Ella was dubious about what Tanner was suggesting, but she had to admit, she had no better ideas herself. Without even basic necessities, staying put was not a wise decision. What she really wanted to do, though, was just curl up and sleep until all this was over; sleep until she had forgotten how bad her heart hurt. She kicked the largest chunks of debris off her bed and curled up with Dean.
Tanner agreed that until the sun came up, they could not do much but plan. He didn’t want to leave so he settled himself on the floor, leaning against the edge of her bed and just staring at nothing through the window.
She gave a hum of acknowledgement but didn’t reply otherwise.
“What made you come? I mean, why did you decide to be part of the city?”
She shifted a little, thinking about that question. After a long pause, she said, “I guess I just wanted my own life. Y’know? Not just an extension of my parents and their farm. I guess I just wanted off Nerius, see another world for a change.”
He nodded, the movement just visible in the near-blackness. Ella was quiet for a bit again, her fingers moving in Dean’s fur softly, though he didn’t relax yet. She sighed and nuzzled her face against him. “What about you?”
“I don’t know. It just seemed like something to do.” A soft laugh passed his lips. “Didn’t exactly think things through. Certainly never saw this coming.”
How they had crashed was still a jumble of questions and denial in Ella’s mind and it just made her head hurt to try to think about it, or maybe she had hit her head in the crash, but either way she didn’t want to think about it too much. “What did you think it would be like?”
“Hm? I guess- I don’t know.” He turned toward Ella. “I figured in a few years when the planet was ready I’d just be part of it. Go to work, build a house, get married and have kids. Just be part of a new life.”
“You wanted to get married?” The question sounded nothing like how she had meant to ask it, but it was too late now.
“Well, yeah. Sure.” He sounded confused, like it was an obvious answer. “Don’t you?”
“Yeah. I mean, yes of course. We’d all have to, wouldn’t we? To build the population.” Her voice trailed off, too many thoughts and feelings all trying to crowd into her mind, but Tanner’s laugh cut right through them.
“You do know people wouldn’t have to get married to make babies, right?”
She was just lucky he couldn’t see her blush. “No, I know that. That’s-” That was why she hadn’t really expected him to want to get married. “I guess I just didn’t think you’d want to settle down.”
“Ella, we’re settlers by definition,” he said, still chuckling. “I don’t think we have much choice!”
No, they didn’t. Especially not now. “Tanner?”
She took a deep breath before asking, “Will we at least be neighbors still?”
It was his turn to go quiet, and Ella did not press for an answer. The longest night of their lives ticked steadily on.