What Friends Are For
What Lies Within Us
Location: The Eagles Nest
Timeline: Current/Night before arriving to Risa
It was the third night after the Armstrong had left Starbase Tiberius, one day before her arrival to Risa. It was late when Carter Hall walked into the Eagles Nest to see Austin sitting at the bar nursing a drink, a bottle and an empty glass sat waiting in front of the seat beside him. There was no one else there, and Carter grabbed an empty stool, carried it behind the bar, and sat opposite of his best friend. Not saying anything he poured himself a drink and then proceeded to add to Austins as he sat his drink down.
Without looking up, Austin took his refreshed drink and swallowed it whole, then set the glass down again. He heaved a sigh and ran a finger through a drop of spilled liquid on the bar, drawing pictures, "Carter." he knew who it was without looking, "Answer something for me, honestly?"
Bringing his drink slowly to his mouth, Carter watched him. "Sure." and took a large sip before saying, "What's on your mind?", bringing his drink up again.
"Am I.." it was easy to see that the next word was hard for him to say, "a lecher?" Still not looking up at his friend, he reached for the bottle to refill his glass. Glass full, he set aside the bottle and wrapped his hand around the glass, yet he did not pick it up as if he was waiting for an answer before he drank it.
Carter nearly choked. Placing his hand on his chest, he managed to swallow without the doctor noting his difficulty. "Hell no!" he said hoarsely, "Where is this coming from?"
Looking up at the hoarseness of the voice, and noting a slight reddening to Carter's face, Austin put on his doctor hat, "Are you alright?" At Carter's nod he went back to looking morose, "Oh... just something ensign Polly Cracker said a few minutes ago.." he looked up again, eyes almost tortured, "She laughed, LAUGHED, and walked out! That.. that doesn't happen to me.." he ended quietly.
"Polly Karakas." Carter corrected, and sighed, shaking his head as he topped off his glass. "Austin, she's very young...and you and I...well.."
That brought Austin's head up. And his chest out and his chin jutting, "Hey, maybe YOU want to be an old fart, but I'm in my prime!" He pounded his rugged chest to accentuate his point.
Carter raised an eyebrow and leaning forward over the bar, held up his glass. "Yeah, be that as it may, this particular 'girl," that last word was said significantly, "might have more in common with Tyler, don't you think?"
Austin frowned, refilled both his and Carter's glasses, and emptied his glass before speaking again, "Dang me, I keep forgetting my oldest son is 18 now." If anything could, that thought might have made him feel old, for just a moment or two, he was too proud of all of his children to let any negativity be associated with them. He turned his thoughts back to the incident with Polly not half an hour ago. "Ensign.. Means she's what? maybe 20?" He wasn't really looking for an answer, and was grateful that Carter wasn't the type to answer when it wasn't required. "Ok, so I just lay off the ensigns. No big deal, they don't make up a huge percentage of any crew anyway!" He grinned, bouncing back from near dejection just that quickly. He poured another drink but left this one sit as he smiled at his friend, "So what's up with you tonight, Carter? On the hunt yourself?" His eyes crinkled as he teased.
Unable to help but smile at his friends quick recovery, Carter stared at his drink, took another swallow before setting his glass down to continue staring at it. His smile disappeared. "I've finally come to my senses." he said quietly, "I've accepted that Gaelan's...not coming back...she never will."
Smile fading, Austin took a moment to refill both glasses as he thought about what to say. He had come to that conclusion about Carter's erstwhile lover some time ago. For all his tough exterior, Carter was obviously hurting over this. Austin offered his condolences quietly, "I'm sorry, man." He took a sip from his glass, "Have you ..talked to her?" Closure would be nice, but somehow he thought Gaelan was the type to just disappear.
"No." Carter answered, this time swallowing down his whole drink before saying, "She won't talk to me." and suddenly looking as troubled and confused as he was feeling, his mind having gone back again to her presence in his vision, he pinched between his brows. "Do you have news for me about Ben?" he asked, changing the topic to something else that greatly concerned him.
Austin let him change the subject. Now he had to down his own drink before answering. He looked Carter in the eye, "It's just like you suspected.." He refilled both drinks, "An'dr can't possibly be his biological father." He was careful not to say just father or dad because he knew that biology did not make a parent, it just fertilized eggs. "An'dr is full Xenexian. Ben's biological contributor was half Xenexian and half Danteri." The last word was said quietly as he was sure it wasn't something Carter wanted to hear, even if he obviously suspected it.
Carter's stare hardened, and jaw tightened. Although he had always known it to be true, he had hoped, tried to believe, he was wrong. "I'm going to have to tell him." he finally got out. Pulling away, sliding off his seat he downed his drink again.
"Woah, Hey!" Austin started, then a little calmer, "I don't think that's something you should do right this minute. I mean, the kid probably already thinks you hate him, don't go roaring in there telling him his life isn't what he thinks, ok?" He refilled Carter's glass, hoping that would get him to sit back down, "Besides, uh.." he reached for something to say, "He wasn't the only visitor to sickbay that I should talk to you about.." That's the ticket! Ship's business! Carter wouldn't turn from that, he was too good a captain.
Sitting heavily back onto the barstool, Carter leaned onto the bar and rubbed his hands down his face. "O..Okay..." he sighed, grabbing onto his glass and suddenly feeling very tired, "who else?"
"Well.." Oh boy, now that he started this, he wasn't thrilled to get into it. "Our new first officer stopped in.." Austin threw back his drink in one swallow then refilled his glass, hoping Carter would take the bait, or then again, maybe not and he could think of something else to stall him with.
Carter watched him with an unreadable expression. "And..?"
Austin leaned back, out of arms reach maybe? "Well.. it seems, dear captain, that you broke her nose." He smirked.
"Really...?" Carter was clearly annoyed, and Austin's smirk only fed it. He raised his voice, "Just like I broke her ankle? Is that what she said?"
Uh oh... Austin realized that he'd forgotten that, damn it. "No no no. Sorry Carter, I was teasing. She didn't say you did it at all. She said she ran into a door. I guessed the rest. Bad joke, sorry.." This was going downhill fast.
Carter glared back thinking smartass and swallowing the last of his drink, pulled away from the bar again. "It doesn't matter..." he turned away, placing his glass on the replicator tray. "She's been judging me the moment we met." he said looking back to him. "I'm sure from her point of view, I broke her nose. Regardless..." he grabbed the bottle and put it away, "I'm calling it a night, and I suggest you do the same. We're scheduled to arrive at Risa by mid-morning."
Austin pouted into his empty glass when Carter took away his bottle, then he tipped it up and tried to catch the last drop on his tongue. With his tongue out, head back and glass held above, he said, "Doth thith nean ou not gonna conthrunt Den todight?" He hoped.
Rolling his eyes, Carter reached across the bar, snatched the glass and glared, "Now, say that again."
After a chuckle Austin looked up, "I said, Does this mean you are not going to confront Ben tonight? You really should be calmer when you do, you know. Not his fault. Gonna be devastating." Austin's look was filled with compassion, both for Ben, Betrice, and Carter.
Austin's words sinking in, Carter leaned on the bar with one hand. He inhaled deeply, looking downward, and nodded, "Yeah." the stress of the situation clearly there. He came around the bar and padded Austin on the shoulder as he walked past him. "Thanks."
"Anytime, buddy. Anytime." Then Austin recalled how down he was when Carter came in, "And thank you too." He peered over the bar at the booze behind it. Then changed his mind, "Hang on, maybe I'll walk out with ya. I think I'm done here." He trailed behind, content to walk and not talk now that the heavy conversations were over.
Captain Carter Hall
Lt Cmdr Austin Houston