it's fucking annoying all the same.

Bobby rolls off her and lands on her arm. “Shit,” he says, still breathing hard. “I'm sorry, Krista.”

“It happens, right?” she says, because he looks so embarrassed, and because locker room gossip suggested that it happens a lot.

“Not -” he says, and stops. Krista wonders if he'd been going to say not to me. “Sorry.”

“Stop apologising,” she snaps, her frustration making the words harsher than she'd intended.

Bobby nods, and kisses her cheek. “I have to go clean up. Back in a few minutes,” he says, and climbs over her, and goes.

Krista lies there, feeling her heartbeat and breathing slowly returning to normal, painfully aware of the ache between her legs that isn't going away without help. On some impulse she pulls the sheet up, covering her body. Nakedness feels suddenly awkward and she doesn't even know why.

She hears the toilet flush and the sound of water running, and a few moments later Bobby's in her doorway again. “Hi.”

“Hi,” she says, and lifts the sheet so he can climb into bed beside her. They lie there quietly, bodies pressed close together and Bobby's fingers tickling circles on her hip.

“Did you, um.” Bobby kisses her, and shrugs one shoulder. “You know.”

Krista contemplates lying, just for a second, because for some reason the truth is almost embarrassing. But she really doesn't see why he should get to have all the fun. “No.”

“Damn. I'm sorry.”

Bobby.”

He nods. “We should do something about that, then,” he says, his voice low. His mouth is somewhere near her ear, and it tickles.

And then he kisses her again, slower, longer this time, his hand slipping down between her legs.

Just like before it feels good to be touched, but it's still fucking obvious that Bobby's got no real clue about girls. To admit that she knows what she wants and it's not this is to admit to what she does in bed at night, but she pictures Bobby's face as he came and decides that they're really past that.

Before she can lose her nerve she grabs his hand and relocates it, pressing two of his fingers against her clit. There, she thinks, and then stops thinking as Bobby gets the hang of it. Like him she doesn't last long but it's enough, it's all she needs, and she comes, crying out against his mouth.

“Wow,” Bobby says when she's quiet and still, shifting his hand onto her stomach.

“Yeah.” Krista stretches out cramped limbs, feeling herself warm and relaxed and blissful. Mel won't be home for hours, and they'd barely slept last night. “Stay for a while?” she asks, unwilling to let any of this end.

Bobby smooths her hair back from her face with his palm, and kisses her nose. “Of course. Come here.” He reaches out an arm and Krista lets him tuck it around her waist. Head on his shoulder, one of her legs over his, and she's happier than she's been in a long time. It's like they've been waiting for this forever and now that they've got it, it's perfect.

She won't think about Bobby going to Vancouver, not now. They'll figure that out later. All she wants is to close her eyes, and sleep.

*

Krista wakes with afternoon sunlight on her face. Bobby's still asleep, his chest rising and falling steadily under her head. Mel won't be home for a while yet and so despite the fact that she's hungry and needs to pee she just lies there, letting her mind drift to a future where Bobby has his degree and she has her commercial licence, a house in Old Town, and her coming home from a long flight to Bobby waiting for her.

That would be a pretty good life, she thinks. The two of them, just like always.

Underneath her Bobby stretches and yawns, and his arms tighten around her. “Hey,” he says, his voice groggy.

Krista rearranges herself so her head's beside his on the pillow and she can see his face. “Good afternoon.”

“Sleep well?”

“Mmmmm.”

Bobby reaches over her and picks up her alarm clock to check the time. “Still got a few hours,” he says, one of his hands coming up to stroke her cheek.

Krista wonders if he's suggesting round two. She wants to do it again, she really, really does, but at the same time she just wants to lie here and cuddle with him a little bit longer. “Yeah. Before,” she says, “that was good.”

“It was great.” Bobby trails his fingertips down from her temple, along her cheekbone and around her nose to brush against her lips. For a moment he's still and quiet, and then he takes a deep breath. “Come to Vancouver with me.”

“What?” Krista asks, finding herself struggling to make sense of that comment.

“Move to Vancouver with me. We'll get a dingy little apartment somewhere and live on noodles and peanut butter, and you can do flight school there.”

Krista looks at his face, so familiar and perfect and so close to hers their noses are almost touching. She remembers her own fantasy of just moments earlier, and feels something heavy growing inside her. “I'm not a city girl, Bobby. You know that. More than a few days and I start getting twitchy.”

“But if you were flying you'd be okay. You could still get away.”

“I guess so,” she says, without believing it. She hates this conversation. “But this is my home, Bobby. All of it. Back Bay, and the bush pilots' monument, and float planes and ice roads and everything.” She thinks of Vancouver the few times she's been, of the feeling of being trapped by towering buildings and roads filled with endless cars. Even watching the sea rolling steadily in couldn't shake the sense of everything in the city being somehow wrong.

“It's my home too. Just a few years, and then we'll be back.”

“You could stay here,” she says, impulsively, needing a way to fix this. “Work at Arctic Air, study by correspondence. People do that, right?”

“They do, but -”

But Bobby doesn't want to give up his Vancouver dream any more than she wants to leave Yellowknife. “I know.” Krista rubs a hand across his chest, trying to distract herself. “It's just for a few years, right?”

“You can come visit, even if it's just for the weekend. And I'll be coming back here every chance I get, to see you, and Deanna and Hailey.”

Krista knows it's totally ridiculous for her to be annoyed because he won't change his mind and stay with her. A few weeks ago she hadn't even had this much. “Let's not think about it yet. Let's just be happy.”

Bobby kisses her quickly. “We have to figure out what we're going to tell Mel.”

“Mel doesn't need to know.” Sometimes it's best not to poke the angry bear. “Not until after you go to Vancouver. And it's not like anything can really happen with him around, anyway.”

“I don't like sneaking around. He'll be pissed if we don't tell him and he finds out anyway.”

“He'll also be pissed if we do tell him.”

“I could move in with Deanna until I leave.”

“Mmmmm.” The pressure of the future – of Bobby not being in her life every day, of everything changing – is suddenly too heavy to bear. Krista's done cuddling, if cuddling means thinking. She shifts her weight sideways and gets herself on top of Bobby, her face an inch above his.

“Hello,” he says, grinning, hugging her tight.

“Hi.” Krista brushes her nose against his and then takes her time kissing him again, concentrating on the way his lips feel against hers. Her hair, a tangled mess thanks to her attempt at a fancy hairstyle for graduation comes cascading down, ending up in her mouth and apparently in Bobby's as well, because of course that would happen to her. She has to stop kissing him as he makes a face and wrinkles his nose, and climb off him to go retrieve something to pin it up.

She digs a hair clip out of the pile of crap on her dresser and watches Bobby's reflection in the mirror. He's got the sheet around his waist, one arm behind his head, and a smile on his face. “What are you looking at?” she asks, clipping her hair back.

“You. You're hot.”

Krista feels ridiculous and very, very naked, and she's pretty sure she's turning pink. “Um, thanks.” She gets back into bed, on top of Bobby again: apparently naked is easier when she's got something else to think about.

Bobby taps his fingers down the length of her spine, almost to her butt. It tickles, and she likes it. “So, where were we?”

“I was trying to suffocate you with my hair.”

“Sexy.”

“I try.”

“You don't have to try.”

Embarrassed for the second time in as many minutes, Krista retreats to the safety of kissing Bobby again. Her experience might be limited to Philip Doyle but she's pretty sure that Bobby's a really good kisser and she really wants to do this a whole lot more. Also, kissing means they're going to have sex again and she wants that, too.

She can feel Bobby hardening against her and her own body responding in anticipation. She wriggles deliberately to tease him, his dick slipping between her legs, and hears him moan against her mouth.

And then he pulls away, breathing hard. “Damn it – Krista -”

“Now what?”

“I haven't got another condom.”

Krista lets out a long breath. “You're kidding,” she says, while a part of her brain demands to know why she hadn't been expecting something to go wrong.

“I wish I was.”

Her first impulse is to say screw the condom. But everyone says pulling out doesn't work and Krista really doesn't want to have a conversation that involves telling Mel she's pregnant, ever. “Shit,” she says, rolling off Bobby because if she doesn't, they might do something stupid anyway. She's horny again and this isn't fair.

“What do you want to do?” Bobby asks. “I mean, there are other things. Or we could just do it anyway.”

“And then you can tell Mel you got me pregnant,” Krista says. Damn him for tempting her.

Bobby sighs. “Let's do something else then.”

“What, like play cards?” Krista asks, sarcasm taking over. She never finds out what Bobby's got in mind because the next moment they hear Mel's truck pulling into the driveway. “Why the hell is he so early?”

“Want to bet he's checking up on us?” Bobby asks, scrambling out of bed and retrieving his pajama pants. “I should probably take a shower. Krista -”

Krista's right behind him. Pajamas are the easiest thing to put on; she grabs her tank top and pulls it over her head. “I'll tell him you just woke up. I'll tell him I just woke up.” She realises in her panic that she's put it on backwards, pulls it off, and puts it on again. She's definitely got pants around here somewhere -

“Which is actually true, when you think about it.” Bobby kisses her once, quickly, and stoops to pick up her pants and toss them at her. “We'll talk at Jim's party?”

“Yeah. Go!”

