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Last Ones Home

Posted on Tue Jul 21st, 2020 @ 8:48pm by Alden Loxley & James Thomson

Mission: Fortune & Glory
Location: Argabuthon (One of Athens' Moons)
Timeline: Couple weeks after James joined the Echo

Chwen Joo. You’re a gorram idiot, cousin,” Alden said as he marched up the dirt track away from the bar towards the ship. His steps were a little uneven due to the considerable amount of booze they’d both consumed, and not helped any by the late night brawl that had gotten them both kicked out.

It was a long walk back to the Echo, over an hour, but he needed it in order to cool off. Besides everyone else would likely be passed out cold asleep now and Alden didn’t have the heart to wake them up to ask for a lift. That, plus he needed to vent his bad mood.

Dust and darkness, the sandy plains of a typical Georgia System border planet surrounded them. Big sky, and a moon big enough to cast some lengthy shadows.

“It’s only a day’s travel to drop you right back on Ezra,” Alden spat the words with real venom and rubbed a hand wearily over the top of his skull. “You’re more trouble than you’re worth, James.”

James look scandalised at the comment, "Me!" he bit out in disbelief, "He was the gorram idiot who thought he'd get clever," James explained defensively. Could he have handled things better? Yes, but he had the right out it before the beating. A rowdy bunch of thugs had been barred too. James had tried ignoring them but several times they'd gotten cheeky with the staff. Now, James knew it had nothing to do with him, but the place reminded him of Erin's so he did what he'd have done there.

Of course, James and Alden had gotten out of it barely scathed, but the same couldn't have been said for the gang's biggest fellow. The one who now had a broken wrist after challenging Alden's younger cousin.

Alden grizzled a few curse words out loud in a string of Chinese mixed with English and lightly shook his head. It hurt. They'd got a lucky strike in with a pool cue, then thrown him into a wall, and that was just step 2 of his bad mood. Now, with the bar bill, plus the damages and a seriously pissed off gang in their wake, he was definitely up to step 5.

"You broke his arm!" Alden challenged. "And drew so much attention to us that they'll be coming looking for us. We have other people to consider, cousin. We have a crew, and we need to do business on this rock. Don't make sense to upset everyone for no reason. And you had no reason."

"Let them look, their funeral!" James declared with certainty, "plus aren't you the one always trying to make me be a better person? That was me being a better person. They only would have gotten worse if we intervene, me plenty of men like that and I've never known a stern word put them in their place," James defended, "Now they'll think twice before harassing small-town folk," he smirked as he trailed after his much taller older cousin.

Alden stopped by the roadside and rested long fingers gingerly at his jawline. There'd be a bruise there in the morning and his ear hurt where someone had tried to tear it from his head. Right now, alcohol was decent painkiller, but he wasn't looking forward to the morning and seeing what it had dulled down.

"You didn't want to be a better person!" He told his cousin, evading the fact that he could see James had a fair point in that regard. Alden's drunk, irritated brain didn't want to be wrong tonight, or concede an unwanted truth. "You just wanted to hit people and cause trouble. You picked that fight over nothing. And we both know it!"

James almost did a doubletake, his expression a picture of disbelief, "If I wanted to hit someone just to cause trouble I wouldn't have chosen a backwater bar, I'd at least seek out a challenge" he countered matter-of-factly. "I've also been on my best behaviour for weeks now, they deserved it and you know it! I didn't kill anyone and that broken wrist is going to set, just wanted to make sure he'd remember his lesson for time to come" James shrugged, he honestly couldn't see what he'd done wrong. He hadn't killed anyone and not a single innocent person had been hit. Just the lads that had been disrespectful and anyone who decided to defend the,

"Not to mention my prize" James added with pride lifting the bottle of shimmerwine the bar owner had given James, probably more as bribe to get him to leave before he could manifest more chaos, but James received it as a gift of gratitude, "I'll share it with you".

"That commentary was worthy of a black eye maybe," argued Alden. "Not broken bones. You always go in too heavy and cause too much trouble. No wonder Niska loved having you on the team," he continued to rant, stopping only when James held up the bottle. That drew the elder man's attention like a moth to a flame and Alden shook his head and smiled.

"Prize," he scoffed. "Going away present, more like. But hell yeah, you'll share!" His anger rose and fell with the tide of his own alcohol content and its effect on his ill mood. He jumped topics too. "If this is your best behaviour, how can I take you to a Core planet, huh? Answer me that?!"

"Depends on what you would define as best behaviour, I didn't kill anybody" James quipped, stowing the weighty bottle into the inner pocket of his jacket then zipping it closed to keep it secure, "Them hoity-toity folk keep up appearances, decorum and all that, I doubt I'm going to be getting into scraps with them" he assured, "providing they keep their hands to themselves" he finished with a shrug. He was trying, but Rome was built in a day and a decade of violence being the norm was hard to escape. James doubted he'd never truly be better.

"Sometimes it's better if you do," muttered Alden darkly. "Dead people don't come back for vengeance." But he didn't mean that, not really, and James knew it. The Core Planets though, they were a whole different matter. James so much as sneezed at the wrong person and they were basically screwed.

"We both know that the rich folk don't take kindly to hands being places they shouldn't," Alden pointed out. "But also, they take offence at the simplest of things. And you're not exactly great at keeping your mouth shut. I'm getting by, cargo runs and Drake's delivery service, but I can't afford to bail you out if you get in trouble out there. Understand?"

