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Quibby

Three Days of Hell

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Day twenty was not starting out very well. Mehrin had gotten used to the massive headaches that accompanied his alcohol withdrawal, but today's was much worse than usual; Mehrn felt as if his head was going to explode. And then there were the sounds. When he wasn't hearing every sound around him amplified tenfold, it was... screaming. That hadn't been the worst of it, either. When he had woken up, Mehrin had attempted to stab the man standing over him with the knife that he kept under his pillow, but stopped when he realized that he was stabbing at empty air.

 

It was now two hours later, and the hallucinations had only been getting more realistic. Mehrin was only half-aware of the little man giving his report, the rest of his attention focused on the miniature battle taking place on his desk. "Ummm... sir?" The man's hesitant speech snapped Mehrin back to reality. "Are you okay?"

 

Mehrin blinked dizzily. The room seemed to be doing a slow spin around him. And it was picking up speed. Standing unsteadily, Mehrin staggered to the door. The officer on duty looked at him strangely, wondering just what was going on, but Mehrin didn't pay any more attention to him than he would have paid a fly. Need to get back to my room. This ain't going to be good...

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The man looked horrible. Just horrible. His clothes reeked of sweat and dirt, they no doubt hadn't been changed in days. His hair stood on end and was matted together in spots, creating a random static appearance. Drea's lip curled at the sight of him. This was the man she was attracted to? Light Drea, you really lowered your standards this time! She approached him cautiously -no desire to frighten him, there really was no telling what he'd gone through.

 

"Mehrin?" She asked softly. "Mehrin can you hear me? Its Drea." His dark barren eyes moved slightly to meet hers, confusion and fear burried deep down inside them.

 

*

Her night had been normal. She had just finished another lesson with Carnhain and was drinking the tea Lachlan had brought her. She had a report due in the morning that had already been pushed back, she wasn't sure Shep would give her another extention. He had already lectured her on her irresponcible and immature consumption of alcohol, and invitin Privates to join her was "completely unforgivable". "One more slip, Drea and I'll be forced to take away your authority." Drea chuckled to herself as she look over her papers. The irony in that comment. How many times had her senior ranks made the same threat? And to make it better: how many times did she say that herself? She'd taught Shep well.

 

A wrap came at her door. She gave a grunt and the door opened, Lachlan's wrinkled face appeared. "Drea, there is someone outside to see you." His voice was soft and worried.

 

"Send them in." She dismissed his tone for the late night and waved at him.

 

"Well, there's quite a few of them, and it seems important. Something about the Commander. They're all talking at once, so I can't understand-"

 

"What can you understand?" She was panicked.

 

"Just that he's not well. They've mentioned cries of anguish, weeping and unrestrained moaning. Some heard crashing in his office, others-"

 

Drea interrupted him by running out the door. Without another word, she ran outside to the crowd. Getting the details she needed, she headed toward his office.

 

*

That was nearly an hour ago. She had lead Mehrin back to his rooms and was now feeding him soup his guard had gotten from one of the kitchens. Mehrin had not spoken yet, but she wasn't sure if it wer ebecause of shock -or whatever he just went through- or because he just had nothing he wanted to say.

 

Drea scraped the side of the bowl to get one last bite. She avoided eye contact, not wanting to see him vulnerable. "Mehrin, will you tell me what just happened?" She tried to hide the desparation, but wasn't very successful. She worried about him. Truely worried.

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What was happening? Where was he? Who was he? Mehrin's glazed eyes began to show a modicum of clarity. I am Mehrin. Mehrin Mahrvon. They call me Deathwatch. Why do they call me Deathwatch? I don't... I... As coherence began to flee again, his mind seized onto the name Mehrin. It was important. It was...

************

 

He was in his room. How he knew that it was his room was beyond him. Mehrin... That name meant something. It was important. "Mehrin, will you tell me what just happened?" a worried voice said. Blinking tiredly, Mehrin- yes, that was his name- turned in the direction of the voice. At first he didn't see anything. Even those horrid waking nightmares had ceased. Then his eyes finally found the source of the sentence.

 

"Drea..." Mehrin didn't speak above a hoarse whisper. He didn't even know where the name had come from. She was there, though, a worried look on her face, her eyes averted, a bowl of something in her hands. Light, what's going on? Flashes came back to him as he tried to remember. For some reason, this woman seemed to be important to all of it. "I... I saw an old friend of mine, name of Tral. He was talkin' to me like I am to you, but, Light, old Tral's been dead for over ten years!" Mehrin could still see him, that cheeky grin set on a face of decay. Light, he could still smell him.