Bobby's gone. A second later, just before the front door opens, Krista hears the shower start running. She grabs the condom wrapper from off the floor and dives back into bed, just getting the covers over her before she hears a gentle tap on the door.

“Yeah?” she says, doing her best to sound half asleep.

Mel opens the door. “You still asleep?”

“What do you think?” At least the irritation comes naturally. She can thank Bobby and Mel for that one.

“Were you drinking last night?”

Krista sighs for dramatic affect, and sits up to be as indignant as possible. “At dry grad? Seriously?”

“Rumour has it Jim McAllister was found with a few empty bottles of vodka in the back of his truck. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?”

“No,” Krista says, lying through her teeth and not caring a bit.

Mel looks at her. Krista still has the condom wrapper in one hand; she pushes it down under the sheets and hopes desperately that Mel would think she was only blushing because she was lying about the vodka.

“Get the hell out of bed then,” Mel says, turning away. “And if I find out that you or Bobby had anything to do with that vodka, you're grounded for a month.”

“Because you can ground adults!” Krista yells after him, and gets out of bed for the sole purpose of slamming her door shut.

Alone in her room, she leans her forehead against the door and breathes, in, out, in, out. Not a moment of privacy and Bobby not having another condom and the fact that she wants to have sex with Bobby again but she can't, not right this second at least - all of it swarms round in her head in an endless, infuriating circle. She almost wishes Mel would come back and start in on the vodka again, just so she'd have a reason to yell at him.

Instead she settles for dragging her dresser drawer open and throwing half her tops on the floor in search of a t-shirt that wouldn't make her feel stupid. What that means she didn't even know, but she finds a purple one, gathers up some more clothes, and goes to bang on the bathroom door and demand that Bobby hurry up so she can have a shower.

It kind of helps.

*

Mel's more than a little reluctant to let them go to Jim's party that night. “Bunch of teenagers getting shit-faced round a fire, that's a recipe for trouble.”

“It's our last chance to celebrate with everyone,” Bobby says, leaning back against the kitchen cabinets, looking calm and collected with a cup of coffee in both hands.

Krista finds it better not to look at him.

“Celebrate my ass. And what do you mean, last chance? You all see each other every damn day. You've got another six weeks of school.”

“And we'll be studying for exams.”

“Come on, Mel,” Krista says, doing her bit. “Please. Everyone else is going.”

“Surprised McAllister's parents are even letting him have this party, what with the amount of booze they found on him last night.” Mel had been pacing across the kitchen floor; now he stops and looks at Bobby. “You planning to drink?”

“I'm underage. And driving.”

Mel turns to Krista. “What about you?”

“I won't do anything dumb, Mel.”

For a second, Mel looks like he doesn't believe her. Krista isn't sure she would believe her, either. Mel had been to enough parties in his time to know how it all worked. “Fine,” Mel says, sighing heavily. “Go.” He points a finger at Bobby. “You – not a drop of alcohol if you're driving my daughter anywhere.”

“I wouldn't, you know that. And we're giving Amy Baker and her twin a ride, so that's three people to kick my ass if I do anything stupid.”

“Luke Baker's got no more common sense than you do.” It's Krista's turn to be pointed at. “You - don't do anything dumb, and don't you dare get in the truck with him if he's been drinking. Or anyone else who's been drinking, for that matter.”

Krista rolls her eyes. “Of course not.”

Mel stamps his way out of the kitchen. “Don't make me regret this!” he says over his shoulder.

Bobby puts the coffee cup down once they're alone. He looks at her and smiles, but Krista's focused on maintaining a safe distance in the hope it would help her resist the urge to kiss him with her father in the house. “What time do we have to pick up Amy and Luke?”

“Six thirty.”

Krista checks her watch. “I'm going to go get changed, then.” She lets herself smile at Bobby. Once they got to the party they could slip away from everyone else and talk, really talk, and maybe make the most of the back of Bobby's truck or the woods around the farm. They could get condoms from Jess and Dave or someone, and it would make up for earlier.

“Okay,” Bobby says, grinning. He picks up the coffee cup again, and Krista knows he's still smiling as she leaves the room.

*

The party at McAllister's is supposed to be one of those events they'll remember all their lives. Bobby gets dragged off by Jim as soon as they arrive so he can help start the fire (even though Krista's a better fire starter than either of them) but Krista actually doesn't mind, not really, not when there's beer to be had and people to talk to. She sits on an old fallen tree with Amy and Jess and a few of the others, a couple of six-packs of beer in the grass in front of them, and watches the flames flare up with a suddenness that suggests someone (and hopefully not Bobby, though she wouldn't put it past him) had used an accelerant. Everyone's full of remember-when conversations, as if this is the end of everything and they haven't got another six weeks of school.

Krista finds herself getting sucked into the conversation, remembering the time Candi got lost on a field trip and three more people got lost trying to find her, the time Luke threw up in front of a teacher everyone hated and whose time in Yellowknife had lasted all of two months, the time Bobby and Kelsey Duke – but that's not a story Krista really wants to remember right now. She realises that she's lost track of time and that she's had more beer than she intended. Her head feels a little fuzzy.

“I'm going for a walk,” she says, and stands up. She has to grab Jess's shoulder to stop herself toppling over, and has to take a moment to convince the ground not to wobble.

“Get some more beer,” someone says.

“Sure.”

What Krista really wants is Bobby. A bunch of the boys are sitting by the fire singing what she thinks is an Arrogant Worms song - spend the night in Dildo and you'll wake up feeling fine, of course it is – so she goes over there. No sign of Bobby, but Amy's brother's there busily filling plastic cups with large amounts of vodka. “Hey Luke, do you know where Bobby is?”

Luke gives her a blank stare and someone else shrugs. The others are too busy singing badly to care, but she tries again anyway. “Well, have you seen Jim?”

“Jim,” says someone else, solemnly, “is in the back of a truck with Zoe Robins.”

“Not helpful,” Krista says. She grabs another beer and walks on.

All the cars are parked in a field by the McAllisters' woodshed. Krista heads that way, wondering if Bobby had gone to get something out of the truck and got stuck talking to someone. She rounds the corner by the woodshed, and then she sees it.

Bobby and Petra Hossa in the shadows, talking.

Krista stops short, and sucks in a deep breath as she tries to figure out what's going on. Petra's looking at the ground, kicking one foot in the gravel; Bobby's close beside her, his hands in his pockets.

It didn't have to mean anything, and Krista's well aware that she should walk away and stop spying. But some morbid curiousity keeps her there, quiet, watching. Besides, she tells herself, it was her bed Bobby had been in today, her that he'd asked to move to Vancouver with him. Surely she's got some right to be here, to know whatever it is she should know.

It all seems somehow inevitable.

And then, in what seems to Krista like slow motion, Bobby puts a hand on Petra's arm and slides it down until they're holding hands. Petra stops kicking her foot, and looks at him.

Krista's seen enough. The Ivarson temper flares inside her, white hot and passionate, but just as quickly as it rises it's tempered by something else. A hollow ache seems to spread through her body, leaving her incapable of action or speech. The future she's been imagining seems to come crashing down on her, leaving her with nothing but an overwhelming sense of stupidity.

She'd let herself believe that she might actually get a happily ever after, that someone like Bobby could ever love someone like her. It would even have been funny, if suddenly everything within her didn't hurt so fucking bad.

Krista breathes deep, in and out. Screw him. She doesn't need him, just like she doesn't need anyone.

She puts herself on auto-pilot, the way she'd done after her mother left (because she was the sort of person other people didn't really want to stay with). Don't think, don't feel, just do. Without Bobby she doesn't have a ride back into town; she'll have to get one from someone later. Now, downing the last of the beer, she walks back to the fire and sits down next to Luke. “Where's the vodka?” she asks. She'll show Bobby Martin just how much she doesn't care as soon as she stops thinking she's going to burst into tears any second.

Someone passes her a cup and the vodka bottle, half empty already. Krista pours more than she'd intended, her hand shaking, and tops it off with Coke.

“You were supposed to be getting us more beer,” someone says beside her. Jess. She sits down, grabs another bottle.

Krista can't be bothered responding. She just drinks half the cup in a few big mouthfuls and almost chokes on it.

“Krista,” Jess says, her voice suddenly soft. “Hey. What happened?”

“Nothing happened,” Krista says, finishing the rest of her drink and reaching out for the vodka again. She's still angry, still sad, still everything.

“Krista, this isn't a good idea,” Jess says.

“Sure it is.”

“No, it's really not. Look, I don't think you should have any more to drink.”

“You're not my mother,” Krista says, making her voice as calm and collected as she could when what she really wanted was to scream and throw things. If her friends want to play the alcohol police, well, she'll just find someone else to hang out with. She stands up, almost falls, and manages to save herself with an almighty effort. “I'll see you later.”

There's another group of people sitting on the fence, and they've got tequila and a lot of beer. Krista goes over there, because none of them are friends of hers and that means they're not likely to ask her what's wrong. They're happy enough to see anyone who's not going to require anything of them, and tequila ends up in her cup without her having to ask for it.

“Scull,” someone says, and Krista does, feeling the burn of the alcohol as it goes down.

Another drink, and another, and then it all hits her hard and fast. Krista stumbles over backwards and sits in the grass, her head heavy and the world terrifyingly uneven. She has to brace herself with both hands just to stop herself from falling over again, and has to close her eyes just so she can focus on breathing without throwing up.

