She had awoken sometime during the middle of the night from a nightmare to an empty apartment. Sliding out of the bed, she made her way into the dimly lit living room and glanced around for Raphael though she could tell he wasn't there.
She could feel the emptiness of the open area and knew that she was alone.
Still unnerved by the dream, she pulled a blanket from the back of the sofa and curled up in it as she moved over to the floor-to-ceiling window to settle down in front of it.
The stars were comforting. Space was home. The glow of a planet off in the distance captured her attention, the way it was backlit by a sun. It was beautiful, breathtaking.
She spent most of her time in space, even when off duty they lived aboard a space station and rarely did she go planetside.
Until last night...
The stress of seeing Garst played through her mind. Everything he said, the way he touched her. She forced the thoughts away with a groan of misery.
She was almost glad Raphael wasn't there at the moment, she didn't want to tell him. He was leaving in less than two days and she couldn't bear the thought of adding to his anxiety. She wanted him to be okay with leaving her so that he could concentrate on his mission and come back to her.
Laying her forehead against her knees, she made a cocoon of the blanket around her, wishing away the lingering nightmare. Again she thought of Garst and it brought her to the verge of tears but she would not cry. Not now, not when Raphael could come home any second and find her. She would keep it all bottled up for now, hidden.
She would lie to him.
And as soon as she made up her mind to do so, Condor's words echoed through her mind, "If I was Raphael...I would want to know. Imagine if he was to find out from someone other than you. I live by a simple little phrase, 'bad news does not get better with age.' It might not feel good, but it would feel worse if he found out another way."
The memory of it all flashed through her mind...
She had met him at the Amarr Legio Basilica at his request, surpised to hear from him. She found him in the outer courtyard, sitting alone, deep in thought in the private little alcove she and Zenton used to sneak off to.
Once, Mitara had caught her and Zenton coming out of it and had tried to cause some trouble with the pair, telling her that she had expected to see her coming out with Garst instead of Zenton.
'Ironic,' she mused to herself as she approached him. Something about the way he was sitting there, alone, contemplative, made her feel sorry for him.
"So..." She stopped in front of him, looking down.
He lifted his gaze and slid it down the length of her, "You didn't expect to hear from me so soon." He dusted off the bench, swatting a few leaves away before motioning for her to sit.
Apprehension flashed across her face as she neared him, taking a seat beside him. "No. I did not."
"I don't blame you after what I said. Frankly I didn't expect to... need you so soon."
She stared at him as a thousand unasked question flittered through her mind. She settled on one. "Need? Do you need something?"
He turned to her and lifted his hand, brushing her hair from her face as he cupped her cheek, bringing his mouth to hers. "You."
She lifted her hand and pressed it to his chest, keeping him from kissing her. "Garst...no. You know I am engaged to Raphael." What is wrong with him?
For the moment she had a hard time believing he was serious. He had been her friend for so long, she had trusted him. Raphael had trusted him.
Garst made a show of looking over to the nearby bushes. "I don't see him here, perhaps he is hiding in the bushes behind us?" He grinned at her and she told herself he wasn't serious, he was just trying to break the ice. Trying to apologize.
Voices from nearby caught their attention. Aldrith Shutaq and Ekaterina DeSilverstris were walking through the garden, talking.
Garst leaned over and whispered to her, "Look. Let's go someplace private and have a drink?"
Private? She was too uneasy to be alone with him, though she was trying to rationalize it by telling herself that it was Garst. He wouldn't hurt her. "Where do you want to go?" Also, she didn't want people seeing her with Garst in such a private little spot. Though it was innocent on her part, people had a way of making things into something more.
"My Blue Heaven? I've prayed enough for one day, I need to unwind." He glanced over to the statue of the praying angel.
She relaxed. My Blue Heaven, their old haunt. It wasn't exactly private either. She realized she had been skittish for no reason. "Alright, I'll meet you there."
Twenty minutes later he was waiting for her at the entrance. He pulled the door open and she stepped inside, passing by a lowborn worker. The place wasn't exactly up to the standards of most wealthy capsuleers, but that is why they all liked it. You never had to worry about running across the brass."It's been a while since I've been here."
He took her coat then lead her over to their old booth in the back.
She slid in and turned to face him once he sat. "Are you alright? You seem different tonight."
"Makes sense. I feel different. Like I need a change."
"I see. Well. Buy me a drink then." He gave her a charming smile as he snapped his fingers, telling the shot girl who answered to bring a bottle of the good stuff and two glasses, ignoring her angry glance at his rudeness.
"So...how are things now?" She was reluctant to bring up the news for now.
"Stressful," he admitted before quickly changing his tone. "The last few weeks have been very hard on me. I've got wrinkles on my face and if I had hair, maybe I'd have a few grey ones by now." He chuckled, "I guess I'll have to order my next clone sans wrinkles." His tone was playful.
He smiled again as he sloshed some of the newly bought vodka into the glass, filling hers first then his own. "A drink, as promised."
She did the shot quickly, sat the empty glass on the table and waited for a refill. "I'm sorry things have been so bad for you lately."
He refilled her glass eagerly and did another shot to catch up. He was silent as he looked at her, his expression thoughtful.
She absently ran her fingertip around the top of the shotglass, thinking as well. Though they were sitting in silence, it was an easy silence. Comfortable. Like old times. She felt foolish for being worried earlier.