 

Looking up to tell Drea more, he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. Turning to investigate, Mehrin saw a dark-headed woman of a size with Drea struggling to reach something off the top shelf of the wooden wardrobe in the corner. The woman turned her head to Mehrin and smiled. Light, it was Drea. As the woman turned with a grin, she burst into a thousand shards and vanished, leaving Mehrin staring at the spot she had been standing. Light, it was Drea, and she had been naked as the day she was born. One corner of Mehrin's mind seemed to be screaming for something, but Mehrin couldn't figure out what it was.

 

Feeling a soft touch at his arm, Mehrin turned back to Drea. "Light, I could have sworn that I just-" And a cold hand caressed his cheek. Cold and bony. "Mehrin," a woman's voice whispered, sounding like it echoed from the depths of the grave. Burying his head in his hands, his fingers tangled in his short hair, Mehrin muttered, "Light, why can't they just leave me alone?"

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Drea watched cautiously as Mehrin seemed to drift in and out of consciousness. Was it that or was he hallucinating? Either way it scared her enough to the point of tears. Her eyes watery, she composed herself before he noticed. Was this who the Band was counting on? A emotional, narcissistic, drama queen and a tempermental, dillusional, mental case?

 

"Light, why can't they just leave me alone?" She heard him groan.

 

"Who, Mehrin? Who wont leave you alone? I'll get Aldar, or Amon on them right away. You don't have to worry-" She stopped abruptly when his hand touched hers. His icey touch startled her... Yes, that's why her breath caught, of course. He still seemed to be out, but when he squeezed, it was a good sign. She hesitated, but squeezed back.

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Slowly, almost agonizingly so, Mehrin felt his mind clearing. Filling the void left by the swirling madness was an empty yearning, as if he were craving... something. He was in his room. Mehrin's brow furrowed slightly in confusion. He didn't remember coming here. It took him a moment to realize that he was holding onto something. A hand. A hand that belonged to... Mehrin traced the arm to it's source. Drea. Banner Captain Xandrea Raylin of the Scouts. Why did her touch seem electric to him? Shaking his head violently, Mehrin fought back the answer that seemed so anxious to come to mind. He didn't have time for it.

 

It was with reluctance that Mehrin released his grip on Drea's hand. "I don't recall getting here," he muttered simply, his eyes locked onto Drea's face. What was it about her that seemed... off? "Light, my head hurts. What's going-" It started as a trickle, then a flood of memory. That intervening space since he had left the office. Light, had it been so long? All of that had to have taken hours, maybe longer. The ache in his mind still called for relief. For... With a derisive laugh, Mehrin addressed Drea, "This is your fault, you know."

 

As he prepared his explaination, though, a voice spoke. "This do be your fault, you know..." It couldn't be... Clarity of mind disappeared in agonized horror as the corner of Mehrin's room fell away to reveal Anya, her lovely features now marred by bruises and blood. An eagle-headed Trolloc appeared, sinking its talon-like claws into Anya's arm and dragging her screaming towards its brethren, all gathered around a large fire. The beast tossed her to the loamy earth, where another seized her by the throat. Her voice raspy around the massive hand that held her, Anya screamed, "You did send me to die! You did order me to the Trollocs as if you had handed me to them!"

 

"Light, Anya, no!" Mehrin cried in frustration. His frustration gave way to howling despair when he realized that he couldn't move, couldn't help. He couldn't even look away. Not when the Trollocs had carved her clothes away as if skinning an animal. Not when they had forced her screaming into a massive black pot. Not when they began feeding. Light, he had failed her. Slowly, the vision faded, leaving Mehrin alone in darkness, Anya's screams echoing in his mind.

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Drea watched through what seemed like a pond over her eyes as Mehrin struggled on the bed. She sobbed and begged him to stop screaming. His body twitched as if he were trying to move, to get to something, but that's as far as he could go.

 

"Light, Anya, no!" he cried out. Anya? A voice inside Drea groaned.