“Krista,” somebody says, from quite close by. “Krista, what's wrong?”

“Dude, she's wasted.”

“I can see that. How much has she had to drink?”

“Hell if I know.”

Someone puts their hands on her shoulders, and Krista's brain catches up with reality. It's Bobby. She'd know his voice anywhere. “Fuck off,” she says, as clearly and precisely as she can, and then regrets it as she almost throws up.

“Okay.” The hands move, and now there's an arm around her waist. “I'm going to take you home so Mel can kill me.”

Krista's on her feet, but her legs can't support her weight and she doesn't think she wants to go anywhere with Bobby, anyway. She doesn't sit so much as fall down, going limp and dropping to the ground when Bobby's arm gives way.

Her stomach gives an awful, horrible lurch, and then there's nothing.

*

Everything is horrible. Krista's awake and doesn't want to be; breathing makes her head hurt and movement seems impossible.

“Krista?”

Words are too hard just then, but Krista manages a groan and forces one eye half-open, trying to figure out where she is. In her own bed, apparently, but she'd been at McAllister's, and there had been vodka and Bobby and she doesn't want to think about any of that just now.

“Your dad wanted me to tell you that you're grounded until you're forty.”

Krista gets both eyes open and discovers that Amy's curled up on the armchair in the corner of her room. “What the hell happened?” she asks, the words coming slowly and painfully.

“You drank half a liquor store is what happened. And then you threw up and passed out.”

“Shit.”

“Your dad said that, too. Are you going to be sick again?”

Krista considers her stomach. “No,” she says. Judging from the hollow feeling, there's nothing left to throw up.

Amy comes over and sits on the bed beside her. “Just making sure,” she says. “You scared me last night, Kris. I mean, I thought I got drunk at dry grad, but that was nothing compared to how you were last night.”

“Sorry,” Krista says. She's sorry for a lot of things, but most of them didn't have anything to do with Amy. Everything's wrong and fucked up and her dad is going to be pissed. “Is Mel here?”

“No, he couldn't get off work. Something about being short staffed. He wanted someone to stay with you because he was worried you were going to choke to death on your own vomit.”

Krista adds humiliation to the list of things that are wrong. “Great.”

“He really was worried. He couldn't wake you up when he got to McAllister's.”

“My dad was there?”

“Bobby tried to take you home, but you passed out and he couldn't carry you so we called your dad.”

“Great.”

“Did you want us to just leave you lying in the dirt or something?” Amy asks, looking up at the ceiling. “What the hell were we supposed to do?”

Krista takes a deep breath, feeling the edge of the nausea begin to fade. She really does feel guilty. “Did I ruin your night?”

Amy shrugs. “It was kind of boring, and Mark kept hitting on me. So whatever.” She puts a hand into the pocket of her jeans and looks at Krista. “Once we got back here and you stopped throwing up, your dad sent me in here to pull down the covers so he could put you to bed.”

As Krista waits, confused, Amy withdraws her hand and opens it. The condom wrapper Krista had shoved between the sheets yesterday lies in her palm.

“I didn't think you wanted your dad to see this.”

Krista doesn't particularly want to see it either. As if she needs a reminder of the latest way she'd found to fuck up her life.

“Bobby?” Amy asks, when Krista doesn't respond.

“Who else?” Closing her eyes, Krista rolls over to face the wall wishing she could pass out again, wishing Amy would go away and leave her to wallow in misery and stupidity and regret. So much for grad being the best time of their lives. So much for her whole fucking future.

"You guys were fine at dry grad. What happened? You're perfect for each other, seriously."

"Well, I guess he'd rather be with someone else," Krista says, struggling to talk around the urge to cry. She rubs a few stubborn tears off her cheeks and swallows hard, trying to keep herself under control. Like hell she's letting Bobby Martin win.

Amy puts a hand on Krista's shoulder. "You're kidding me. Who?"

"Who do you think?"

"What, Petra?"

Krista can't talk right at that moment so she nods, swallowing again.

"Well then he's a dick," Amy says lightly.

It was meant to be funny, and Krista laughs despite herself. "I should have known," she says, wiping her face one last time and rolling onto her back again. "He's nuts about her."

"We all thought he was nuts about you."

"Apparently not. Where is he, anyway?"

"Probably still at Jim's. Your dad was pretty pissed at him. I mean, he's pissed at you too, but he decided it was Bobby's fault."

"Yeah, that's Mel." Krista sits up slowly, experimentally, bracing herself on her hands. Her stomach contents, or what's left of them, choose to stay where they should be. "At least every now and then we agree on something. What's the time?"

"Almost lunchtime."

Krista nods. Lunchtime means food and she's not entirely sure she's ready for that yet, but she's pretty damn sure she's not going to be lying around in bed when Bobby finally comes slinking home. Because screw him, and screw Petra, and screw being the girl who cares too much. "Let's do something fun this afternoon. You and me and Jess. No boys."

"No boys." Amy puts an arm around Krista's shoulder and for a moment, Krista's half ready to cry again. "Especially no stupid dickhead boys who don't know how good they've got it."

"It's not like I ever needed him, anyway," Krista says, lying through her teeth. Bobby Martin's just another person who says one thing and does something else. “I'm going to go have a shower."

*

Krista has lunch with Amy and Jess - or Amy and Jess have lunch and she has a Coke, some painkillers and a few fries - and arrives home to discover Bobby's boots by the front door and no sign of Mel's truck. Awesome. Coping with Mel's anger seems a hell of a lot easier than facing Bobby and trying not to care. But she can't stand in the driveway all evening and she won't give Bobby the satisfaction of letting him see how much it hurts, so she marches inside, past the closed door to his room, and slams her own door just for the sake of it. She kicks her shoes off, hearing one thud against the wall between their rooms, and flops down onto her bed with the DC-3 manual.

Bobby knocks on the door a few minutes later, just as she'd known he would.

"What?"

The first glimpse of him as he opens the door almost destroys her resolve. She has to stare at a poster on her wall just so she doesn't get distracted by his face as he comes in.

“Are you okay? What happened last night?”

“What do you think happened?” For a moment she thinks Bobby's going to try to sit by her, kiss her, charm her into submission, but he stays in the middle of the room, just looking confused. “I'm not blind, Bobby.”

“What are you talking about?”

Oh, for God's sake. Krista rolls her eyes and gives him her best pissed-off look, finding herself a little more comfortable, a little more in control of the situation. “You and Petra by the woodshed is what I'm talking about.”

“Nothing happened.”

“You were holding hands!” Krista stands up, walks over to him so they're face to face. She's angry now, and angry means she's not thinking about what it felt like waking up in his arms. “You don't get to screw me and then go out and play happy couples with Petra.”

“Krista, it's not – it's not what it looked like. She wanted to get back together, I was trying to tell her about you -”

“By holding her hand?” Krista doesn't want to listen, doesn't want to be a fool again. Just because she slept with Bobby once doesn't mean she's going to be one of those girls who worships the ground he walks on.

(They were supposed to be best friends. That's the worst part of this.)

“I meant what I said, Krista.”

“Sure, until you saw Petra. I should have known you'd go back to her as soon as you got the chance.”

“You're being an idiot.”

“Thanks.”

Standing there, looking at him, the anger suddenly fades. Eighteen years, Irene, Silas, Yvonne, and here they are, as if everything that had ever happened meant nothing any more. It's like she's throwing everything away, but she's got no idea what else she could do. “We can't do this, Bobby,” Krista makes herself say. “I can't – you go be with Petra.”

When she says I can't what she means is I won't, because there's still a part of her that would happily run into his arms right now, even knowing that the same thing will probably happen again and again and again.

“Krista, I'm sorry, okay?” Bobby says. He's blinking back tears.

“So am I.”

They stand there in silence, looking at each other. Best friends once, and look at them now. Krista wishes she could be surprised, and doesn't understand why she isn't. “Just go,” she says, and he does. As he closes the door a painful, sickening sorrow seems to settle in her stomach. She curls up on the bed and cries with no attempt to stop herself, and when Mel arrives home her eyes are still red and swollen.

Maybe he thinks she's learned her lesson, because he's strangely merciful about her drinking. Three days later, when Bobby announces that he's moving in with Deanna for the rest of the school year Mel doesn't ask questions, and two weeks after that, when Krista sees Bobby holding hands with Petra after school, she doesn't even cry.

FEBRUARY 2002

The last time she really celebrated her birthday Krista was 15. After the great disaster of her 16th birthday, when Mel had refused to let her see her mother and she'd spent a week yelling at him and another week skipping school to smoke weed with her boyfriend and two girls from her biology class she'd given up on parties and Mel had seemed content to just give her a birthday card and some cash.

It's why she's surprised when she comes back from flying a charter to Fort McMurray late on her 21st birthday and finds Mel waiting for her in the hangar.

“Shouldn't you have gone home hours ago?” she asks. She's trying to fill in her logbook and he's hovering over her like someone's anxious grandmother, tapping his foot on the floor.

“You got plans for tonight?”

Krista slams the book shut and drops it in her duffel bag. “Why?” She's done her 14 hour day, there's no way he's asking her to take on another flight now.

“Do you?”

“No.” She'd had a few drinks with her friends on Saturday night, and that was enough. “Just an early night, I suppose.”

