Characters: Tomás Darquin
Tomas Darquin shoved open-handed strikes into the practice dummy, grumbling under his breath. “Dammit.” Thuh-thuh-thmp. “Dammit.” Thud thuh-thmp.
He went on with his exercise in the gymnasium, hoping his childhood nightmare would flash before his eyes like it did hours ago in Medlab with Doctor Trassano, staying behind long after everyone else in the gym left to give himself a chance to hit something when the dream returned. He’d convinced himself it was just a dream. But now, coming out of nowhere like a mugger, he wanted the chance to hit something the next time it pounced on him. To hate something solid besides himself.
But nothing came. “Dammit!” Thmp-thmp-thud thud.
His link chirped somewhere inside the pockets of his Earthforce sweats, where he’d left it to make sure it didn’t get damaged during practice. He took it out in time to hear, “Phoenix will be leaving Babylon 5 next morning. All personnel need to be onboard….”
Darquin swore. On top of everything else, unfinished business on B5 couldn’t wait any longer for him to summon up the courage. All he had to do was wait till the announcement was done, slap the link back onto the back of his hand, and–
“Bridge Comm, this is Ensign Darquin. Request permission to contact someone aboard Babylon 5. I’m looking for Flight Officer Mills, Zeta Squadron.”
Darquin shot out of the lift and stormed into his quarters on Deck 16, hoping he’d beat the link’s announcement of a connection before he got there. No chance of getting a shower before the call went through, he told himself. The most he could hope for was a quick sip of water recyc to keep his mouth from sticking shut.
As he was rolling water around in his mouth and towelling off, the comm screen perked up. He ran to turn a picture by his bed around, then jumped in front of the comm screen. Once he announced he was ready, the screen cut to the apprehensive face of a pale woman with wide blue eyes and shoulder-length brown hair. The neckline of her EF pilot’s uniform peered over the bottom edge of the frame.
He inhaled deeply, loudly, trying to stay put. “Hi, Bev.”
“Tom. I didn’t expect to see you again. Let alone wearing your flight school greys.”
He looked down at the EarthForce logo on his sweatshirt. “Yeah…some habits die hard, y’know?”
Nervous pause. “I heard you came back a few days ago. Sorry I…kept missing you.”
He fought the urge to call her a liar. “I won’t keep you long. I just didn’t want to let things stand where they’ve been for the last year. I’ll be leaving soon. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
He scowled at the screen. “You’re making it sound like I had a choice the first time. What was I supposed to do?”
“You could’ve tried talking to somebody. Like Garibaldi or–“
He groaned. This was exactly where they left off. “They had their own problems, too, you kn–“
“Yeah, well, they handled it okay. We’re still here.”
“I know, Bev. But how was I supposed to know that when the Nightwatch was breathing down my neck? I couldn’t expect the command staff to stick their necks out just for me.”
“I guess so. I’m sorry. About everything. I didn’t do much of a good job when you needed a friend, huh?”
He smiled at her. “No sense in sticking up for someone if it’ll only make things worse. It’s okay, it worked out.”
“I, uh…I heard you went Downbelow.”
“For a while. Then I shacked up with the Rangers.”
Bev chuckled. “That’s what I figured, from what…what someone said you were wearing. It sounded like you’d do–“
He felt a knot in his stomach, something about the way she stopped in mid-sentence and looked around. “Really think so?”
“Yeah, you’re a real scrapper, T–“
He instinctively followed her eyes as she looked at something off-screen, and realized there was a male voice in the background. He gasped.
“I gotta go, Tom.”
He nodded. “That, that’s okay.”
Bev’s eyes drilled into him through the screen. Somehow, across the void and metal that separated him, she could still reach him. “You’re looking thoughtful there.”
Tell her you love her. Tell her you love her. “No. Just the trip ahead of me.”
A frown, then another pregnant pause. “So where you going?”
“I’m not sure yet. All I know is…I won’t be anywhere near this sector for a long time.”
“So you’re going real soon, huh?”
“Yeah.” Up to now he’d been trying to be noble, not to demand any favors or evoke memories. He couldn’t do it anymore. “‘I’ll be up with the sun.’ Remember?”
Bev smiled like a child, widely and prettily after an intense effort not to let that smile out. “Yeah, I remember.” She let out a loud peal of laughter. “Here I am, saying I have to go–“
He couldn’t help but smile, despite the hollow feeling in his body. “It’s okay. Go, have fun. The war’s over.”
“Thanks. I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too. More than I can say.”
That cut through his reserves and sparked a small ember in his heart. He memorizing her lips and her voice, knowing it’ll be the last time. “Clear skies, Bev.”
He slapped the comm screen off before the tears ran. “Computer? Personal log entry. Man, these last few days have been fraggin’ lousy….”