 

Why was she crying, really? Was it in fear for the man she respected? Did she smpathize with his physical pain? It certainly wasn't Anya. The woman was gone, and Drea never liked her anyway. Then again, how many people had Drea loved and sentanced to death while in command? None. Wa it jealousy? Mehrin certainly seemed to be having a hard time getting over such a small woman, regardless of history.

 

What about you, Drea? What about Cab? You still love him. So? And now you think you're falling in love with Mehrin? You've only just found out Cab was dead. He is alive. He is. Right. Well, tell that to the man whom you are sobbing over.

 

Light, what was she coming to? They were both going crazy! She shoved the voice away and focused on Mehrin, her friend... His cries have subsided again and he twitched very little. Sparadic murmurs were the only sign he was still with her.

 

Drea brushe d apiece of hair away from his sweaty forhead and touched his shoulder gently before rising. She took the empty bowl and spoon and walked over to a small book shelf. She didn't feel comfortable wandering his rooms while he was sleeping. She took a seat on a couch on the other side and picked a book off that same shelf. Battle at Toman Head by Trant Askrift. She turned to the inside page and sniffed indignantly. Cabroci Ramzael was scripted neatly in the corner. Figures.

 

Before long, Drea was a few pages in and had dozed off. She lay sleeping quietly on the couch, the book now resting open on her lap.

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notmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfault... Dreams had been Mehrin's bane for quite some time, yet this one was different. No demons from his past were there. No ghosts of friend or foe to torment him. There was nothing. Mehrin was floating in blackness, his eyes seeing nothing in the emptiness. Around him, words babbled in a thousand voices, all saying the same thing: notmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfaultnotmyfault... Cocking his head, Mehrin listened curiously. "Not my fault?" Mehrin muttered. It made no sense. Not whose fault? What wasn't their fault? No sense at all.

 

Hey, it's your subconscious, whispered a voice in Mehrin's head. Ignoring the voice, listened to the muttering, trying to find its source. It was behind him. With agonizing slowness, Mehrin turned, hoping to see what was raising the ruckus. notmyfaultnotmyfaultNOTMYFAULTNOTMYFAULTNOTMYFAULT!

 

With a start, Mehrin's eyes snapped open, the last syllable of the word 'fault' fading from his lips as he did. Pain bored into his skull as bright sunlight fell upon his eyes. Closing them against the bright light, he looked around, trying to remember where he was. His room. Mehrin was back in his room. Or had he ever left? There was no telling. Memory seemed to fight him, but slowly, Mehrin gained control of his mind again, seeking the source and solution to the problem. Why the hallucinating? Why the pain? Why did he look as if he hadn't bathed in days? His eyes found the answer sitting on the small couch in his room.

 

She was asleep, a book in her lap, her head resting on the back of the couch. Even resting, with the way that the sunlight was streaming over her, she was... You can't even admit it in your own mind, can you? Radiant, beautiful, glorious, you can't admit it. The alcohol withdrawal was not the thing making his stomach do backflips, and Mehrin knew it. You feel something for her, something that you haven't felt since Anya. Admit it. "You know, I never asked for your opinion," Mehrin growled to himself. And that means what to me, to you? You really need to move on, you know. Rolling his eyes, Mehrin shook his head slowly, muttering, "Dammit, I hate it when you're right." Stop talking to yourself and wake her up!

 

Slowly, Mehrin pushed himself up, leaning against the head of the bed. Light, he felt as if he hadn't moved for days. Why? "Drea," he said gently, hoping to rouse her. Nothing. "Drea?" he said again, a bit louder. She stirred a bit, but didn't wake. Laughing softly, Mehrin raised his voice, the echoes magnified in the small room. "DREA!" To his amusement, the woman started, dropping the book on the floor. A tired smile on his face, Mehrin said, "Now that I've got your attention, what's going on and how long have I been here?"

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She wasn't sure if she were dreaming or not. Drea couldn't remember the last dream she had anyway, hasn't since she was on her journey back to the Band. Not that she didn't dream at all, she just couldn't remember them. Everything was black. Pitch Black. There was no sound, no smell, nothing. Where was she? For how long? She let her mind fall into the darkness as if she were plunging in a hole, never ending spiraling abyss; but her feet never leaving the non-existent ground. Finally, there was a sound, a whisper. She didn't stop falling, only listened. "Drea" it called. She ignored it and smiled at her blank surroundings, content. "Drea" it called again, a bit louder. She paid no mind. She was comfortable. The darkness allowed her to relax, weightless and free. She didn't want to leave. "DREA!" It called louder, grabbing her by the throat and pulling her out of her haven.