Mel rocks forward on his toes, smiling at her the way he does when he's pleased. “Good. Dinner, Frontier Hotel, seven o'clock.”

Krista stops in the act of pulling on her coat and looks at him. “Why?” she asks again, watching him closely. He's got some kind of ulterior motive and God only knows what it is.

“How often does my only daughter turn 21? I'll see you there.”

*

Krista briefly considers not going, but she can't do that to Mel, not even on her own birthday. So she puts on a nice shirt, brushes her hair and redoes her make-up and ventures out into the cold of a February night.

Mel's waiting for her in the hotel lobby, wearing what she thinks is the suit he's had since she was a kid. “Glad you made it,” he says. The host shows them to their table and Mel orders a bottle of red wine without asking Krista what she wants.

“So, what's all this about?” she asks, once they've settled in and the waiter's poured their drinks.

“Your birthday is what it's about. How was your flight today? Heard you ran into some weather.”

Krista stares at him for a moment. She's pretty sure sometimes that he annoys her on purpose just to get a reaction. Well, if he wants to talk shop they can talk shop. It's got to be better than the two of them sitting in silence staring around the restaurant. “A little turbulence on the way home, nothing too bad. They were expecting a storm but we had plenty of time get clear before it hit.”

“And who made the call to leave when you did?” Mel says, without looking up from the menu.

“Pete, because he was the pilot. For what it's worth, we talked it over and I agreed with him that we were better off leaving than being stranded for days. And you would have done exactly the same thing.”

“You're right,” Mel says. “I would have. You two made the right call.”

“Thanks. I think.”

The waiter comes back to take their order. Once he's gone Krista leans back in her chair, watching Mel and waiting for whatever's coming next. 21 years old and sometimes she still feels like a child looking for her father's approval. Ironic, really, considering all the ways they've found to piss each other off over the last decade.

What happens next surprises her. Mel takes a drink of his wine, then pulls an envelope out of his pocket and pushes it across the table to her.

It doesn't look like the usual birthday card. Krista opens it curiously and pulls out a piece of paper. At first glance she can't comprehend what it's saying and she has to read it again to really get it. “You're giving me part of your share in Arctic Air? Why?”

“Because you're my daughter,” Mel says, shrugging his shoulders.

The way Krista's always understood it, Mel, who had had the most capital to bring to the table originally, owned 75% of Arctic Air, and Silas owned the other 25%. Silas's share had gone to Yvonne and then, on her death, to Bobby because Deanna had felt he should have it. Krista's always known that she'd inherit Mel's share when he died but he's just handed her a 25% stake in the company. “Mel,” she says, stunned.

“Don't tell me you don't want it.”

“No, I do, I just wasn't expecting it, that's all.”

Mel shrugs. “You've proven yourself. The staff respect you. If they didn't, I wouldn't have given it to you.”

Krista puts the paper down on the table, still staring at it. “I... well, what do I do now?”

“You keep flying my planes, and you start helping with paperwork and arguing with the bank.”

There was a time she'd have suspected him of giving her the shares just so he could make her do the things he doesn't want to do himself but for some reason, now that's actually happened, she doesn't quite believe it's the real reason. “Thanks.”

The waiter arrives then to serve their meals and Mel brandishes his fork at her. “Just don't let me down.”

*

Alone in her room that night Krista sits on her bed still holding that damned bit of paper and trying to figure out why the hell she cares so much. She'd always known she was going to own most of Arctic Air one day but she'd never pictured what that would look like because owning Arctic Air would mean Mel being dead. Now she's got 25% and Mel's not dead, so it shouldn't make much difference to anything.

But it does.

She's always loved Arctic Air, always been happier there than anywhere other than in the cockpit. It was Arctic Air where she played as a child, where she did her homework after school and on the weekends because it was too quiet at home, where she spent long hours after Irene left, after Silas died and Yvonne died and she and Bobby fucked things up beyond repair. She knows every inch of the hangar and offices, and she'd never thought she needed a piece of paper to really make it hers.

It bothers her all night, that tiny, irritated feeling that she just can't quite put a finger on. She sleeps badly and wakes early, inclined to blame Mel for her mood, and drags herself out of the bed figuring she might as well go to the gym before work.

The treadmill clears her head, the way running and hiking do in the summer and flying always does. There's something about the freedom, the sense of separating body and mind that lets her brain do its thing without conscious effort from her.

The realisation comes midway through her third mile: maybe Mel doesn't think she's such a screw-up after all.

It's such a stunning thought that Krista has to get off the treadmill and go and sit down because her legs are shaking. Mel does nothing without good reason – or what he thinks of as good reason because Krista sure as hell doesn't agree with him half the time – and there's no way he'd give a part of his company to someone useless. Sure, he still controls half the shares and considering that she and Bobby aren't exactly talking they're not likely to end up ganging up against him, but – well.

Well, this makes things different.

So she has a shower and goes to work, and because she doesn't have a flight scheduled until the afternoon she walks into Mel's office, and finds him chewing on the end of a pen and not doing much of anything. “Can I look at the books?” she asks.

Mel takes the pen out of his mouth and looks at her. “What do you want to do that for?”

“Well, I should probably know these things.”

“You know nothing about the books.”

“Which is why -” Krista begins, and then she catches his eye and knows that this time, he's definitely provoking her on purpose. “Mel.”

“Fine,” he says, and points at the filing cabinet. “Knock yourself out.”

She has to rummage through the cabinet just to find the records for the last six months, either because Mel doesn't believe in filing at all or because he likes to be the only person who can ever find anything. He's gone back to chewing his pen and ignoring her, so Krista grabs what she wants and takes it to one of the smaller unused offices.

Mel's right when he says she doesn't know anything about the books, but she was always good with numbers and she's picked up a lot from spending half her life wandering around the office. The books tell her that their financial situation is more precarious than she'd thought, that Mel had had to borrow to make payroll twice in the last six months, and that if they lost their two biggest contracts the whole company would collapse. Krista drums her fingers on the desk, wondering if Bobby knows about this and if he'd care if he did. The idea of Arctic Air just not being there some day is scary in the way that suddenly not having gravity would be scary. It's been part of everything she's known and wanted for her whole life, it's Mel's dream, it's people's livelihoods.

Well, she won't tell Bobby, and maybe now's not the time to really argue with Mel about this. (She'll do that later, when she's completely sure she knows what she's talking about.) But she's got some ideas for cutting costs and some ideas for new clients that she thinks Mel hasn't thought of yet. Maybe this financial situation is normal for Mel, maybe it isn't, but either way maybe she can make that 25% actually worth something.

SEPTEMBER 2012

“You know, I definitely prefer this place in summer,” Blake says. “And not just because I'm not worried about freezing to death. It's nice not to see snow everywhere you look.”

Krista's been checking her instruments again; now she looks over at Blake. “It'll be winter again soon enough. And anyway, you're from Winnipeg. The way you're talking you're sounding like you're from California. Or Vancouver, at least.” She has to admit Blake's actually right. She grew up flying all over the north, she knows parts of the NWT like the back of her hand, and yet there are times in the winter when, with everything covered in snow, she finds herself disoriented for a moment without familiar scenery to mark her place.

That and it's nice to have more than five hours of daylight.

Blake looks sideways at her. “So,” he asks, drawing out the word, “how long do you think we'll be in Cambridge Bay?”

Krista knows exactly what he's getting at. “Probably not long enough. It won't take long to load the cargo and I don't want to hang around longer than we have to. Besides,” she adds, “there's not a whole lot of privacy there.”

“What about your place tonight, then?”

“I don't know,” she says, and promptly feels guilty. Her house is really the only place they can go. Blake's living with four other people and his room is the size of a shoebox, whereas Dev and Astrid seem to be fairly oblivious so she can slip Blake in and out through the back door without them noticing. “Okay. Ten o'clock?”

“So I can tiptoe out at midnight?” Blake sighs. “No, I get it, I really do, you're the boss and all that, it's just kind of annoying.”

“Sorry,” Krista says, with all the sincerity she can muster. It's not a lot. She likes Blake, he's competent and capable and self-confident and they've spent the last few months having a lot of really incredible sex. She's just not into the whole committed relationship thing he likes to keep hinting at and she'd been pretty clear about that from day one.

“No you're not,” Blake says, his voice more flirtatious than annoyed.

Krista wrinkles her nose, in what she knows is a decent impression of Mel. “You're right. I'm not.”

Blake laughs. “What about the wedding of the year? Do I get to ask you to dance?”

“Do you need me to tell you that I don't dance?”

“Worth a try, right?”

“Sure.” Blake seems to shift his attention back out the window, but just as Krista starts thinking that this conversation is thankfully over he speaks again and this time there's no hint of laughter in his voice. “I assume Bobby's coming back for the wedding.”

It's probably a good thing that he's not looking at her, because Krista's automatic response is to roll her eyes. “He's Hailey's uncle.”

“I take it that's a yes.”

Krista breathes out, controlling her temper. Blake's been listening to the Arctic Air rumour mill. “It's not an issue. We've barely even talked to each other for years.”

“The fact that you even assume that your love life is what I'm talking about? That's what says it's an issue, Krista.”

