Posted By: vickt<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 18 September 2010, 2:25 am
Summary: Set immediately after Se7en, Jacob Keyes gets an unexpected visit from an old friend.
She sat, legs crossed, on the crimson couch opposite the oak desk in his quarters. It was parallel to the door, so in his blind rush to reach his stash of liquor in the bottom drawer of his desk, he had not seen her.
"Something bothering you, Commander?" she asked, making her presence known.
The lights are dim, and as he sits in his chair and loosens his collar, he doesn't flinch at the speaker's voice.
Jacob Keyes sighed. "She's so much like you, Catherine; so spirited and determined."
"Me?" Dr. Catherine Halsey humorlessly laughed. "You're the one who raised her," she rebounded, but it only reminded her that she's endangered all of them by coming here.
He downed half his scotch and closed his eyes in concentration, running the cool glass across his lips as he thought.
"Even her voice," he added, acknowledging the fact that they haven't spoken face-to-face in years.
"I saw her today, Jacob," Halsey dropped. She stated it plainly, but it marks the first time all of them have been in the same place at the same time.
He raised his eyebrows, and finally looked at her. She looks the same as he remembers, but the moonlight filtering through the window reveals to him things he does not; the thinning of her full lips, her greying dark hair pulled into a tight bun, the wrinkles on her pale skin. He knows time has done the same to him.
"Did she see you?"
"No, but that's how it's always been," she said, bitterness evident in her voice.
Jacob glimpsed the sadness in her grey-blue eyes before she looked away, and moved to stand at the window, a silent invitation for her to join him.
"And how are your children?" he asks, even though he knows they haven't been called that in years--anything to get the sadness out of her eyes. But it might do more damage because she gave up her own child for them.
"They're fine." She doesn't hesitate to acknowledge them, but neither does she elaborate. She doesn't need to; she knows he's figured them out years ago, before the rest of the galaxy knew about the Spartans.
Turning away from the window to her, he offered a small smile. "Making their mother proud, I'm sure."
She caught herself smiling, too, before she realized it. The ease of its provocation has always made her feel weak. Not in the style of those puerile and completely false romantic works, mind you, but weak in the sense of character. One of humanity's most intelligent persons was not supposed to be easily swayed by the charming smile of an aging Navy commander, or the wide-toothed grin of a scruffy six-year old boy. And even as her highly evolved and learned brain struggled to catch up with her frail, dumb body making its way to stand next to the man at the window, she knew the difference between the officer and the child was nonexistent.
While they had offered her smiles, she had been cruel.
For twenty-five cents, she paid a boy to give up his childhood and freedom to be her toy soldier, and for twenty five-years, she gave a soldier her empty promises that she'd end the War. There was too much at stake for her to have a heart. She couldn't have known then things would spiral down to this; that humanity was on the precipice of survival and extinction.
They stood in heavy silence for a while, watching silent ships glide in black velvet. Catherine stole a glance at him, her exceptional memory comparing past recollections with the image now; hard lines chiseled deeper at his features and most of his hair nearly matched his grey uniform in color. Her mouth quirked as she noticed some things about Jacob Keyes that haven't changed.
This time, her brain dictated what her body would do as her arm slipped around his and her fingers silently stopped his knuckles that were rolling over that damn pipe of his.
He glanced down at his hand, brow furrowing at the hindrance. His sharp exhale that accompanied the slight tug of the corner of his mouth was an apology for his recurring bad habit.
A lifetime ago, she had thought the habit charming, especially when he did his best to hide the physical manifestation of his brooding or nervous emotions for fear of her ridicule, but now, it served only as a reminder of the condition of things and how time and war has robbed them both of youth, and happiness and memories.
Jacob stashed his grandfather's pipe into his pocket and tentatively patted her arm looped around his; he had always been unsure of when to touch her, even if he was one of the few people to see that the great Dr. Catherine Halsey was in fact, a human being with emotions. Even all those years ago, when the modest Han had been the first ship to be at his fingertips, she had been the one to make the first move and brush his salute away and replace it with a handshake.
She wanted to flinch at his timidity. He was afraid of her; afraid to touch her and be hurt again. Could she blame him? She's been hurting him for a quarter of a century with her empty promises. She couldn't be a wife for him to come home to, a mother to watch their daughter when he was away at war, or even a lover he could have secret trysts with.
No, instead, they had both paid for their youth and folly, and he was ever still a gentlemen. There were always proposals; whens, ifs, cans. There were a million excuses for why things couldn't be, she reasoned and it became easier to pin them to the War. With every wall she built to shut him out, he never tried to break them, silently waiting beyond them like the soldier he was.
"I'm sorry." She was getting old and guilt had finally caught up to her. The weakness of the phrase did not affect her because she acknowledged her frailty by visiting them; crossing the barriers and rules she made up to protect them.
And she was. She was sorry for letting him raise their child on his own. Sorry that she gave up a life with Miranda so that she'd be able to live one; a grim trade, so that while her child lived, she made others die. She made up for it, by cancelling the second class of Spartans, if only because she had tested her own daughter as well. She would not mention it to him.
Jacob's heart wrenched for this woman who was so incredibly gifted but tortured by her talents. Able to use her knowledge to save humanity, but unable to hold close the things that were dear to her. Nature had blessed her and wronged her. Unlike him, she could not forget. She remembered every flaw, every mistake, every regret.
So many things were wrong of them both. Had it been wrong, though, that he had been assigned to the Han? Had it been wrong to attend that conference in Calippus? Had it been wrong to deny taking in Miranda? Had it been wrong that he loved her?
Looking into her eyes, he saw that she thought it was wrong she had come. She had broken the rules. Her rules, because he had never placed any between them.
He laced his fingers with hers, and Catherine examined their hands, no doubt wary of intentions, implications, situations... but she softened at his smile as one of her own appeared on her face and she finally relaxed.
It was not wrong that she had visited, and as unannounced and dangerous as this surprise meeting was, it was certainly not unwelcome.
Once more, silence took them, but their hands remained intwined in a vice of passion, speaking all the thoughts, emotions, and memories they had lost and gained.