"A man I knew growing up once told me a man could be successful, and achieve. Or he could be unsuccessful and have friends. I always thought I could have both."
He shifted so that he was facing her, "I was wrong."
"You don't feel that you have both?"
He gave her an odd look but said nothing. Instead, he refilled both shot glasses and picked them both up, holding one to his mouth, the other to hers.
She furrowed her brows as she took the shot, feeling the affects of so much alcohol in such a little time. She blinked, starting to get a little dizzy. After he sat their shot glasses on the table, he closed the space between them, pinning her against the wall of the booth. His mouth covered hers as his hand dropped to her leg, grasping hold of her inner thigh.
She panicked and froze at the same time. Oh god. Fear slithered down her spine. Her eyes widened as she rolled her head to the side, breaking the kiss. Her hands lifted to his chest, trying to push him away. "Garst stop! What are you doing?"
His mouth grazed along her neck, "Taking what I want...what I need."
"No, stop." She managed to push him away, "Garst, I wont cheat on Raphael....and I can't believe you would do this to him."
"Oh get real, what did you expect when I told you to come get some drinks with me in the basillica? Here have a shot, you'll feel better."
"Get real? I expected a drink! This is a public place, I didn't think you would..."
"But you wanted me to. So just have a drink and see where the moment takes you."
"Do you really think so poorly of me to think that I would fuck around on Raphael, that I would go behind his back for sex? God Garst, what's gotten into you?"
He growled as he knocked back a shot, defeated, "'No' is a word I'm hearing too much of lately and frankly its getting old god damned fast."
"You can't just take what you want."
"Recent history says otherwise, and frankly, I'm beginning to like it. So drink up because im not going anywhere."
She was trapped. There was no way out of the booth unless he moved. She glanced around the bar and realized there would be no one to intervene if she called out. A bartender and a waitress, and they weren't likely to get involved with capsuleers.
Resigned, she stretched her hand out for the bottle, willing it steady, not wanting to betray just how afraid she was at the moment. She filled her glass and did a shot.
"That's more like it." He refilled his own glass and drank it quickly then pushed the bottle of vodka away. "I didn't come for this crap. I came for you. Let's go." He grabbed her by the arm and drug her out of the booth.
"No." She shook her head as she struggled to free herself from his grasp, prepared to put up a fight. "No, I'm not going anywhere else with you!"
He locked his gaze on her, anger flushing his face. "Then I'll find someone who will." He shoved her away with a look of disgust, then dropped a few isks to the bartender on his way out.
Shalee unravelled herself from the blanket and went to pour herself a drink. She perched on the kitchen counter with a bottle beside her, a cigarette in one hand, a glass in the other.
Activating the recording drone, she started to talk, thinking it'd help her feel better.
"I don't know what I'm going to do about Garst. A part of me feels like he's just...just lost. That the stress of Kamela and Arzad and the war has gotten to him. That he isn't himself. That's what I want to believe...but another part of me feels like I never really knew him at all."
"After I left the bar last night I knew I couldn't go home, not then. Not while being so upset. I wasn't sure where Raphael was and I couldn't risk him finding me so out of it. After flying around for a while, I ended up back at the Basilica."
"I don't know...I thought maybe prayer would help calm me down. Anyhow. Aldrith was there. We started talking.' She took a long draw of her cigarette and blew a mouthful of smoke out into the kitchen. "Apparently the captain has asked Aldrith to befriend me. Stupid really. I don't need the captain setting up playdates like I'm some kind of goddamned child."
She was frustrated, "One night while on patrol, Mitara and I were assisting the Navy, helping to secure a rather large military complex. Boring really since there were no hostiles in system. So I started talking hoping she would open up some. Everyone knows she is dating Aldrith but neither seem keen on talking about it. Anyhow, I mention to her that I felt rather lonely in PIE, that the ranks really didn't inspire friendship but she didn't take the bait. I was hoping she would open up some. But whatever. It didn't work, and now she is sending her pet lieutenant to be nice to me."
"God how insulting. Aldrith of all people." She exhaled another mouthful, sending a plume of smoke towards the ceiling. "He was very insincere about the whole thing and then had he gall to mention something I had confided to him when I was trying to help save his sorry goddamned life."
"I promptly told him to fuck off and walked away. Bastard." She was ranting to one in particular, "Who the hell does he think he is anyhow? Just because he is banging the captain, he thinks he can threaten me like that?"
"Anyhow, I stormed off into the courtyard and stumbled across Condor. Thank god." She calmed a little as she poured herself another drink. "He and I talked for hours, I think. I told him what happened with Garst and then we talked about other things." As she finished off one cigarette she lit up another, "He's a good man, and I think he will be a really good friend to me, especially while Raphael is away."
She sat there for a moment, staring off at nothing. "On the way out Aldrith tried to apologize. I accepted it, but he knew I was just as insincere at accepting it as he was giving it."
Another moment of silence passed as she sat there thinking, drinking, dreading the passing of time. "Only two days left before Raphael leaves." She heard the front door open to the apartment and slid off the counter, trying to hide the evidence of her misery, quickly tossing the empty bottle into the bin while drenching her cigarette under the faucet.
Seconds later she was making her way to him, greeting him with a hug and a kiss, hoping to take advantage of every moment she had with him still and secretly hoping she could somehow convince him to stay.