They're interrupted then by a call from Loreen, checking to make sure they're still on schedule. Strong head winds have delayed them slightly and by the time they've calculated and communicated a new ETA for Cambridge Bay Krista's feeling significantly less annoyed. “Look, he's an old friend. That's all. He's a nice guy. Give him a chance and you even might like him.”

“Are you giving your father the same advice? Every time he mentions Bobby he complains about him.”

“No one gives Mel advice, it's pointless.” Krista looks over at Blake for the first time since the conversation took a turn for the irritating. “Don't worry about Bobby.”

The thing is, her life is pretty damn good at the moment. She's finally bought a house in her favourite part of town and acquired roommates who don't annoy her most of the time, she's reasonably financially stable even if Arctic Air isn't, and she spends her days doing the thing she's most wanted to do since she was a child. As little kids she and Bobby had spent hours playing pilot, and even if he'd thrown all that away she'd never lost her direction. Krista's worked too hard for everything she has to throw it away for anyone, whether that means Bobby or Blake.

Blake raises both hands in a gesture of submission. “Fine,” he says. “Nothing to worry about.”

*

It's bad timing, she thinks, that brings Bobby Martin back to town on the same day Lady Lou's engines crap out on her and Mel decides to collapse in his truck. Finding Mel slumped over is one of the most terrifying things she's ever experienced as for one moment of crystal-clear clarity she believes he's dead.

A helicopter clatters by overhead as Krista drops her bag in the gravel, fumbling desperately at her father's neck in search of a pulse. His skin feels too cold and clammy (in retrospect, she thinks maybe that's because her hands were sweating) but there's a pulse all right, steady and stable. Her legs shaking with relief Krista has to lean against the truck to help herself stay upright as Mel blinks and lifts his head, finally focusing on her. “Krista?”

“God, Mel. You taking a nap in here?” She keeps her voice as light as she can manage because now's not the time to tell him how much he scared her. She'll save that for another occasion, maybe one where she can breathe properly.

“I'm fine.”

“No, you're not. Move over, I'm taking you to the hospital.”

The fact that Mel doesn't argue the point has to be a bad sign. He shuffles slowly sideways and lets Krista help him along as best she can, and then she climbs up into the driver's seat. The keys are in the ignition and for a brief moment she closes her eyes before she starts the truck. If Mel had passed out on the road things would probably be a hundred times worse.

“How long have you been feeling like this?” she asks, pulling out of the airport.

“Like what?”

“I'm no doctor, but I doubt this just came out of nowhere. How long?”

Mel says nothing, but his face is still pale and he's gazing out the window as if he's not quite seeing anything. Krista holds the truck steady right on the speed limit, finding the mental energy to be glad it's not winter. Maybe she should have called an ambulance, but if she'd done that news of Mel's collapse would have been around the airport in moments and around town in an hour, and he might never have forgiven her. Damn him. Nothing is ever easy when Mel's around.

Nurses and orderlies take over when they get to the hospital, bundling Mel into a wheelchair. At once relieved and unneeded Krista takes a step backwards and suddenly finds herself needing to sit down. She drops into one of the waiting room chairs, clenching her hands tight together to stop them shaking. She's still on edge from that landing earlier and the classic Arctic Air fight in the hangar; maybe that's why this has knocked her so bad.

For a second – and only a second – she contemplates calling Blake. But he should be in Inuvik right now, away for few days flying a tour group around the north, and even if she'd known what to say to him Mel would have a few things to say to her about letting his secret slip. So no needy phone calls, breaching the limits she'd put in place.

Pulling herself back together she goes to find Mel, who's being given oxygen and not protesting about it. At least there's some colour in his cheeks again, and Krista realises she's breathing a little easier herself as a nurse hands her a pile of forms to be filled out.

She and Mel are going to be having a serious talk, and then she might be going to drink a serious amount of beer.

*

Rather than go straight home to her beer Krista detours by Arctic Air, determined to take Mel off the schedule before he can do anything about it. Even Loreen and Cece have left for the day, so Krista lets herself in, turns off the alarm, and for no real reason walks into the hangar. Her footsteps seem to echo in there, and with the twilight streaming in the planes cast odd shadows across the floor.

Lady Lou's faulty engine lies on a greasy tarp, surrounded by tools and spare parts. Without really knowing why Krista goes over to it and stands there, noting the dark marks of smoke and flame left on the gleaming metal. She's loved that plane ever since she first saw her – Mel's pride and joy, being repainted in the Arctic Air colours. More than any other Lady Lou is the plane she always pictured herself flying, and the day Mel let her take the controls for the first time was one of the best of her life.

It's sobering to consider how little lies between any of them and death. Engines, hearts, it's all the same thing. Once they start playing up, you're in trouble.

Feeling herself become more sentimental than she likes, Krista turns away from the engine. There's no one here to see her but she straightens her shoulders anyway and makes her way back to the schedule board. Mel's supposed to be flying Bobby and Jim McAllister and some investor from Calgary up to Dalton Ridge tomorrow on what will probably be an overnight trip. Krista rubs out Mel's name with her fingers, not bothering to reach for the eraser, and hesitates, considering Arctic Air's other pilots. If Blake was around she'd put him on it just so he and Bobby could get to know each other, but he's not and the reality is she's the only person available to fly it. She fills in the empty spot with her own name and makes a few more adjustments to the schedule to take Mel out until the wedding. She's got no doubt he'll show up here when he's released in the morning, and he's going to be pissed when he sees the schedule board. Well, let him. He'd do exactly the same thing in her place.

She locks up again and drives home, half-expecting to see signs of life and movement at her place. But Dev and Astrid are nowhere to be seen, and the house is as empty as the hangar. It's beer and pizza for her then, and the knowledge that there's no one she can talk to about Mel.

Well.

Almost no one.

Krista orders a pizza online, spending far too much time considering toppings, and then grabs a beer to drink while she waits for it to arrive. Dev had left today's copy of the Yellowknifer spread out on the table; Krista tries to read it but can't focus on anything, her mind straying constantly to the idea of telling Bobby about Mel, weighing Mel's privacy against Bobby's right to know about something that could affect Arctic Air and her own need not to deal with this alone.

She hasn't made a decision by the time the pizza arrives, or by the time she decides that half a pizza and two bottles of beer is enough for anyone and she should have a bath rather than comfort eating.

Lying in the bath staring at the ceiling, Krista finds herself missing the friendship she could have had. Two nights of alcohol and teenage hormones - dry grad and Jim McAllister's party – had destroyed eighteen years of friendship. If none of that had happened they'd still be friends and their co-ownership of Arctic Air would actually mean something. She probably wouldn't think twice about talking things over with Bobby and letting him worry about Mel with her.

Of course, the adult thing to do would be for both of them to get over their crap, to make those eighteen years count for more than the twelve that had followed. No romance, of course; her thing with Blake is all she needs and Bobby probably has women by the score in Vancouver anyway. But they could be friends, at least; they're going up to Dalton Ridge with Jim and maybe it'll be just like old times.

Krista lies in the bath until the water gets cold enough to be uncomfortable, and the next morning she stops at the hotel on her way to work, just to get the Mel thing out of the way.

FEBRUARY 2013

Five days after the crash Krista sits at Mel's desk, her back and her head aching equally. She's got a pile of bookings, a pile of air waybills and a pile of manifests in front of her, and it's not that she doesn't know what to do with them, it's that the problem is so gigantic and she's so tired that she can't decide where to start.

The staff have gone home and she's alone in the office, so when someone taps gently at the doorframe she flinches, her heart suddenly pounding at twice the normal speed. Bobby's standing in the doorway, one hand in his pocket,

They've barely seen each other since that first day at the hospital. Bobby's been juggling his flights – and a few of hers and Mel's – with trying to keep the business going, and she's been racing back and forth between the hospital and the office, alternately holding Mel's hand and trying to keep the paperwork under control. Bobby might have a business degree but he's still a little out of touch when it comes to airlines. He does what he can but with Mel and Loreen out of action it's up to her to do the rest.

“What are you still doing here?” she asks now, looking up at him.

“Buying you dinner, I hope.”

Krista remembers exactly what it felt like to kiss him, and she's got a broken engagement to go with it. “Bobby,” she says, drawing it out. “I can't, I need to get this done.”

“So we'll have dinner here then,” Bobby says, coming over to sit in the chair opposite Mel's desk.
“I'll give you a hand with that.”

Dinner and company is the most appealing offer she's had all week, but Krista hesitates. “I don't know.”

“Just dinner,” Bobby says, leaning forward. “It doesn't have to be anything else.”

Krista sighs. She's not going to win this argument and she's not sure she wants to. “All right. Dinner and paperwork.”

“Vietnamese? I don't know about you, but I've been living off pizza for the last few days.”

“Hospital cafeteria food.”

“You should have told me, you could have shared my pizza.” Bobby stands up again. “Back in twenty minutes.”

Once he's left Krista puts her head in her hands. This probably isn't a good idea, not when she's in the mood that had driven her to kiss him in a hospital waiting room. She hasn't got a lot of faith in herself at the moment and as tempting as it is to blame Bobby for that she's got enough self-respect not to. She's back in the place she'd been in as a teenager but now she's older and wiser. Or more cynical, possibly, depending on who she asked.

She sits like that until Bobby comes back, bearing styrofoam boxes of fantastic smelling food and a bottle of red wine. He sets his cargo on Mel's desk, disappears again, and returns with two mugs from the breakroom.

