Luck Be A Lady

From the Story Arc: Red And Blue

Previous Story in the Arc: The Day The Rabbit Died by Belladonna Aura (Wednesday, August 10, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Komrad Vex: Unexpected Endgame, Pt1 by Belladonna Aura (Saturday, August 27, 2005)

(posted Sunday, August 14, 2005)

She'd been looking at practical clothing. A suit. Cords and a sweater. Things she could use over and over. Sensible. Long-wearing. Not--sexy. No, no, no. She did not need sexy clothing. Her closest relationship was going to be with the DVD player from now on. She was going to concentrate on work. Soviette had been recalled and she was now Medical Second, and Thanh Ha was rarely available during the day which tended to make her Medical First a lot. She had no time to think about--

--wonderful green eyes--

Of someone who was taken taken taken, dammit. Priorities. Responsibilities.

So why had she bought a blue-leather corset-top, tight blue-leather pants that matched, and stiletto-heeled boots?

And why was she wearing them to the Rebuild Paragon Congress meeting?

She felt eyes on her, but Miss Rude Girl, who she had been working with a lot, duoing missions, was the first to say something--quite complimentary, in fact. Bella was flattered. Rude Girl had impeccable taste in clothing and in fact was wearing what had to be an Armani outfit.

"Thanks," she smiled. "I really intended to get something else but--I don't know, this kind of screamed 'put me on' and the next thing I knew, I'd bought it. Mind you, there is nothing like the classic look you have going."

Rude Girl chuckled. "Well, this is just my business attiah. Heh. Well, if yer still lookin' fer a date, I'm sure thot'll 'elp yah get one. Depite tha potential radiation... er... 'side
effects'...."

And right then, why did her heart suddenly race when the comm came to life with a familiar voice on the CCCP channel? "Privyet comrade...how goes the fight?"

And why did she grab it off her belt and thumb it on and exclaim "ZACH!"?

And why, oh why, did her heart stop when he answered, "Bella, how's everyone favorite Blue Belle?"

At least she managed not to embarass herself a second time. Much. "Uh er, Privyet commissar," she said, throttling everything back. "Not...well..."

Her team was beginning to look restless, the meeting was over, but all she could do was hold the comm up to her ear as he said, immediately, "What's the matter girlie?"

Oh, and how could she tell him what the real reason was? So she told him "a" truth. "I er, faceplanted a lot yesterday."

Gaia's Soldier was talking about soaking the blood out of her fatigues. Some character calling himself Vector-prime was babbling about--something, she could not have cared less. There was only one voice she wanted to hear.

But what he said next was not what she had expected. "Listen...er...we need to talk."
"We---do?" she faltered, and felt her heart plummeting. He'd figured it out. He knew she'd projected her feelings onto him. He was going to give her the lecture about how he understood but that there was no possible way--and anyway he was a Commissar--and anyway, there was Carpathia to consider-- "I--ah--"

"Don't play dumb with me, I'm too good at it," he said, then "....er...switch over to private
channel please."

The team was still talking on the team channel, Vector-Prime was babbling about the fate of the world hanging in the balance of---something (and when wasn't it?) and—

--she couldn't deal with all of it at once.

"Let me break team," she said.

But before she could, he was already on her private line. "You on this channel?" he asked, as she clutched the comm in a hand suddenly damp with sweat.

"Um yeah," she responded cleverly.

"Let us see if our sister Bella needs two strong Black warriors at her side," Heavy Brother was saying to Gaia's Soldier, when in fact anything other than the voice on the other end of the comm had just receded to the "what is behind me is not important" category.

"Listen we need to talk about what happened the other day," he said, as her heart dropped all the way to the pavement.

"Yes, we do," she said sadly. It had been such a lovely dream while it lasted. But you woke up from dreams. It was time to wake up now. "But I promised I wouldn't----wouldn't come near you---" Because it was never real, and there was never, ever a chance that--

"First off...its all my fault," he said, sounding remorseful.

She felt as if someone had hit her between the eyes with a brick. "-----what?" she faltered. How could it---"How can it be your fault?"

"Its my fault," he insisted. "I'm older, I'm your superior officer, and I was the one attached. It was really wrong of me, and it's my error, not yours. I promised myself I was going to deal with Carp...but you were just there, and you looked so......anyway, I apologize."

"Zach---ah---" She didn't know what to say. Or, that is, she knew what she wanted to say but------but everyone else was babbling at her and she finally said, on the team channel,
apologetically, "Oh hell."

Gaia's Soldier caught that. "What?"

"I got a conversation going I have to break team to deal with it," she said, and did so, before anyone could object. And she flew off so she wouldn't have anyone else trying to get her
attention, landing on the roof of the Freedom Corps building.

Peace at last.

