In space, as common knowledge will often - boringly - remind you, there is neither up nor down. Which probably goes some way to explaining why, even now at my lowest ebb, the zen state frequently referred to as Rock Bottom is still nowhere in sight.
I'm... somewhere, nursing a bottle in the dark corner of some shithole establishment where, honest to fuck, the bartender is a bare-breasted woman wearing nipple pasties and an adhesive name label that indicates that "Candy is happy to help!" Every thought I have about her hurts, and I wordlessly buy a bottle and over-tip her in the hope she'll leave me the fuck alone as I quest for oblivion.
Mira is dead. After 6 months on the run, I seem to have finally been let off the hook for it. For a while, the Duvalls had placed a hefty bounty (1.5 million!) on my head. I found some dirt ball on the edge of civ space, parked up, drank my way through the days keeping bar to earn my booze. Guess they blamed me for EVERYTHING, but when the investigation into her death was published, I was unequivocally Off The Hook, and the bounty rescinded. Go me.
Hilariously, Dead Girlfriend got drive-fucked by an Orca on its way into Meech Dock as she was boosting out of it. Vectors overlapped and, in a wholly improbable repeat of circumstance (see this entry for lols), her vulture (beautifully named "Finger THIS" to compliment my bird called "That's Not My Finger") vaporised against the Orca's hull. She was mid-sentence; we were fighting. Fucking Aisling fucking Duvall's fucking wedding to which I wasn't fucking invited. Like, specifically not invited in a "and don't bring that trollop whore with you" sort of way - the legacy of that goddamned sex tape that went wide and pissed, like, everyone in Mira's family off.
Except Mira, of course. Privately, she thought that shit was the funniest thing ever, ever, ever. But when you're gorgeous and perfect and your family owns everything you can see for literally light years in every direction, I guess you get to find that sort of attention flattering. After all, what the fuck have you got to lose, eh?
Publicly, her stance was a bit different. After a decade of going out of her way to piss her family off, she'd already hit jackpot by announcing - in great, lurid detail - her relationship with me, a grubby, bitter, drunk jock whose greatest talent is still being able to fly combat with Mira's face pressed firmly between my legs, so the publication of a mockery of the sex tape they'd only just recovered from by said crew of "trollop whore girlfriend" was, truly, a step too far.
"Money can't buy you, love," was the last thing I said to Mira, congratulating myself on the cleverness of my pithy rejoinder even while I watched her little vulture explode in an atomic puff and listened to her coms fall silent. "You know what, you ungrateful-" were her last words to me. I didn't even get to hear her final insult. I didn't even get to the inevitably amazing make-up fuck after, when we'd shot our aggression out in some haz res and refound our synergy and then tethered our ships together even as the debris of our recent victims span and reeled about us.
It's all so fucking tragic. It was 6 months ago. Of the time since, I remember maybe 3 whole days.
After that, me and the A-Team... I guess we hit a point where it wasn't clear whether the japes were insulting or just worn out anymore and we kinda floated apart in a mutual shrug of indifference. Truthfully, I blamed them - that fucking sex thing they did was, as far as I was concerned, the top of the waterfall; a floodgate that, once opened, released a cascade of events that led, inevitably, to our fighting that day. Had she not crossed the deck to slap my face and, instead, just climbed into her bird and launched, she'd have left the station seconds sooner and that Orca would still have been an asshole who needed to learn how to fly, but not an asshole who killed my girlfriend in a fucking horrendous repeat of the bullshit that took my parents.
Truth is, circumstance is a fucking bitch and the reason we were fighting was because I'm also a fucking bitch. I - still as determined as ever to fuck up the only good thing going on - was holding Mira responsible for her asshole family's behaviour and, fuck me, she was like a suicidal moth to a napalm flame on the subject. The sex tape had nothing to do with it - her family would have hated me no matter what. But that being uttered outloud to anyone, much less the goddamn A Team... well, I'm busy drinking myself into a hole right now, so you get my point there.
Unbidden, memories flood back into view as I watch Candy clean the bar. She's wiping that cloth a little more vigorously than required. It's making her boobs shake energetically. They look unnaturally pert and were probably expensive. In my head, I can hear Dawg's slide whistle and, for the briefest moment, I smile at the thought of him piping a little shitty interlude for "Candy" as she goes about her business. I imagine Al inviting her onto his fucking aced-out dolphin or Tor-
"Well you've seen better days." Familiar, resonant tones jolt me from my reverie. I am, for several moments, unable to process what is happening, I am so deeply entrenched in my mind and my misery.
"Fucking Not-Dave..." I whisper. "What the... Fucking... Fuck."
"Indeed, and eloquently said. Do you need to take the bottle with you?"
"We're leaving now. You're coming with me. Do you need to bring the bottle? I don't know how this drinking oneself to death thing works, really." His tone is as politely conversational as ever, though gentle and non-judgmental. He reaches out to gently wipe tears from my cheeks. I wasn't aware they were there.
"Uh... Take it? Sure."
"Good. Are you quartered anywhere? Do you have things to collect?"
I must have peered at him in confusion for he nodded with reluctant comprehension, murmured, "Very well, let's get on with it, then" and then walked around the table to slide an arm around my back before lifting me from the chair to my feet.
"I don't wanna... where are we... Fuck YOU, Not-Dave."
"Aah," he says warmly, with wry humour as he steers my unsteady ass toward the door, waving brightly to Candy on his way out, "I remember the first time you made that offer. You were in better shape back then."
"I didn't... you were... Hey! Fuck you!" I stop walking, a brief flare of anger, "You offered to fuck me that time."
"I was naked and bound on the floor of your ship. It seemed a wise tactical position to take."
"Why not," he replies with a shrug and a smile, "It seemed you were going to kill me."
"I still fucking might," I reply.
"Aah, but you'd need to at least be upright and able to hold your arm still and co-ordinate with your eyesight. I feel comfortably safe for the time being."
I scowl but say nothing as he continues to frog-march me through the shitty station and onto his 'Conda, pristine and shining as ever.
"You have anything docked here? I couldn't find your name in the current registry..."
"I got here flying gunner on a courier or something. I dunno."
"Where's your vulture?"
"I dunno, Not-fucking-Dave."
"How can you not know?"
"Because I don't know. I wasn't planning to leave here."
For the first time - after all the bullshit I've put this man through - he sounds disappointed in me. The sense of shame that provokes makes me angry and I struggle in his grasp for a moment. But now we're aboard his pristine ship and a door opens and a clean, soft bed is revealed. Suddenly I am tired like I've never been before. My legs turn to lead; I can no longer stand. I lose control of my emotions around the same time I lose control of my legs, and start weeping helplessly.
Not-Dave manoeuvres me to the bed, lies me down, strokes my shitty, not-washed-in-how-long hair back from my face and then settles on a chair next to the bed. The last thing I see as my eyes close is his face, calm, forgiving, concerned. He takes my hand in his and squeezes it gently. As slumber overtakes me, I hear the words I said to him at the end of our first encounter, some 1,000 years ago: "Fuck you, asshole," he whispers. "It's you who wants to fly with [/i]me[/i]".
I am safe. I'm going to be okay. Not-Dave doesn't let go of my hand and I can rest now.
Turns out you don't know Rock Bottom until you've hit it and started to bounce back up again.