Gone With A B.A.N.G.
Chapter 15: Goodbyes
MT Bastien Autumn
"Dad?" I murmur quietly. He's startled, quickly wiping his cheeks with his hand before turning to look at me with a shaky smile. "Bastien! Didn't hear you come in."
I stand at the doorway of his- once his and her- bedroom. I still smell her perfume, faintly. I rub my nose before walking in quietly into the darkened room. He has photographs all over the bed, all coming from a small wooden chest, filled to the brim with photos. He loves taking pictures; he was an amateur photographer. Stealing moments of time to preserve in flat pieces of glossed paper. He loved black and white photos the most.
He clears a spot and pats it. I come in and sit down carefully, eyes downcast to look at the photos. They are old, tattered, and creased. I pick one up. It's a picture of me, when I was little. I have a small grey overcoat that went to my knees, giving me an almost cone shape. My hair is loose, tousled, and a bit curled; covering one of my eyes while my dad's oversized plaid scarf hid my neck and chin. I'm biting on the corner of a playing card, the ace of hearts.
"You liked to bite things," my dad says suddenly, nearly startling me. "Whenever I'd start trying to discipline you, you'd bite me," he says with a chuckle, holding up his right hand. He runs a finger over a set of raised bumps arching across his palm. "Gave me this when I tried to lecture you about not eating sand."
I stare at his palm, eyebrows furrowed. I don't remember that. I remember that I liked to chew my knuckles, which is why they were all scarred up. Dad smiles, looking back up to me, "Did you know you met Harlequinn when you were younger?"
"What?" I ask quietly, disbelievingly. I met Orion before? Surely I would have remembered.
"You were only four," he says, noticing my look. "Same day you were eating sand, actually. Orion- I mean- Harley's dad, Bill Orion, scheduled a play date. Harley was only a year older than you, so I thought it was a good idea. We'd been moving around so much I thought it might be a good breather. So, I took you to this little park in Saiter."
I remember being in Saiter. It was there that my father cut off his hair.
"You and Harley didn't exactly get along at first," he chuckles, looking off into the darkness at the memory. "He called your hair girly and you got all huffy about it. You two started calling each other names, and I couldn't stop laughing. Then he said something that really offended you... what was it..."
"Mama's boy," I say suddenly, surprising even myself. "He...he called me a mama's boy."
My father blinks at me before smiling softly, "Yeah, that's it... you ran off, he ran after you. Bill and I lost you in the thicket, but found you again. My scarf got caught in the branches and nearly choked you, but Harley got you untangled and gave you a bandage for this cut on your cheek. Kissed it to make it better and everything."
I vaguely remember the incident. Even so, I still couldn't believe that snot-nosed brat had been Harley.
Can't say he changed much.
"Afterwards, you guys made a sandcastle...we got you snow cones...and we left. You called him your first friend."
"Why didn't I see him again?" I look up at him and he shrugs. "You saw him once or twice more. But we moved around too much to keep in steady contact with the Orions. Eventually...you stopped asking when you were going to see him again. And I was too afraid I'd get re-enlisted if I stayed near a base. Which is why I decided to settle here, in my grandparents' house."
I look back down at the photos as he sorts through them. There are a lot of his children, a few of her and me... back when she was nice. It was only after Gen was born that I suddenly became a blemish in her eyes. I liked her back then. She was everything I thought a mother should be, that my mother should be. She kissed my bruises and scrapes, she made me warm milk when I couldn't sleep, she read me stories... she only showed her disgust of my secret after she had her perfect, entirely human daughter with my father.
Perfect, but Gen was born with a heart problem and required all of my stepmother's attention. She became what she is now...save for she was still faithful. Maybe not.
Dad pauses on a picture and picks it up. He stares at it for a few moments before saying quietly, "Harley said you accidentally killed Lt. Paliff."
I hold back my need to wince. "Yes."
"From the sound of it, he would have died from eternal injuries anyway," he holds out the picture for me to see. It's him in uniform next to which I can only guess is Lt. Paliff. They were saluting, perfectly poised, in full ceremonial uniform. Save for my father had his eyes crossed. Paliff's face is tight for some reason. Then I realize it's because my father's lowered hand is pinching his thigh.
"Paliff was hot, back in the day," my father muses before stopping and getting a distraught look. "Oh my god, I used the phrase 'back in the day'. I'm getting-" his voice dropped to a horrified whisper, "old."
"Getting?" I say with a raised eyebrow. He narrows his eyes at me before swatting my shoulder. "Brat."
It was two in the morning when Orion received the contact. There was a disturbance in Molcheck and we were the only available team. Vacationing didn't mean we weren't available. It just meant they had to work a little bit harder to send us out.
I couldn't say goodbye to my siblings, they were all sleeping. I didn't want to wake them. Dad was up anyway.
Dad drives us to the station but can't enter past the terminal for security reasons. He sighs, holding me out at arm's length to survey me quietly once we get out of his truck. Orion decides to be tactful and gets our bags and tickets, leaving us alone.
