Friday, July 6, 2012

Koreshi Chronicles - Chapter V: The Morning After

3 Spring, 1926

It wasn't the worst hangover Lyta had ever had, but it was certainly vying for a spot in the top ten.

When she finally woke up to the too-bright sun, Lukas and Todd had already left. She called room service for cawfee and cradled the cup as she woke up, a nagging sense of guilt competing with her headache. She remembered talking to Ti, and while she was hazy on the details – and possibly even hazy on the gist – she was pretty sure she'd said things she hadn't intended to. A glance at her phone revealed they'd spoken for over ten minutes, which didn't do anything to lighten her mood.

She grumbled. She wasn't ready to call Ti, not yet, not when she had no idea what she'd said the night before. But it would be pointless to talk to her brothers. Torgath would tease her like he always did, and Lukas would probably say something direct, to the point, and useless.

She sighed and flipped through the contacts in her phone. There were few enough of them, the consequence of letting Lukas do all the talking. About halfway down, her finger paused over a name. It hovered, poised, for a long time, before she finally pushed the button and pulled her knees up to her chest.

"Ellen Cranby," came the voice at the other end.

"Hi, Ellen. It's... It's Lyta."

Something in her voice must have triggered something in the older woman. "Lyta! Everything okay? You all right?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. We're all fine. Everyone's okay." She balanced the cawfee cup on her bent knee.

"You don't mind my sayin', but that doesn't sound like the tone of someone who's okay. And it's damn early in the morning for a simple ‘everything's a-ok' call."

"I mean, no one's shot or anything. No one's hurt. It's just..." Lyta sighed. "I may have said something stupid to Ti. Really stupid."

"Yeah?" asked Ellen, her voice softening. "What's that?"

"I don't know," Lyta said with a touch of despair. "I was kinda drunk. Maybe a lot drunk."

"So what makes you think you said something stupid?"

Lyta closed her eyes. "It was just that kind of day. And I was already riled up from what Tom said when we talked before, and then Torgath was teasing me and Ti was being an asshole... or maybe I was being an asshole, I'm not sure... but anyway I'm pretty sure that I told Ti what Tom said and—"

"Lyta, honey," Ellen interrupted, "you can keep going, but you've lost me. You wanna start from the beginning?"

Lyta cradled the phone next to her ear and took a steadying sip of cawfee. "Yeah. Okay. From the beginning."

She wasn't quite sure how long she'd been speaking when she finally got to the end, her monologue punctuated only by Ellen's occasional clarifying question, but her cawfee was barely lukewarm when she tried to sip it again, and she set it aside.

She could almost hear Ellen shifting position. "Okay, first things first: the Doc was a prick to talk to you like that. He likes pushing people's buttons, winding them up so they say more than they want. He knew exactly what he was doing with you, and he knew you weren't ready for it."

Lyta nodded. "Okay, I guess—"

"...That said, he wasn't wrong."

Lyta stared at her phone. "I... What?"

Ellen breathed out slowly. "What he said, the way he saw the situation, he wasn't wrong. Think back the last few seasons: anyone you love and care about say goin' after Ti was a bad idea? Any of them try to stop you?"

Lyta licked her lips. "Well... no."

"No. Ti's good people, and so are you, and we want to see you both happy. And that boy's gotta get his head on straight and realize it."

"I just don't think it's gonna happen," Lyta answered. She started tracing the patterns on the couch with her free hand.

"And you've gotta stop giving up so fast," said Ellen.

She paused. "I don't... I haven't..."

"You haven't?" asked Ellen, incredulity in her voice. "You sure about that?"

Lyta squeezed her eyes shut. "He said it's too dangerous. People can die."

She could almost feel Ellen's stare through the phone. "People can die already," she said. "You're not exactly in a non-hazardous sort of job."

Eyes still closed, Lyta started tracing the patterns on the couch again, letting the raised stitches guide her hand. "What do you mean?"

Ellen laughed roughly. "Every time I call you, every time we meet, what's the first thing you say to me? ‘Everyone's fine, Ellen. No one's been shot today.' And you don't mean it like a joke, either. You say it like one day, you might be tellin' me something different. How many people you think need to make that sort of reassurance every time they talk?"

"I... Not many, probably."

"Not many," Ellen agreed. Her voice softened. "I don't know many true things, Lyta, but I know this: regret is a powerful and dangerous force. The ‘what could'a been's last long after the ‘what wasn't's. You're not that old, but I get the sense you know that already."

Lyta blinked several times, reached for her cawfee, realized it was cold, and put it down again. "Yeah. I guess."

"And all I'm sayin' is that I don't want you to go through that again without choosing it. Life's hard enough without making it harder on yourself."

Lyta nodded, the gesture lost over the voice-only connection. "Ti says it's all about the mission. He has to devote himself—"

"Ti needs to remember that the mission's gonna end one day, and that there's no point in pushing forward unless you've got someone waitin' for you after the finish line. Otherwise, what's the point?"

Lyta shrugged. "Tom said that too. Right before Julie kissed him."

"There you go, then," said Ellen. "He's a smart man, Doc Chambers, even if he is too highfalutin for his own good sometimes. Knows what's important when he chooses to think about it."

Lyta sighed. "Maybe you're right. I just don't know how..."

"Bullshit, girl." Lyta jumped like she'd been slapped and stared into her phone in disbelief. Ellen wasn't finished. "You here for advice or you here for a pity party with an audience? You know exactly how, or you're stupider than I ever gave you credit for. You hide it good, but there's a woman hidin' in there under those coveralls somewhere."

Lyta grinned, Ellen's good-natured tirade having its intended effect. "Okay, I have an idea or two. But after last night..." The guilt came back, and she fought to keep it at bay.

"Look, nothin' you can do about that now. Either you said things or you didn't, and if you did... well, maybe it's for the best. Get stuff on the table and off your chest so that you can both deal with it now."

Lyta took a deep breath. "I really don't want to call him."

"Of course you don't. It's easy to let things lie, pretend they're not there. But what are you gonna do when you get back into town? Keep workin' for him like nothing happened? Pretend you don't care, like you've been doing? It's only going to get harder from here."

"Yeah, I know, I know..."

Ellen shifted position again and moved the phone to her other ear. "Lyta, you don't have to listen to me. What you choose to do with Ti, that's between you and your conscience. All I'm saying is that you don't need to let him set the agenda. ‘Cause if you do, ain't nothin' ever going to happen. And you know that."

Lyta found that she was nodding along to the older woman's words. She sighed. "Yeah. Right. So, I guess I owe you a cawfee when we get back to Prince Gable."

Ellen scoffed. "You don't owe me a cawfee, but you do owe me an update if anything happens, if it's fit for delicate ears like mine."

Lyta laughed aloud. "I don't think your ears are that delicate, Ellen."

She could practically hear the smile through the phone. "Well, then, I guess you'll owe me a substantial update."

Lyta grinned. "Okay, deal. Sorry to have woken you so early. I don't know when we'll be back in town, but I'll let you know."

"Done. You take care of yourself, Lyta."

Lyta nodded. "Yeah. Always."

The phone disconnected and Lyta palmed it off. She threw out the now-cold cawfee and refilled it from the pot that housekeeping had left. It steamed as she held it lightly with her left hand, her right hand scrolling through the numbers stored in her phone. She stopped towards the bottom and sighed. "All right, Ti," she said to blinking display screen, "let's get this over with."

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