Living a Dream
I was glad Duo gave me duties at the yard that following morning. It was only fair. I had to pay them back for room and board, after all. It was definitely a bargain tilted in my favor though, since two friends came with it.
One of which I hoped to make more than just a friend of.
Watching him squirm simply by smiling his way was amusing - but also frustrating. I obviously had my work cut out for me, if he felt uneasy by such a small thing. It also made me wonder if me smiling was unusual enough for him to be that uncomfortable. It didn't feel good to conclude it just might. I hadn't had too many things to be happy about during the war.
I marked it up as another thing to change about myself, second only to giving up drinking. That night had taught me I had not made as clean a break as I could have wished. Only that final hesitation kept me from caving in.
I had to get stronger than that.
For Duo's sake.
It was just a dream, though - the 'us' part. The large majority of dreams tend to stay just that. More dreams become nightmares than become reality.
Sally came that same evening, as she'd promised Duo on the phone when he picked me up. She guided Duo aside for a 'private' talk quickly enough. Hilde and I never caught the exact words, but we could clearly hear the tempers unleashed on the other side of that door. It ended as abruptly as it had begun, though.
Sally gave me a quick examination. Duo stalled her at first, claiming it wasn't necessary. I think he did that only because he knows how I hate doctors and check-ups. Call it a result of my upbringing. He kept on deflecting Sally's good intentions right up until the point where Hilde asked him when he'd given me a complete physical to ensure I was fit.
Short a good answer, he'd left the room right after that, cheeks flushed. I longed to do the same, but Sally didn't let me.
It didn't seem like I had contracted any permanent harm from my time lost in the bottle, thankfully. Sally still took small samples of blood, skin and tissue for future analysis to make certain. It wasn't just alcohol that was a cause for concern. When she saw the tattoo on my back, she went on about the risks of infections, especially with bad craftsmanship.
Dinner that evening was a tense affair. Mostly, we talked about the good old days. It's a bit ironic to consider a time of war and death your best years. We were still young, though. There would be better primes to come.
I didn't want to hit them alone.
The real trouble began when Sally suggested I let the entire gang from back then know I was alive and well - for the most part. I staunchly refused. It wasn't that I didn't like them, or felt like avoiding them - I just didn't want them to know what had become of me. Not before I could work it out for myself. Hilde took Sally's side, claiming I'd only benefit from their support. Duo remained oddly neutral. In the end, I told Sally to let them know I was okay - but not where I was staying, nor what had happened to me. The last thing I wanted right then was to be swamped by well-meaning friends, and only run for the comfort of the bottle again under their doting.
I had given my trust to Duo. I wasn't ready to share it with anyone else, except maybe the other two in the room that night.
Sally accepted that, though - if grudgingly.
I excused myself early and went to bed. I wasn't blind; I could see that she wanted to talk to Duo and Hilde alone - perhaps give them advice, signs to look for - or look out for. I don't know. I didn't want to know.
Sleep came easy. Sally had left before I woke up. Her capacity to sleep on intercolonial shuttles is nothing short of astounding - I learned that much during a flight from Earth to Peacemillion. All I seem to get are nightmares. I've never dared tell her, but I almost think she has more the heart of a warrior than any of us pilots - or at the very least, me.
Daily routines took form after that. For three more nights, I slept in Duo's bed. After that, I insisted we swap - I could see the effects the couch was having on him. I didn't want him to be that grumpy all the time, and I certainly didn't want to be the cause of his bad mood.
In the end, it took me hauling him off to his own bed and tossing him in to do the trick.
Only restraint on my part stopped me from climbing in and lie down next to him, perhaps hug him close. Just to make sure he stayed put, of course.
The next morning, the guestroom was ready with a new bed. After a night on the couch, few things could have pleased me more. It also made me painfully aware of what Duo had done for me.
In his and Hilde's company, I could almost forget my problem.