So now if she was going to break down and cry there wouldn't be anyone there to see it and ask her why. "I also realize that you may have let things get a bit out of hand.....because I'm your commissar and all, and that is really the worst part." Oh god. It was going to be the lecture.

She felt her eyes starting to sting. "Abuse of authority is inexcusable."

But he hadn't figured out the worst part yet. Time to come clean. "--um---Zach---I---you
weren't abusing or taking advantage of anything."

Only fair. Only right. Tell him.

"The thing is....you've made a big impact on me," he was saying. "Not that it's any
excuse...er...what?" Belatedly her statement seemed to have cut through his rehearsed speech.

But now she was reeling from what he'd said. "Impact? You---Jeezus, Zach...." Her mouth ran on even while her brain was trying to get it to shut up. "Every time I look at you I feel like I've been hit by a bus."

His words sounded--labored. "I just want you to know that you didn't mess anything up that wasn't hopelessly gone....its all over now, and I've got the burn marks to prove it. But it had nothing to do with you....so don't feel bad. I'm the one that should."

Hit by a bus? Right now it felt like she'd been hit with a locomotive. "Burn marks?" she
faltered. "Gone? Over?"

This was a dream. Had to be. Things like this only happened in dreams.

"That's about the long and short of it," he said. She could read regret, real regret in his
voice but--it was kind of impersonal.

"You and Carpathia?" she asked faintly.

"Like Liz Taylor and Eddie Fisher." Well, it didn't get much more final than that.

"Really????" She had a hard time getting even one word out. She didn't seem to have any air in her lungs.

"Don't feel too bad for her...she's not the type to stay single for long," he replied, perhaps
mistaking her lack of breath for guilt.

"But---us?" Dared she hope? Dared she even dream of hoping?

"It is what you make of it....but it doesn't change that what I did earlier was wrong," he said, sounding contrite again. "I think I made it pretty clear that I think you're the cat's
pajamas..."

OK. Not just a locomotive. The entire train yard. "Did you happen to get the number of that tram that just ran me over?----" she said dazedly.

Some of that must have percolated over into her voice. "You okay kiddo?" he said quickly, sounding concerned.

"I'm---kinda stunned." Yeah. "Stunned" sort of covered how she was feeling right now....

He chuckled, as she held the comm to her ear with both hands. "By my ability to work "cat's pajamas" into conversation?"

"I mean," she said, trying to get her brain back online. "There I was, minding my own
bizness....at the Congress meeting to show off my new outfit------and you lay this one on me and it's like birthday and Xmas and Guy Fawkes day---"

And suddenly there was---disappointment?---in his tone. "I understand...you've already got a boytoy.....not that I'm surprised."

She blinked. "I do NOT have a boytoy!"

And now the teasing tone was back. "Guy Fawkes, was he the guy from Memento?"

She almost choked. "And I do NOT have a boytoy!" she repeated indignantly.

"Whew...thought I missed my window," he chuckled. "So who is Guy Lombardo anyway?"

Her brain still was not fully online; instead of telling him how she felt she answered his
question. Literally. "He tried to blow up Parliament in England back about 400 years ago. They caught him and now kids collect money for fireworks and shoot them off to celebrate him getting caught. Really, it's just an excuse for fireworks."

And it seemed that she threw his brain offline for a moment in return. "Er....that'll be my fun fact for the day."

She laughed weakly. "My mind is a boundless repository of useless trivia."

He laughed with her. "As are all groovy people!"

"One of dad's team is from the UK, so we always celebrated Guy Fawkes day for him," she said, still trying to get head and feeling sorted, and playing for time. "And he'd come to our 4th of July barbeques and toast getting rid of us Yanks."

It must have worked. "Now you've thrown me off..what were we talking about again?"

Because now she could think again. "You. Me. Maybe---you plus me? Sorta kinda?"

A warm, low, throaty chuckle that made her toes curl. "Sounds better...almost like a song, sorta kinda."

She panicked then. She didn't want him to think--he'd just bounced out of one relationship--she didn't want--- "NO PRESSURE!" she blurted hastily.

Another throaty chuckle. "Now that definitely is a song, by Billy Joel, right?"

"OK?" she said faintly. "I mean--"

"He He..just funnin' with ya kiddo..." And then his tone turned warmly serious. His voice softened "Why do you think I'm saying all this if I'm not in for serious cash?"

"If I could figure out guys----I'd be in a lot less trouble," she admitted ruefully.

No mistaking the warmth in his tone now. "Deal me in Vegas...."

She sighed, and her heart now was so light she could hardly feel it. "Oh Zach---you got a Royal Flush--and here I thought it was aces and eights......"

No "dead man's hand" for her.

Oh no.

Tonight, Luck was a Lady, at long last.