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Say Goodbye

Posted on Sat Aug 8th, 2020 @ 6:16pm by Karen Dawson MD & Alden Loxley

Mission: Fortune & Glory
Location: On board Fortune's Echo
Timeline: Few Weeks After Karen Joins the Crew

Calloused fingers gently caught taut strings as the man sat atop the metal gantry overlooking his ship’s cargo bay. The acoustic guitar was a trusted companion in amongst all the frayed nerves, complicated moments and unexpected trouble that came free while traversing the Verse. Alden’s voice carried more quietly in that wide closed space, but words were audible to anyone walking in the general vicinity. He both invited, and remained unconcerned with, company, the heart on his sleeve hidden behind the words of another.

How am I supposed to feel?
You strike at my achilles heel
with everything that's wrong I can't make right
If I wait another hundred years
the whispers set against the tears
I'm never gonna be that shining knight.

By now Karen had received her belongings, mailed to the nearest Skyplex. Her scabs had healed around her wrists too. Settling in was now the objective, since her recovery.

Upon hearing the song, Karen moved out of her room and climbed down the ladder in her green henley and matching plaid PJ bottoms. The ladder made it hard for people to sneak up in her dorm room but was sometimes a bit hard to climb up, after a tough day.

As she entered the cargo hold, she leaned in the doorway and watched Alden from afar, play his guitar with a curious expression on her face.

I find it hard to be down in this hole
Now I find myself walking down a hard road

If I can't say it, if I can't say goodbye...

He looked up, drawn by some intuitive urge to seek out another living soul, and let his gaze track along the line of the metal walkway. As he caught a glimpse of the newest member of the crew, Alden's fingers held their position on those strings while his other palm lightly kept a beat going against the body of his guitar.

"Hey," he said, non-committal but not overtly unhappy to see her either.

"Hello," Karen responded with pink cheeks. Caught off-guard. "I... uh... Sorry."

"No apology needed," Alden said swiftly, a small, self-effacing smile catching the edge of his mouth. "If I wanted privacy that bad I'd have stayed in my bunk. I didn't wake you up, did I?"

"Oh..." Karen laughed, happy to break the tension. "I just love wearing PJ's... Figured I'd try and settle in."

Alden chuckled. "Hey, whatever makes you comfy out here, works," he agreed. "You wanna come sit for a while. I just have a coupla songs I need to get outta my head, but I'm good for some company if you are?"

Karen gave an instant nod. Pleased. She sat beside him and smiled, "Perhaps one day I'll break out my violin."

A melancholy smile took up residence on Alden's face as he considered something internally, then he played a few harmonics across the range of notes, a clear tell to those who knew him that he needed to distract himself from something.

"Definitely," he said, quietly. "You and your violin would be welcome." He paused, then frowned. "That is... if you can play without sounding like you're throttling a cat," he qualified.

"I only do that to prospective suitors that my parents insist I date," Karen laughed with a playful wink. "You'd be amazed how quickly that clears a room."

"Pushy parents huh?" Alden asked, his mind multi-tasking as he looked down to his guitar. "But yeah, that'll no doubt work," he noted, then, with a seriousness she rarely saw, he added. "You ever... have one you didn't want to chase screaming from the house?"

"Once..." Karen admitted quietly. "Dated a gal - Mary - during medical school. But she an' I were drafted into the conflict due to Alliance running low on medical officers..."

Karen's thoughts drifted a moment. Somber, her eyes were. "...Well. I came back after the war... She died in the first few hours of arriving at her post."

As Karen's voice had shifted volume downwards, Alden's fingers had settled into a comfortably circular little pattern of notes. A calming influence on all those stormy internal emotions, an accoustic mantra to preserve sanity amidst a distant pain.

"Here's to Mary, then," Alden whispered quietly as those gentle notes filled the air between and around them both. He didn't say sorry, because the war wasn't his to apologise for, any more than Karen's loss had him to blame. That pain, however, Alden more than understood and it bled into his tone as he gently spoke their names. "And Anouk. May they both be resting in peace away from conflict."

Karen nodded somberly. Truth be told, Mary and she had only dated four months. There wasn't Love there, but had it been allowed to blossom, Karen may have settled down with her.

Alden's playing was well and good, but her thoughts lingered on the, What Might Have Been... scenarios.

His thoughts were darker, perhaps, yet no less emotionally troubling. Alden had yet to get into any detail with Karen, Noah or Jacob with regards his own deeper emotional trauma, and he had no particular desire to offload that heartfelt pain tonight. He looked up, though as a world weary sigh caught his shoulders in a heavy rise and drop action, and asked the question before he thought too much about it.

"Did you love her?" He asked Karen, simply. "Love her with all your heart?"

"I wanted to, very deeply," Karen confessed with a longing sigh. "I know she did. She confessed it I don't know how many times... But I didn't want to jump into that hole unless I could commit fully - Med school stopped me...

"What was Anouk like?" Karen asked. Mostly because in her eyes, a personal question demanded an equally personal one in return. And she felt very guilty admitting aloud that her profession came first.

He didn't look up from those fingertips caressing harmony from metal strung across a hollow piece of old wood as he answered her, and Alden's voice was quiet yet filled with a solemnly proud energy.

"Dangerous, resolute, beautiful, delicious and a little evil," he said. "Even when I hated her, there was something just so adorably wonderful about her. She never doubted anything she did, not even for a second."

"Mary had a gift," Karen spoke with envy. "She could manage her studies well, and yet still found the time to make me laugh and relax even during the most difficult revision periods... Damn fine cook as well. She made the best buttermilk biscuits and breaded steak."

"Smart, funny and talented," noted Alden, wistfully. He couldn't say that his wife had ever cooked for him, well not in a culinary sense at least, and she certainly wasn't one for making jokes or keeping him relaxed, but he'd loved her beyond all words in spite of those things. "S'a great combo of skills you had there, Mary," he added, but he was also thinking about those biscuits and steak. "I'm hungry," Alden said, shamelessly.

"Yeah... me too," Karen nodded in solemn agreement. "I could make that meal. Not as good as Mary's cookin'. But it's still appetizing."

"I'll help," Alden suggested, with a half-smile as he looked to the Doc. "Well, we don't have any steak, but we could rustle up some biscuits from the supplies."

"Later," Karen promised. "I like hearing you play."

He didn't seem to need telling twice, and Alden's fingers duly picked up the old familiar, long overplayed song once more. A rhythm that literally struck an acoustic chord deep within the man.

Now I'm waiting for that setting sun
to burn me down the day I'm done
and spread my ashes out along the beach
But I find these days are pretty long
This war with you goes on and on
And I love you as I'm lying through my teeth

I find it hard to be up on this wall
Now I find myself trying to make a hard call

If I can't say it
If I can't say goodbye
I know you never will

Sorrow wrapped about Alden's face, tears that had been trapped in his eyes finally rolling as he looked up to the cargo bay ceiling and sucked in a deep breath. Most of the time his wife kept her silence, but on nights like this she seemed close enough to reach out and throttle him.

Hugs from a friend engulfed Alden. Karen wanted to let him know without words, that she was there for him.


NB: Lyrics from 'Say Goodbye', Black Lab.



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