"I don't like this."
"I don't want you to go."
"I know," I repeat.
"I don't want the next time I visit Konok to be to pick up your remains," he says, voice cracking a bit.
"I know," I say softly, looking down.
"Please, please stay safe."
My father seems both saddened and satisfied with the answer, leaning forward to pull me into a hug. "I got to stop thinking you're still my little boy and that I can shield you from the world," he confessed.
"Dad," I whisper, reaching up to wrap my arms tightly around him. "I'll always be your little boy. That's the one thing they can't take away from you."
He chokes back a soft cry into my neck. I let him hold me, savoring his warmth and scent to file them away as memories. He smells like mint and chocolate. I bury my nose into the crook of his shoulder, taking in a breath. My father finally lets me go, kisses my forehead, urges me to be safe, and watches me join Orion at the gates.
I look back over my shoulder at him in the lot. He holds up a hand in farewell. I do the same, Orion doing the same before we went our separate ways. Dad into his truck and us into the station.
"Promise me that you won't tell the team what happened here," I say quietly as we wait for the transport. Orion's silent for a long moment before saying in a guarded tone, "I won't tell the team."
My eyes slide to their corners so I can look at my captain without turning my head. "Promise me that they won't find out. Period."
"...I can't," Orion said with a sigh. "Well, I can't hide it from November."
My eyes narrow minutely and I turn my head to look at him. "Why not?" I ask flatly. He rubs the back of his neck, looking up to me then back down. "I can't tell you."
"So you can keep November's secret, but not mine?" my tone has a slight edge to it.
"Bastien-" he starts. I cut him off curtly, "It's Autumn, sir."
"Bastien, please don't be like that," he pleads, eyebrows furrowing as I stare back at the transport docking bay. "It's not like I can keep it a secret from him. He'll know whether I keep it to myself or not."
My lips stay shut and I don't say another word. How would the SF find out?
"For all I know, he could have already discovered it," he confides. My head snaps back into his direction, eyebrows furrowed. "What?"
Captain Orion just looks back at me helplessly, torn between calming me and revealing his best friend's secret. I suppose I wasn't as "special" to him as I thought I was. Apparently he cares more about that goateed sword swinging-
I pause in my thoughts, turning my head slowly back to the transports. Was I... jealous? No, I couldn't be, I don't get...jealous. Well, I do get jealous, but certainly not over something like... damnit, I am jealous.
I think my face must have turned huffy or something because Orion looks amused at my emotional dilemma. I want to punch him at the moment. Suddenly his hand is resting on my hip and he yanks me against him. Not an easy feat, considering I'm stiff as a board from anger. But being this close gets my insides all queasy and the mana around me quivers as my body reacts to being pressed against his hard front.
"Bastien," he says gently, using his other hand to tilt my face in his direction. I would have told you if I could, but I can't. I swore to November that I wouldn't tell anyone. And I take my swears seriously."
"But not your promises?" I growl, yanking my chin from his grasp and pushing away. Hopefully no one saw the interaction; the gossip showing up at my father's doorstep would be frightening. They don't exactly know that Dom's eldest son is gay. Or that he is bi himself. Save for the few men my father had 'relations' with before he got involved with his ex-wife.
Ex-wife. I like the sound of that.
"I swear I won't breathe a word of our...relationship," he looks giddy at the word.
"I meant my heritage," I snap. "I don't want anyone to know that I'm-... I'm not just human," I whisper, eyeing passerby's warily.
"Oh. That." He looks disappointed.
"Or the relationship," I add after a few beats.
"The relationship?" he questions innocently. I mentally roll my eyes as I cross my arms.
"Our relationship," I bite out. He does his little giddy grin again, swooping a bit to kiss my cheek. Before I can snag him into a chokehold, our transport arrives. We board, flashing our tickets. I take the back seat so I can have my back to the wall and therefore eliminate a blind spot. My captain plops down next to me, silent for all of two minutes.
"Ever been to Molcheck?" he asks conversationally. I shake my head, scanning the transport's occupants. No one unusual. But it is a BANG transport, so there are a lot of soldiers. "It's a pit. A poor, hot, dirty pit."
"Then why are we defending it?" I question. Orion sighs, tucking some hair behind his ear. "Its main export is magi technology. They do all the magic infusion there."
"What is the disturbance?"
"Same old, same old. Dragons trying to snag some magitech," he sighs tiredly. I regard him for a moment, contemplating whether or not I should let him sleep against my shoulder. It's still insanely early, even for him. But there are too many soldiers in the transport that could easily look back and see us... should I really care though?
"Orion-" I turn to look at him again to find his head drooped and snoring softly. The bastard fell asleep sitting up. I tighten one corner of my mouth and turned to face the front stoically.
...But my hand finds his after a few moments, gently grasping it where no one can see. It's warm.
A/N: Short yes, but an update nonetheless. Now to figure out what to do in Molchek...