Six in the Morning

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Title: Six in the Morning
Pairing: Surprise pairing
Category: Angst
Rating: PG
Summary: Because too many people get philosophical at six in the morning.
Author's Note: Written as a response to the "Challenge in a Can" at the Linguistics' Database. My words were: Suliban/Regret/Rose

The public shuttle that brought us here was practically empty for most of the journey. It wasn't really anything surprising, though. I mean, how many people are awake, let alone up, dressed and about in the early hours? Just two Starfleet officers, a university lecturer, a guy in slacks and a jacket plus the frazzled looking conductor, at least if you go by the total number of people in our shuttle.

The two Starfleet officers were easy enough to figure out because of their uniforms; one man, one woman, both looking as though they're carrying the weight of the universe and his dog on their shoulders.

I used to know that feeling.

The lecturer's a friend of mine, though even if I didn't know her I could have said she was some kind of teacher - all the teachers, lecturers and professors I've ever known have all had this air about them. Something in them makes you think or even want to believe that they're responsible, that they're intelligent... and, I guess, that they're worthy of your admiration and or your respect. My friend fits all three, but not always at the same time.

Which just leaves me. Am I the guy in the slacks or the frazzled looking conductor, I hear you wonder. I know that's what you're thinking, there's no use trying to deny it. I'll admit to having considered the shuttle conductor career path... when I was about five years old and my hero was Bernie the crazy guy who conducted the shuttle my dad took to work in the morning. But I'm getting off the point, which I'm fairly sure is that I am the guy in the slacks and a jacket. Happily married with three kids about to enter their "hormonal" years. Your average nuclear dad.

By the time we finally reach our destination, the two Starfleet officers have already said their polite goodbyes to the rest of us and vanished off into the night. Judging by the way they were acting around each other, they could have been a couple, but it's not really a given. I've had female friends over the years, but being friendly with them didn't always mean I wanted to sleep with them; the feeling was mutual most of the time, as well.

The night's no longer quite so black when my friend and I finally leave the conductor to it; the sky up above us is the deepest shade of dark blue at the moment, and it rapidly starts to get lighter and redder as the two of us keep on walking. We don't say anything to each other on this particular stretch of the journey - we rarely do. The journey's been made so many times that there's not really anything left to say unless it's completely and utterly necessary. It's not necessary today, though, not by a long shot.

I can feel the atmosphere between us getting a little more... I guess a little more hesitant, but that's nothing new. Neither of us particularly enjoy coming here - hell, who would? - but the same as the silence, it's just something we do. Something we have to do.

It's a red sky over our heads by the time that we reach the garden, and the flowers that border the paths and grassy areas are in perfect bloom thanks to the gardener they've hired to keep an eye on the place. I think his name's Bernie as well, although that could just be a freaky coincidence. The flowers are nice, I guess. Give the place a bit of colour for ten months every year, something I think it needs - after all, folks come here to remember the good, not to be haunted by the bad.

The bench we always sit on is just away from the very middle of the garden, maybe six or eight feet away from the monument. It's not exactly huge, but when you're sat down next to it, it might as well be a skyscraper.

And so here we are. Two fools barely on the right side of middle age, sitting side by side in silence opposite a monolith of a grey pillar that was erected fourteen years, seven months, three weeks and six days ago.

Not that I've been counting, of course, although over the fourteen and a half years I've come to the pretty solid conclusion that whoever designed this garden was a sneaky devil; from this bench you can read just about everything that's been etched into the smooth stone standing six to eight feet in front of you. It's a simple enough message engraved onto the monument. Simple... it doesn't need to be anything else.

"This stone and this garden stand in tribute to the lives and memories of the crew of the TEREBINTHIA, who died defending their home and peoples from the Suliban, 5th October 2159."

Then there's a list of the names scrolling down underneath the inscription:

Captain Reed, Malcolm Stephen
Commander Hess, Anje Susanna (First Officer)
Commander Sandford, Emma Mariette
Lieutenant Commander Mayweather, Travis
Lieutenant Sernaya
Lieutenant Shorten, Evan Douglas
Lieutenant O'Malley, Philip Bartholomew
Lieutenant (jg) Nereida, Isobel Jeanette
Lieutenant (jg) Rostov, Michael
Lieutenant (jg) Seabrook, Senne
Ensign Norento, Omar Wilhelm

And so on and so on and so forth, right down to, "Crewman Irving, Ryan Patrick Alexander" at the very bottom. Seventy-seven people. That's a hell of a lot of memories.

The sun's almost completely up now, and it's beginning to cast shadows over some of the names, making them difficult to read. I think it's about six in the morning now; the two of us will probably stay here another hour, then go back to our homes - it's a Saturday, and knowing my kids they won't even notice that I've been gone, despite the fact that I come here every week.

My friend shifts position a little, coming a little closer to me, and out of instinct I put an arm around her. Neither of us say anything, we just keep looking straight ahead of us, looking at the monument for the Terebinthia.

Eventually, however, she speaks. It's the same thing she says every week. "I still miss him," she tells me quietly.

We've got this down to a pat - we've had fourteen years' practice - and my response is the same one I always give her. "Me too," I say softly. Then, "D'you regret any of it?"

She shakes her head. "Never to all of it," she replies with conviction, and we both know she means it. Then we both fall silent again, both sticking to the same unspoken script we've been following for fourteen years and eight months.

And that's how we stay, and if anybody does come here at six in the morning on a Saturday, then they'll find a university lecturer and an ex-Starfleet cap'n sitting in a garden in full bloom; Professor Hoshi Sato-Reed and Captain Charles Tucker III, although to anyone watching, I'm just the guy in slacks and a jacket.

Onto the sequel: Seven in the Evening

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