Waiting For

He knows where the planet is, small and unremarkable in its little corner of the galaxy. He knows where the house is, too, where one should land the ship so that it’s only a short walk until it comes into view. It’s not too far away, and he has vacation time saved up; the universe has been saved, and now he has all the time in the world. All he has to do is arrange for transportation, and he can be there within three days.

Rail thinks this, sometimes, at his desk and putting off paperwork. He’s a lauded hero now, with his old job and full honors–though he suspects that’s more of Nina’s work and influence than anything he really did to deserve it. The crew of Swordbreaker has been pardoned, but the only person who’s ever answered his calls is a blue-eyed woman who doesn’t quite see him, even when she meets his gaze.

Millenium Ferria Nocturne is waiting, and cannot afford to be distracted from her post. Rail has not spoken to her in weeks.

If he went to that planet, found the elegant old white house nestled in a serene lush valley, he does not know what he expects to find. Millie, of course, in red and white (and does she realize, he wonders, how she echoes Canal’s dress in her new clothes?)–but would there be anyone else? Does the house echo with her footsteps and her lone voice, singing as she works? Is there–

But even if Kane was there, Rail does not think the meeting will go well. Kane would not yell, not at the risk of annoying Canal and Millie–but he would be cold, and not recognize the touch of Rail’s hand.

I am not looking for your forgiveness, Kane, just your safety, he thinks, and signs his name automatically. This is the last document of the night, and he is tired. Nina is lurking somewhere outside, waiting to say good-night, and for a moment, he considers inviting her along. She is a sweet girl who has done a lot for him, and he is genuinely fond of her.

But that is not fair of him, not when he is waiting to hear from someone else, and know that Kane is safely home, rather than out wandering the universe, searching for a method to restore a computer’s memory.

A Lost Ship is not merely a computer, and though he has always known Canal was special, he has proof of that now. Kane has never needed that proof, though, and so he has gone to look for the true pieces of her–if, indeed, he survived that final explosion. Rail believes he has, if only because the alternative is too strange to contemplate.

Heroes are not supposed to die; this is the one golden rule that Rail still keeps from his childhood, when he believed all the stories his mother read for him. Good people may be hurt and abused, bad people may get away with horrible deeds–but true heroes, blessed by the hands of the gods, do not die. Especially not at the last minute, on the cusp of triumph, as the darkness is buried in light.

And old lovers are meant to stay in the past, he thinks dryly, then gets to his feet. There is no point in remembering memories they have both put aside long ago, even if a small part of him considers again the idea of getting a ship, and going to wait until he sees that white ship in the blue sky.

In his chest, his heart thuds loudly. Sharpness rises in his throat–he wants to take the ship and go now, to be there and watch as Kane descends the walkway, and put his hand on warm skin to see if Kane will smile for him, like long ago.

Then he puts that thought aside and goes outside. When Nina says good night to him, he smiles at her, and tells himself that tomorrow, he will ask her to dinner.

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