“Bobby,” Krista says, intending to tell him he shouldn't have brought the wine, and then changes her mind. If they're going to spend hours on paperwork they might as well have the wine to go with it and Bobby seems to have chosen the two goofiest mugs he can find. Using his pocket knife to pop the cork Bobby pours the wine and hands her a cracked mug with faded printing: World's Best Dad. She'd definitely never given Mel anything of the sort, but it might have been Cece's once upon a time. Bobby's own mug says Happy 80th birthday! and she's pretty sure that had been a joke gift at more than one Arctic Air Christmas party.

Bobby lifts his mug in a toast, and Krista raises hers in response. For a moment, he says nothing, and then he nods at her. “To no more weeks like this one.”

“Amen,” Krista says, touching her mug to his and drinking. The wine is good and the food is better, and as she eats she starts to feel a little more human again. Now that Mel's stable all she needs is a decent night's sleep to make the world seem a lot more balanced.

Between the two of them and the wine, they get next week's schedule sorted, planning routes, assigning aircraft and pilots. Krista's back on the roster as of the day after tomorrow and she ends up with most of the DC-3 flights. There are a couple of flights that'll need to be done on skis and she's the only available person with the skills to pull it off.

Bobby taps his pen against one of the co-pilot squares attached to her name. “Blake?” he asks, carefully, looking at her.

Krista swallows hard, all the guilt she's been trying not to feel coming to the forefront, and shakes her head. “Dev,” she says. “Put Blake and Astrid on the Hay River flight.”

Bobby writes the names in. “Want to talk about it?”

“It was probably for the best,” Krista says honestly, knowing that it's not quite the response Bobby's looking for. She pencils Jeremy in for the Margate run, puts Dave and Bobby on a charter to Colville Lake and gives Sam and Shontal a cargo flight up to Tuk.

“Well, are you okay?”

Krista looks up, intending to lie through her teeth, but when she meets Bobby's eyes she can't quite go through with it. “Not really,” she says, instead.

“I'm sorry it didn't work out for you.”

Krista puts her pen down and twirls her fork through some congealing noodles before deciding she can't bear to eat any more. “About what happened,” she says, quickly, before she can stop herself.

“You and me.”

“Yeah. Bobby - I shouldn't have done that.”

“Bad timing?”

“No, just...” Krista sighs and bites her lip, lacking a good way to finish this sentence. “I need my best friend at the moment. I don't need any more romantic complications in my life.”

Bobby doesn't look wounded or complain about being called a complication, which is nice of him. “Best friend?”

“Kind of juvenile, I know.” Krista eyes the schedule, searching for gaps or any attempts on her part to put one plane or person in two places at once, and finds none. “Remember when we were kids?”

“We used to make mud pies when the snow melted.”

“My mother hated it,” Krista says, with passion. The best way to make Irene mad was to come home from a playdate at the Martins' wearing Deanna's or Bobby's clothes and carrying a plastic bag full of wet, dirty clothes. Sometimes she did it on purpose, and at least Mel never seemed to care. “You know, I'm sorry about the time with the hockey stick.”

Bobby shrugs. “You didn't hit me that hard,” he says, but he rubs his head in the right spot anyway. “It was a long time ago, right?”

“Right.” She'd been angry then, upset, trying to find her feet again after Irene had left, and somehow that had translated into hitting Bobby over the head with a hockey stick because he was annoying. She pauses now, looking at him again. “Thanks.”

“For what?”

“For... oh, for everything.” Krista drums her fingers on the desk, and the moment of nostalgia passes. “Well, at least we got this done,” she says, gesturing at the schedule.

“Yeah.”

They've been through a whole bottle of wine. Krista doesn't feel drunk, not that that means anything, and Bobby might be fine but it's probably worth calling a taxi anyway. They wait outside in the cold, leaning up against the wall with the stars high above them. Krista watches the clouds made by her breath and Bobby's, and shivers.

“Cold?” Bobby asks.

“Mmm,” she says. “It's all right. Tired, mostly.”

“Come here.” Bobby puts an arm around her shoulders and Krista goes with it, leaning against him. Her mind screams at her that she shouldn't, that down this road lies heartbreak and pain and she's been there before.

The taxi arrives before she can bring herself to pull away from him or before she can even really define for herself what her boundaries are. (She's really not sure she even has any today.) Bobby says nothing on the way home, doesn't argue when she points out it makes sense to drop him off first. He puts a hand on her shoulder to say goodbye, and Krista continues on home alone, telling herself over and over again the list of a hundred reasons why she and Bobby shouldn't be together.

SEPTEMBER 2013

After Amy's wedding and the DEW Line station and kissing in the truck, Krista finds herself on Bobby's bed in the middle of a tangle of limbs and clothes and kisses, frantic gasps for breath and Bobby's cock pressing against her leg. She's trying to get his pants down, tugging at the waistband of his jeans, but the angle's all wrong and she can't get them down more than an inch, and Bobby's given up entirely on getting her top layers off and just has his hand up her shirt.

"Okay, okay," she says, forgetting her 'no talking' decree because this isn't going anywhere fast and she would like it to, very much. "Hang on." She sits up, finishes unbuttoning her shirt (because she actually kind of likes this one and she's getting the impression Bobby couldn't care less about buttons at the moment) and helps him pull the thermal layer underneath over her head.

"Better," Bobby says, kissing her again. He grins at her and then his lips begin to make their way down her jawline, her neck, down across her collarbone. His touch is light enough to tickle and there's just a hint of teeth in there too, trailing across sensitive skin. Krista tightens her hands on the sheets, wanting desperately to put her hands on his head just to feel like she's got some kind of control but all too aware of the still open wound there. She knows exactly where he's going, his progress slow and teasing, one of his hands working at the clasp of her bra. She feels the bra give as he gets it undone, his hands sliding over her shoulders as he pushes it off. His lips are on her breast now, his hands coming round to join them, fingers tracing the curved underside.

Krista holds her breath, and waits. Bobby's tongue flicks across her nipple, sending a shock of pleasure through her body and she gasps audibly, self-control fleeing.

Bobby laughs softly, keeping up the gentle rhythm of lips and teeth and tongue as he makes his way slowly and almost painfully across her body to her other nipple. Krista lets him keep it up for as long as she can bear it - and everything feels incredibly sensitive right now so that's not long - and then she forces her cramped hands to let go of the sheets, turns her attention back to his pants. "Too many clothes," she says, sliding her hand across his cock because he's not the only one who can play this teasing game.

Bobby gives her nipple a last kiss and obligingly rearranges herself so she can get his pants down, jeans and boxers all at once. His cock pops out and it's not like she's never seen it before but it's a distraction, anyway, and she leaves Bobby to finish kicking his pants down while she slides finger and thumb from the base to the tip and back down again, as slowly and as lightly as she can. This time it's Bobby's turn to gasp, and Krista has to lean in and kiss him again. "God," Bobby says, without even really breaking the kiss. "Shit, Krista."

“You're welcome,” she says, turning her hand and using her palm to stroke down the underside of his cock and over his balls just to watch him twist.

"Okay," Bobby says, "okay, you are definitely wearing too many clothes." Another kiss and his hands are on the inside of her thighs working upwards. He pushes her back against the pillows and she has to let go of his cock which she doesn't mind right now, not when he's sliding his hands up over her hips. Krista unhooks the button on her pants, lifts her ass off the bed as Bobby's fingers brush over her skin and then, slowly, all the way down to her toes taking jeans and panties with them. He comes back up for a kiss and then works his way down again and just like last time, Krista knows exactly what he's up to. "Tease," she gasps, as he takes his time somewhere around her bellybutton, fingers dipping lower and lower but not quite far enough.

"Want me to stop?" Bobby asks, with that familiar joking tone, and then moves downwards again.

"No," Krista says, just as she feels his fingers against her, one either side of her clit and just enough pressure to make her squirm. His mouth follows and then it's on her and fuck, things have definitely changed since the last time they had sex. She can't hold on, can't delay this; he'd probably love to watch her try to stay in control but she won't give him that satisfaction. She rides the wave instead, letting one hand slide onto his head (she's got just enough awareness left to avoid the wound) and the other goes to her nipple just because she can. The build-up of pleasure is almost overwhelming, he's merciful enough not to hold back or back off, just keeps up his rhythm, slips a finger inside her as she crashes over the edge, gasping for breath and crying out without recognising her own voice.

The aftermath is warm and blurred, Bobby's fingers and tongue still on her, inside her, making her body jerk and shudder again, shorter and sharper than last time. Krista feels herself go limp and feels like she's falling back against the pillows as the world comes back into focus. Bobby puts his head on her stomach and lies there just softly stroking her leg.

"Show off," Krista says, once she's able to form coherent words again.

Bobby chuckles and kisses the bare skin of her belly. "I'll do it again if you want."

"I'll hold you to that, but not just now." Krista rubs a hand on his arm. "Come here then."

Bobby rearranges himself, moves up so his head's an inch or two above hers, and looks at her, something hesitant in his face. Krista puts her hand on his back, runs it up to his neck and pulls him down into a kiss. She can taste herself on him and it's intimate, intoxicating, and somehow unreal. This is her and Bobby, and despite everything, despite the dozen different ways they've found to hurt each other they've ended up here again and it's perfect.

