Characters: Margaret Morgan, Sebastion Darcy-Algenmon
Reality is what we bump against. – William James, American psychologist
Morgan left a junior officer in charge on the bridge and headed for her quarters. The corridors seemed deserted, even considering the late hour, but while odd, she didn’t think it was anything memorable. To tell the truth, she wasn’t really paying attention, especially not to the redheaded man leaning casually against the wall near the lift.
“Hey, honey, looking for a good time?”
She turned quickly. “Bas!” she exclaimed, surprised. “You’re the last person I expected to see out here. When’d you get in?”
Sebastion Darcy-Algenmon flashed his most brilliant smile, took Morgan’s hand and bowed over it saying, “I only just arrived, luv. I can’t tell you just how bad the traffic is tonight.” He winked at her as he straightened up. “I am absolutely parched. What does a man have to do to get offered a cold beer around here?”
Morgan colored faintly at the courtesy, but grinned. “Come on. I ought to have something cold.”
“Wonderful! I could do with some warming up.” In the lift ‘Bas eyed Morgan quickly and asked, “How you been, girl?”
“Oh, not bad. Some trouble, but when isn’t there? What about you?”
‘Bas quirked an eyebrow, “Some trouble? That doesn’t sound entertaining. Me? I’ve been getting around lately and catching up with old friends.” The lift deposited them on Morgan’s level. “Come on. You’ve got to be able to do better than some trouble.”
Morgan chuckled. “Well, there’s this Abbai thing for one.” She gestured as she led him off the lift. “Raiders, mobsters, you name it.”
“Mmm…sounds promising…tell me more.” He waggled his eyebrows and leered.
Now she laughed — a rare enough sound, for a long time.
‘Bas decided to flame and played it up, crowding Meg as she tried to get them into her quarters. They tumbled through the door. From the floor ‘Bas said, “So, am I going to make any cute guy insanely jealous flirting with you like this?”
Morgan laughed harder. “Not bloody likely.”
He sighed and sprawled dramatically on the floor. “How absolutely Tragic!” Bouncing up to his feet, he added, “We’ll have to work on changing that immediately!”
Shaking her head, she climbed to her feet. “Good luck.”
Sebastion was busy scrounging around in her cabinets, looking for alcohol. “Oh, come off it, Meg. You’re an attractive lady. Not at all backward. And I can imagine you’re interested in finding someone. So what’s the hold up?”
Morgan covered her embarrassment by sitting on the couch, feeling a twinge as she did. “Ah, I don’t know.”
‘Bas paused in his crouch behind the counter. Concern flashed across his face before he pasted on a lively expression and plopped onto the couch beside her. Planting his red head in Meg’s lap he grinned up at her and said, “Well, that doesn’t sound like an answer. But, maybe you do know why I can’t find a speck of liquor in your place?”
She gave him a strange look. “Because you’re not looking in the right place.”
She pointed to the desk, tucked in a corner. “Bottom drawer.”
“Eureka!” In a blur ‘Bas had arrived at the desk and extracted a beautifully aged bottle of whiskey. “Ah, Meg, you don’t know how happy this makes me.”
Fetching two glasses and settling down on the floor across from Morgan didn’t take ‘Bas long. He smiled softly as he poured. “I met a new friend recently.”
“Oh?” She took the glass offered, but only took a small sip.
‘Bas noticed her moderation and had to repress a sigh. He’d hoped to get her drunk. It was always easier making these kind of revelations to a drunk. “Yeah, he’s a great guy. Unfortunately, he’s straight. But that’s okay too. I’ve rehooked up with an old bonfire, anyway. You might remember the new guy.”
Morgan paused, trying to think who it might be. “Anything’s possible. What’s his name?”
She blinked, then shook her head. Not an uncommon name, she tried to convince herself. “I wouldn’t know where I would know him from.”
“I’m sure it was a while ago. He’s this EF Officer. I didn’t think I’d like him, but Tom introduced us and Ethan turned out to be a nice guy.”
“Anything’s possible, I guess. Knew a lot of people then.” Morgan thought again, then drank more. This was reminding her of her own Ethan.
‘Bas did sigh now. “God, Meg, you just lost me a bet.” He drained his glass and refilled both of theirs.
She scowled, feeling testy. “What?”
‘Bas gave her a lopsided grin. “I bet Tom and him that you’d remember him right off. Tom said you’d be dense and Ethan agreed.”
Now she was getting annoyed. She all but drained her glass at once this time, but she held her tongue.
‘Bas got an evil glint in his eye. When he lifted his glass to drain it as well, his wedding ring glinted to match. He only wore one now. Tom’s ring had found it’s way home. “Did I ever tell you about Tom?”
“Enough.” She smiled sadly. “But not much,” she added, inviting him to elaborate.
‘Bas nodded and poured again. “I ever mention he’s dead?”
“Well, yeah, but…” Then she stopped. The glass slipped out of her hand, smashed into the floor.
“Oops. Stay put, I’ll clean it up.” ‘Bas got a towel and carefully cleared the whiskey and broken glass away while his friend dealt. Morgan hadn’t moved, except to shake her head. ‘Bas took his time cleaning up the mess. Then he returned with a new glass, filled it, and handed to her. “Here,” he pressed her fingers firmly around the glass. “This’ll steady you a bit.”