"Loud and clear," James replied, "but what if they start a fight with me?" he asked, wracking his brain for loopholes, just in case.

"Really? Loud and clear?" Alden barked back. "Cos seems to be you're still looking to pick a fight." He made a dramatic gesture with both arms up in the air, then brought them crashing back down as if destroying everything around him. "You don't fight back," he said, his gaze locked on his younger cousin's own. "Not unless killing's in the mix. You walk away, or you come to me. You don't get involved uness it's life or death. Got it?"

"I can't make the promise," James replied quickly, but this time his face had adopted a more serious expression, "I can promise that so long as no-one I'd consider vulnerable is physically harmed, I shall leave the problem to you" he proposed sincerely, "And yes, that means that I'm admitting I may have gone too far tonight, but I won't leave someone who doesn't deserve a beating to get a beating. I just won't," he admitted.

Inside a storm of emotion was in full swing as he allowed himself to recall the two occasions Erin's had been attacked. If it hadn't been for him, Lauren would surely have died. How many more people could he save if he refused to be little more than a bystander?

"James," stated Alden, fighting his bad mood a little slowly. "I'm not asking you to stand by and let people get hurt, kid," he clarified. "I ain't asking you to let someone be injured. I'm saying, don't bring the wrath of the Core planets down upon us. S'different. You break someone's wrist for looking at ya funny, in the Core, and we'll be in serious trouble. Jail time kinda trouble. You can stand up for people without hitting them in the face or snapping bones, k?"

James sighed, "Alden, I've been to the core worlds before, probably more than you during my ten years with that Asshole," James assured, "I know how to behave when it counts, just unfortunate that those hicks ended up in the same backwater bar as us is all. I solemnly promise I'll keep it schtum and play the role of the obedient and diligent security body until you say otherwise deal?" He asked whilst unscrewing the shimmerwine and knocked a bit back after he finished speaking, handing the bottle to Alden once he was done.

Begrudgingly and in the privacy of his own head, Alden had to admit that this was true. James' time spent being sponsored by Niska had afforded the younger man free travel about the Verse, and whether he liked it or not, the Core. Alden's own experience had been far more peripheral, give or take a few assignments. He'd spend far more time under the watchful eye of the Alliance or running supplies to the Independents, the latter being something he was particularly proud of and none the wealthier for. He didn't want to admit that right now though, it didn't support his own moody argument.

So, Alden stopped walking, and made a big show of gently seating himself down by the side of the dusty desert road. Once 'comfortable' he looked back up at his cousin and wiggled the fingers on his right hand in a 'gimme the thing' gesture.

"Deal," he agreed, and gulped down two big mouthfuls of the (relatively) expensive wine to seal that promise.

James plonked himself down next to Alden, his expression growing serious as he turned to face his cousin, “Thank you for not giving up on me. I know I get it wrong more often than right but I’m really trying here.” He admitted as he took the bottle back and had a deep swig, “It’s why I joined the crew, if there’s anyone in our family that can set me straight it’s you. I just need you not to give up on me yet,” he added, his words laced with guilt.

Especially when you find out I’m still working for Niska the younger cousin left that unsaid, he knew if he admitted it so soon into joining the crew it would be problematic for his chances to stay. Besides, it wouldn’t be forever, soon a new toy would present itself to the crime lord and at that point he’d be more inclined to grant James an early retirement.

Alden handed the bottle back to his cousin as James sat down, then adopted a drunkenly tolerant smile on his face and wrapped a long arm about the younger man's shoulders. He leaned in close, so that his breath tickled James' ear as he told him something in a voice way louder than the intended whisper.

"You're family," Alden told his cousin. "I can't give up on you even if I wanted to." He frowned. "And sometimes I do. Want to, I mean." He raised a hand and pointed a finger at the starry sky above their heads. "But I won't. Not until you're dead." Another thought pattern swirled in his mind, drowning gently in way too much booze. "Or I am. Whichever one of those comes first," he finished, and reached for the shimmerwine again.

"It'll be alright," confirmed Alden, suddenly giving up on the argument in favour of sharing this unexpected extra drink. "Stick with me." He beamed a big stupid grin. "I'm lucky. And I'll look after you. Oh. Kay?"

He grabbed James' head for a moment and kissed the top of his hair. "Love ya, lil guy," Alden told him and then he shifted right back, in more of a fall than a gentle lean, to lie down on his back in the dirt.

"We could jus' sleep here," Alden decided out loud, though he wasn't sure he really meant it. "Under the stars." A long pause followed before a smaller voice added. "If you hadn't broken that guy's arm."

Though he kept it private James had been more moved by his cousin's affection than he'd cared to admit. Most of the family kept him at an arm's length, he wasn't unloved, but the loss of faith was evident. "Could ask for a pick up, there's gotta be some perk for looking after the lot of us," James joked as he reached down for Alden's hand, "but you've more chance of pigs flying at this time."

A definitely not sober in the least Alden Loxley wrapped his own hand about James' and sighed softly. "S'nicenightforsleepin'ou'side," he said, drowsily as he rolled onto his side and took James' arm with him. "Gosleep. It'llbeallokayinthemorning."



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