Her hands find their way back to his cock, and Bobby kisses her harder as she touches him again. "Condoms?" she asks.

"If you stop doing that, I can get one."

She'd say maybe I don't want to stop but she wants Bobby inside her more. He climbs off her, digs through one of the drawers beside his bed, and pulls one out. He seems to fumble with the wrapper and Krista watches him for a moment, then takes pity on him. Besides, why should he do all the work? “Give it here,” she says, taking it from his hand. “And lie down.”

“Huh,” Bobby says, but he lies back anyway.

Krista tears the wrapper open and rolls it down his cock, her eyes watching his face the whole time. Then, with all the self-control she can muster, she straddles him and slowly, carefully, lets herself sink down onto his cock. For a long moment, Bobby buried deep inside her, neither of them move. Krista hears the pounding of her heartbeat, the sound of his breath and her own filling the space around them.

When she can bear it no longer she starts to move and feels Bobby responding, his hands gripping her hips and his body pressing up to meet hers.

She's wanted this for so long and hasn't ever let herself admit it. Right now, feeling his body moving with hers, when she's so exhausted it's as though all her emotions are raw, she can't lie to herself. There's no going back from this, no pretending this is just about sex. Sex with Bobby is pretty fucking good but she wants more than this. She wants dinners and breakfasts, watching movies while the snow falls outside, drinks at Bullocks and quiet mornings ice fishing while the world around them sleeps. Krista's not a romantic and won't ever be one and yet there's something about Bobby and the thirty years they've been friends that makes her think everything might be possible.

Bobby's movements are quickening, the pitch of his moans changing. On another day she might slow down deliberately just to tease him, to make him wait, but he hadn't done that to her and it's been a long couple of days. She goes with it, letting instinct and impulse take over until Bobby thrusts up into her, his eyes closed and a long guttural moan coming from the back of his throat.

Once he relaxes Krista lets herself slide forwards until her head rests on his shoulder, and Bobby wraps his arms around her. “You're staying, right?” he asks.

At the moment, Krista thinks she could stay forever. “Who else is going to make sure you wake up every two hours? Doctor's orders.”

“My head is fine.”

“I don't think sex can cure a concussion.”

Bobby laughs, his chest shaking. “You want dinner?”

“And a shower.” Reluctantly, Krista rolls off him. “My stuff's still in the truck.”

“I'll get it.”

“No you won't, you're injured.” She stands up, considers her own tight jeans, and decides Bobby's would be easier to put on instead. She puts on his jacket as well. “I'll be back in a moment.”

The evening breeze cools her skin as she retrieves her bag from the back of the truck, a reminder of the real world that exists outside. For a moment she stands there, looking out over the lake and around at the town lying below, taking a few deep breaths to clear her head. One kiss - that was all it had taken to release the floodgates of feeling. The sex was just the icing on the cake. There's no more denial to be had, and out here, away from him, her earlier resolution that this is about more than just sex holds firm.

Krista and Bobby, the way things used to be. Maybe the way things were supposed to be.

She takes another deep breath and goes back inside and upstairs. She can hear the sound of water running in the bathroom and when she gets there Bobby's already in the shower, carefully keeping his head wound out from under the water. "Want some company?" Krista asks, as if his leaving the bathroom door wide open wasn't enough of a hint. She strips his clothes off, leaving them in a pile on the floor, digs her shampoo and conditioner out of her duffel bag and climbs into the shower with him.

The hot water feels fantastic. Manoeuvering carefully around Bobby Krista sticks her head under the water, feeling it flow through the matted mess that had once been her fancy bridesmaid's hairstyle. She half expects to see a pink feather or two floating in the bottom of the shower.

Bobby puts his hands on her waist as she shampoos her hair, apparently just because he can, and then tries kissing her shoulder only to make a disgusted noise at the taste of watery shampoo running into his mouth. "Yuck."

"You really didn't see that coming?" Krista asks, beginning to work conditioner into her hair. It's going to take forever to get these knots out.

"I've got a concussion," Bobby says lightly. "Here. Let me."

Krista drops her hands to her side and closes her eyes as she feels Bobby's fingers begin to move in her hair, gently working on the knots. It feels better than she might have expected, standing her with hot water falling onto her chest and Bobby close behind her.

"Am I pulling too hard?" Bobby asks in her ear.

"No, you're good."

Bobby works away at her hair in silence for a couple of minutes before he speaks again. "So, if Blake hadn't shown up when he did," he says, leaving the rest of the sentence unfinished.

Krista knows it's a question. "I was going to invite you in."

"Were you now?"

"I was." She opens her eyes and watches the water pooling around her feet for a while. "I came prepared. I hoped that... you would want to."

"Prepared, huh?"

"Let's just say we're not going to run out of condoms," Krista says, laughing. She might have been a little over enthusiastic when she was packing.

"Well, now I'm really wondering what you had planned."

"I'll show you another time, when we haven't been awake for thirty six hours."

Bobby huffs a breath against her ear. He's having some success with her hair; she can feel the bits that he's untangled against her neck and shoulders. "That's probably a good idea." His fingers slide through her hair again. "You weren't the only prepared one."

Krista giggles then. "You brought condoms too?"

"I was hoping you invited me for a reason."

Screw the hair, Krista decides. She'll blow dry it and braid it and try it again in the morning. She turns around to face him and puts her arms around his neck. "I did."

"Romantic getaway?"

"Something like that. Amy thought it was hilarious that I was going to use her wedding to get you into bed. I just wasn't really planning on Blake showing up and us being chased around a DEW Line station by diamond thieves and murderers."

"There's been too much of that happening lately," Bobby says, and Krista's pretty sure he's thinking about Nelson. "They say bad things happen in threes but it's been way more than that."

"Maybe we're having three sets of three." Krista would rather not count it all up, the plane crash and the fire and Nelson's death, the bomb on her flight and how close they'd all come to dying today and probably a dozen more things if she cared to think about it. She tips her head backwards, rinsing the conditioner out of her hair. "I guess we needed something good to happen." The temperature of the water abruptly drops from hot to lukewarm, and Krista flinches.

"Sorry. Hot water system sucks." Bobby kisses her quickly and steps out of the shower. "Finish your hair thing before you end up with cold water. I'll go order us a pizza," he says, drying himself off. "Or maybe two."

Krista shuts the water off and stands there dripping wet and naked, watching him as he hangs the towel up again. "Bobby," she says, just before he goes to walk into the bedroom. He stops and turns and looks at her.

Krista has a hundred things she wants to say, and no idea how to say them. "I'm glad your head's all right," she says instead. "You scared me."

Bobby smiles at her. "Me too," he says, and goes to get dressed.

*

It's a long night. Bobby's doctor hadn't said he wasn't allowed to sleep, despite his earlier claim; she'd said he should be woken every couple of hours so someone could check if he was disoriented, and Krista's obviously that someone. Every two hours the shrill, cheerful tone of the alarm on her cellphone wakes them both from a perfectly good sleep, and she pokes Bobby in the arm and makes him look at her and asks him questions until she's satisfied that there's nothing wrong with his brain. Then she sets the alarm again and they roll over, stretch out and end up cuddling until they fall asleep only to repeat the pattern two hours later.

By four a.m. Krista's had enough and Bobby's started coming up with ridiculous answers to all her questions, which is all the proof she could want that he's fine. “No more alarms,” she says, dropping the phone on the bedside table and rolling against him. She is going to sleep until lunchtime and it's going to be awesome.

Loreen calls just after nine. “Question from Mel, are you fit to fly?”

If she wasn't so responsible and a part owner of the company, and if Loreen wasn't a friend, she'd lie and say no. “How desperate are we?”

“Very? With Shontal gone and Bobby out of commission I need you and Blake both on deck. One of you needs to take the DC-3 to Inuvik with Astrid and the other one needs to fly a charter to Whitehorse with Dev.”

Krista flops back against Bobby's pillows. Today, both of those options seem equally unappealing. “What does Blake want to do?”

“He says he doesn't care.”

“He can have Inuvik. I'll fly the charter.” It's completely and utterly selfish, but there's less chance of her getting stuck overnight if she goes to Whitehorse.

“All right. In which case, your scheduled departure time is 1345.”

“I'll be there. Thanks, Loreen.”

Bobby's lying there watching her, propped up one elbow. “Where are you going?”

“Whitehorse.”

“Want me to come?”

“You,” Krista says, sitting up, “are a distraction. So not today.” What with paperwork and pre-flight checks and the importance of going home to get some clean clothes she needs to get moving. “I'll see you later?” she asks.

“I'm not going anywhere.”

“You better not. Behave yourself,” Krista says, and goes to get dressed.

*

As much as she'd liked being in bed with Bobby being back at work comes as something of a relief. Everything at Arctic Air is normal and unchanging, no matter what she and Bobby might be doing in their off hours. Kirby and Dev crowd round her wanting to know about their adventures at the DEW Line station, and Astrid raises an eyebrow when she comments on Krista not coming home last night but it's easy, being here. It's not that she can't be herself with Bobby – after all, Bobby knows her better than anyone else – it's just that part of her feels that the Krista who just spent the night with her best friend is somehow not quite Krista the pilot.

She leaves Astrid in the breakroom and goes over to the front desk. “Charter to Whitehorse?” she asks.

Loreen nods. “Mom, dad and three kids, going over for a funeral.”