She swallowed, looked up at him. Her voice was hoarse. “If you’ve seen Tom…”
“Honey, I been doing more than seein’ him.”
“That means….” Her fingers on the glass turned white as she gulped it down.
Sebastion decided to give Meg a little room. He settled in the chair cattycorner to the couch. Her eyes followed him from behind the glass. “Yeah, Meg. I’m dead too.”
“But when…? How…?” Then her face closed, plainly shutting off her emotions, or trying to. She stood, reaching for the bottle.
“A little while ago. I was being stupid and tried to jump over a fallen chair. I slipped, fell, and broke my little neck.” He sipped his glass of whiskey. He was going to nurse this one, it didn’t look like Meg was gonna leave him any after she got done.
“I hadn’t heard. Obviously.” Her jaw was tense as she poured out another drink, but then she just stared at it.
“S’alright. It took me a while to figure it out myself. Tom had to come get me. I was just hovering around a bit.” ‘Bas paused, thinking about how best to continue. “Eventually, I settled in. I met old friends and made new ones…I can’t really tell you a whole lot more.” He winked. “Against the rules. I’ve got it easy, tho’. I didn’t really leave anyone behind that I’ll worry about. Ethan ain’t got it so lucky.”
‘Bas took another sip and watched Meg stare at him. “Fine, luv. I’ll be blunt. Ethan’s worried that you’re all hung up on him and aren’t moving on with life. That’s why he didn’t come himself. He thought that would do more harm than good.”
Meg scowled. “So what if I am? You did the same.” The words were out before she could stop them.
‘Bas took it in stride. “Yep. You’re absolutely right. And I was a miserable, bitter old fag. I did a lot of stupid things and blew off a lot of good men that could have filled the hole in my life. When Tom finally got a hold of me he gave me a good grilling over it too.” He smiled a little at that. Then, leaning forward, he said, “I also had a pretty serious death wish and basically stopped growing, learning, changing…damn…just stopped evolving. I didn’t notice that until Tom pointed it out. I stayed absolutely the same as I was the day after Tom died. Yeah, sure, I changed scenes. But I never changed. I didn’t even find myself the new close friends that every person needs. Sad to say, you were my best buddy and we only had that one night of drunken debauchery. That’s hardly a healthy way to go through the rest of your life.” He sipped his drink and gave Meg a moment to digest.
“And it wasn’t even that bad,” she murmured, finding the remains of her smile. She started on her fresh glass, but slower this time, thinking.
Finally, “No death wish. At least, not for a while now. I just… I guess I’ve been trying to make up for our lack of time. Or justify it.” She looked at Bas. “I don’t know how much he’s told you. We were a ‘shouldn’t.’ He was the XO, and I was… just an engineering tech. Not even an officer.”
‘Bas nodded, encouragingly. “He didn’t tell me a whole lot. We kinda thought that you should be the one who decided what I needed to know. Since, after all, this whole visit is all about you, Meg.” He sipped his drink and allowed a soft silence to fall.
Meg emptied her glass and reached for the bottle again. Then she set it down without a refill. “We had a few months in secret on-ship, a too-short month of leave together after seeing a JP. And I guess I’ve been trying to live up to him ever since. That’s why I went to officer’s training – I couldn’t help but hope I was just hearing the official report, and not the truth. If that were the case, then I’d be an officer to, and wouldn’t have to hide anymore.” She finished, nearly in a whisper.
“So, you’re still waiting for him, aren’t you? Still hoping you’ll wake up from the nightmare? Life doesn’t work that way, ya know. Ethan’s dead. You’re still alive. Does saving your heart for a dead man make what the two of you had any more special? Is it honoring his memory to never move on? Love isn’t a finite thing. Finding love with someone new doesn’t take away from the love that went before.”
She processed that, then sniffed. “Hell. I did exactly what I promised myself I wouldn’t do – built my life around someone else. Saw too much of that growing up.” Now she poured herself more whiskey. “I didn’t let myself love for a long time, afraid I’d fall into that trap. And I did.”
‘Bas nodded and finished off his whiskey. “Well, they say that recognizing the problem and acknowledging that it is a problem is half of the solution. Now, you’ve got to decide what you’re going to do to fix it. Are you gonna chew your heart out to get out of the trap by yourself, or are you going to call for help and risk losing your heart to someone else. Quite a sitch there.” He put his glass down and stood up. “But, you’re clever enough to figure it out.” ‘Bas smiled and leaned down, dropping a kiss on Meg’s cheek. “That’s to remember me by.” He dropped another on her other cheek. “That’s from Tom, for luck.” Then he dropped the softest, sweetest kiss of all on her lips. “That’s from Ethan…for goodbye.”
Meg stared at him, stunned, then closed her eyes, covering her reaction. “Damn you,” she whispered, not really meaning it. She missed the sad smile on ‘Bas’s face as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Settling down beside her on the couch he pulled her into the embrace. The simple act of laying her face against his shoulder like that loosened something inside of Meg. The tears leaked out slowly at first but gathered speed quickly and finally burst forth.
Sebastion let her cry it all out. He leaned his head down towards where hers lay and rubbed her back. His flame-colored hair minged with her black hair like a fire in the night. When she cried herself to sleep, he tucked her into bed and lingered just a moment more before fading back to where he came from.
Copyright (c) 2001 Mona Hinds and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.