Krista winces, involuntarily. “Damn.”

“Yeah.” Loreen gives Krista the same kind of knowing look Astrid had just done. “So?”

Krista shifts from one foot to the other, uncomfortable. “So what?”

“How's Bobby?”

“Bobby is fine. The doctor said it's only a minor concussion.”

“Hmmm.” Loreen turns back to her computer and starts typing. Krista waits, but Loreen says nothing, just keeps on working steadily.

“Well,” Krista says, feeling as though she's talking to the air. “I'm gonna go get ready.”

No secrets around this place. None at all.

*

It's late by the time she and Dev get back from Whitehorse. Yellowknife is beautiful as they arrive, street lights and house lights gleaming like stars around the dark smooth water of the lakes. There are times when Krista doesn't even really notice these things, and times when it all just hits her in the gut.

“You are so lucky,” Dev says, as they come around for their final approach.

Krista glances sideways at him before returning her gaze to the instrument panels. “Why's that?”

“You grew up here. It is a wonderful place.”

Sometimes she understands Dev's enthusiasm. “I know,” she says. “Living the dream.”

If Dev notices that there isn't even a hint of sarcasm in her voice, he doesn't comment on it.

She lands still in that mindset of sentimentality and gratitude and taxis past the hangars of the other airlines down to Arctic Air. Most of the staff has gone, but for a couple of rampies and Mel, in his office with the door open. He looks up as she passes. “Krista.”

Krista stops, back tracks. “Yeah?”

“How's Bobby?”

It might be a genuine question, unlike Loreen's hint dropping. She hopes like hell it is. “Minor concussion,” she says, again. “Doctor says he'll be all right to fly in a few days.”

Mel nods, slowly. “That's good.”

Krista puts both her hands in her pockets, the better to stop herself waving them around while she talks and drawing attention to herself. “Well, I'm going to head home. I'll see you in the morning.”

As she goes she hears Mel's voice calling down the corridor after her. “Tell Bobby not to do anything stupid. I need him back in the air yesterday!”

“Tell him yourself,” Krista yells back. This town is ridiculous. This company is ridiculous. It would be really great not to have almost everyone she knows making quiet hints about her love life when she doesn't even understand it herself.

For thirty seconds or a minute, on the walk out to her truck, she considers just going home and sitting in her living room all evening so that Dev and Astrid will be forced to tell the gossip network she'd spent the night at home. But she'd told Bobby she'd see him later and she should probably make sure he hasn't passed out and developed a brain bleed or something, and they have some talking to do and some decisions to make and, really, she's not letting the gossips win.

Bobby's place it is then.

She lets herself in and finds him lounging in front of the TV watching hockey. “Hey.”

When he looks up at her Krista knows she couldn't have gone anywhere else. “Hi,” he says. He sits up and pats the couch next to him. “Come sit.”

Krista sits down and Bobby puts an arm around her shoulders and pulls her against him. They just sit for a while as Krista tries to banish that teenager feeling of goosebumps and butterflies. She doesn't want to be that girl again, she really doesn't; it hadn't ended well for her last time.

“So,” Bobby says, after a long while. “About last night.”

“It wasn't a one-off, if that what you're asking.” It's easier to have these conversations without looking at him. She wants to add I came back, didn't I? but that seems unnecessarily sarcastic and every so often she manages to resist that urge.

“We really doing this, then?”

“Apparently the whole of Arctic Air thinks we are,” Krista says. She looks up, and is rewarded by the sight of Bobby rolling his eyes.

“Of course they do.” Bobby tightens his around her shoulders. “So they're right?”

No beating around the bush, no compromising, no letting the nagging fear that this time will be just like last time defeat her. “I...” Krista takes a deep breath, and takes the plunge. “I think they are.”

JANUARY 2014

There's always a moment of stillness when a plane reaches the head of the runway, as the engines build power before it begins its take-off run. Krista waits, biting her lip, looking resolutely out the window to stop the woman beside her seeing the tears she can't quite blink away. She tries not to see the familiar landscape, tries to think about hot sun and room to breathe, but the sight of silver and red on a taxiway catches her eye. It's Arctic Air's second DC-3, the one they'd never quite got around to naming, rolling back to the hangar and safely home from Cambridge Bay. Krista had been scheduled to take her to Norman Wells with Astrid tomorrow.

Now, as her gaze follows its movement the Air Canada Boeing 737 she's on rolls forward, and the DC-3 is gone. As it picks up speed the world outside becomes blurred and unreal and then begins to fade away below as the wheels leave the ground. Krista twists her fingers together, the tears coming silent and fast as she watches Yellowknife shrink below her, a world of lakes spreading out all around. She wonders what Bobby's doing, if Mel and Loreen have found the letters she'd left them because she couldn't bear to say goodbye.

The plane levels out, coming on course for Edmonton. From there she flies to Vancouver, from Vancouver to Singapore and from Singapore to Denpasar. She's got no real idea what she's going to do after that, whether she'll find Irene or just go sit on a beach for a month. It had all been so fast, as though a thousand little things – and a few big ones – had come crashing down onto her at once and she'd had to get out from under them just to be able to keep breathing. She's usually the most organized and methodical person she knows with the exception of Loreen, and people like her don't usually do things like this.

The tears start to fade once they've truly left Yellowknife behind, and Krista wipes her eyes with the back of her hand, feeling ridiculous. She doesn't cry and especially not where people can see her, but between Bobby and Irene she's been doing it a lot lately. She's still too red-eyed to look away from the window, so without a book to distract her all she can do is stare outside and think.

She's still angry with Bobby, but it's not quite the white-hot anger that had driven her to pack her suitcase and leave. She understands lying to protect her, even if she doesn't like it; she understands why Bobby might have ended up kissing Petra in a tent outside Tuk, but not how he could do it when they were supposed to be a couple. Everything he'd said, the promises he'd made before and after it had happened – well, those had either been lies or Bobby's own unique kind of denial and she's really not sure which.

There's a certain irony in fleeing to Bali, in using the ticket Irene had left her to do the exact same thing that Irene had done: run away. But Krista's not leaving a child behind her. In that sense at least she's better than Irene.

Irene had said, when she'd left that first time, that she was coming back. She was just going to clear her head, to go somewhere quiet to figure things out. That was what she'd told Krista, at least; she'd probably said something very different to Mel.

Mel is going to be pissed she's gone. Rightly or wrongly he'll blame Bobby – everyone will, except for maybe Blake, who knows Krista better than she gave him credit for. I get why you never let me in, Blake had said after he met Irene. Krista hadn't asked him what he meant and had decided she didn't want to know and wasn't going to think about it. But the truth is – and while she's being honest with herself she might as well admit it – the truth is that as soon as he said it she understood what he was getting at and knew he was right.

The flight attendant's coming around handing out drinks. Krista risks a glance away from the window and accepts a glass of water, noting the curious look on the flight attendant's face and the concerned expression of the woman beside her as they note her red eyes. Krista manages what's probably more of a grimace than a smile and looks back at the window.

She's not exactly unfamiliar with the view but it's something that she takes for granted and sometimes hardly notices when she's in the pilot's seat. Now, though, as she watches the world glide by below them she's acutely aware that this is the last she'll see of it for a while. She's decided she doesn't know when she's coming home and maybe by the time she gets back it'll be summer, with the snow gone and the land green and brown as far as the eye can see. Or autumn, maybe, with darkness beginning to close over everything and the cold bite of the wind creeping in.

And suddenly, acutely, painfully, Krista realises she doesn't even want to leave. Not like this. This is her home. Everything that matters is in Yellowknife and in the land around it. Loreen, Dev, Astrid, even Blake, even Connor who likes teaching her to kill things on the X-Box, even Kirby's stupid jokes, even Cece griping about everything: all that's Yellowknife and she's throwing it away, for what?

She and Mel have been getting on better than ever before. It had taken Irene and the truth to do that, and in return for everything he'd done to stop Irene from breaking her heart, she'd written a letter and left it on his desk, left him scrambling for another pilot to cover the massive gap she'd left in the schedule, left him to wonder if she'd come home or just turn into her mother.

And then there was Bobby. Bobby, who loves her when she doesn't even understand why, Bobby who's an idiot sometimes and a pain in the ass other times. And Krista knows – has known for a while – that she loves him too, as much as there have been times in her life when she's tried not to.

She'd walked away from him once before and had regretted it for months until she'd succeeded in pushing away every bit of affection she felt him, every fond memory and everything she'd hoped for their future. They'd been young and naïve back then, and maybe they couldn't have made it work anyway.

Now, though, as adults they'd tried, but maybe not hard enough.

Krista shuts her eyes tightly and has to wipe her face again as a few lingering tears slip down her cheeks. She can run away to Bali, forget about Bobby and about flying, and stay away until she's hardened her heart the way Irene had done. Or she can change her mind, go back home, go back on the ultimatum she'd given Bobby after Calgary and make a fresh start with all their secrets out in the open. She can risk it all again because she's not ready for everything to be over

In the end it's not really a conscious decision. When they land in Edmonton Krista washes her face in the bathroom and collects her suitcase from the baggage carousel. Then, with the boarding call for her flight to Vancouver echoing around the concourse she marches up to the Air Canada counter and buys herself a ticket on the first flight back to Yellowknife.