 

Drea jolted to her feet, on firm ground, the book from her lap toppling to the rug. She saw Mehrin sitting up in his bed, smiling at her. When was the last time he'd smiled to her? Probably the day she returned to the Band. Was he ever happy to see her since then? Unlikely.

 

"Now that I've got your attention, what's going on and how long have I been here?"

 

She grumbled a little to herself-at him-and scuffed her feet to his bed. She sat in the wooden chair, just as she had most of the night before. She couldn't have slept long, her eyes were still swollen and blotchy from her sobs and her cheeks were rosy and tear stained. They burned as she blinked, trying to focus on Mehrin's smiling face. Her temper flared. How could he be so happy after what happened? How could he look at her as if he'd been sleeping there all night?

 

Light, she had to explain it all! She'd much rather be back on that couch, ignoring all her duties and taking a personal day. Remembering what had happened last night again, she groaned. That report was still due by this afternoon and she barely got a start on it at all. With as much detail as she could remember, she started explaining to Mehrin what happened.

 

"I'm not sure exactly. I came in what we think was the middle of it. I was in my office working on a report when Lachlan came in. He informed me of a group outside my barracks asking for me..." She continued-minus the personal details and failing to mention her sobbing. She told where she found him, how he looked, reacted and about what he said and screamed. By the look on his face, he didn't remember much of it, but Drea never was a good mind reader. "When you stopped convulsing, I decided to take a book and read a while, at least until you woke up or started again. I must have fallen asleep before either of those happened. I'm sorry, Mehrin. I just couldn't stay awake any longer." She rubbed her right eye out of habit. Light but she was still tired.

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Bits of memory fell into place as Drea spoke, and it was all that Mehrin could do to keep his features smooth. Light, if what she was saying was true, then Mehrin had been like this for the past three days! And if what she was saying was true... She's been here the entire time? A strange sensation settled over him as Mehrin listened to her. What was worse was that Mehrin recognized it. He had felt the same thing twice before. Once for a blacksmith's daughter, once for an infantry woman, and now for... I can't fall in love now! I've got obligations, responsibilities! However, another part of his mind was saying, If not now, then when? Why can't you be in love again? You're still human, you bloody fool!

 

It took Mehrin a moment to realize that Drea had finished speaking. He never would have noticed, had the silence not become so deafening. Lifting a hand to his forehead, Mehrin passed it across his face, feeling the exhaustion from even that small exhertation of energy. "Light," he muttered tiredly. "Three days? I've been like... this for three days." Mehrin sighed heavily, turning so his feet were on the floor. For the first time since awakening, Mehrin realized that he was still in his breeches. The strange things that one notices when he doesn't want to admit the truth, he thought.

 

Mehrin didn't try to stand. Instead, he kept his eyes locked on Drea's. Being this close to her... "Xandrea Raylin, you know that this is all your fault, right? For the past twenty-one days, I've had to deal with this, the physical need for the alcohol. You took that from me, you rendered me to a twitching, hallucinating madman capable only of lying in bed and screaming. Blood and ashes, I've spent three days in hell because of you." Reaching out slowly, he took Drea's hand in his, feeling her soft skin against the heavy callouses on his palms. Softly, he said, "Thank you."

 

Mehrin wasn't sure why he did it. One moment, he was looking into her eyes, holding her hand. The next, he had leaned forward and kissed her softly on the lips. Light, he was never this forward! Even knowing that, the kiss lingered. He couldn't make himself pull away. He didn't want to pull away.

 

OOC: Renalie's not going to be around until either Saturday or Sunday, so I'm not sure if you want to wrap it up differently or if we want to stick to the original plan.

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Drea watched with wide eyes as Mehrin's hand crossed the sheets to touch her hand gently. She looked from their contact to his eyes, trying to hide the shock within her own. He was touching her, without flinching. Her heart raced in her chest: fear, excitement, embarrassment all motivators for it to beat faster. "You're welcome." she managed to get out with a breathless whisper, however, inaudable really. Then, as if she'd never spoken at all, he kissed her. He kissed her.

 

Whaa? Whats? But- It was wonderful. She had waited so long for this. The hairs on the back of her neck tingled as their lips touched, longer and longer. What had seemed like and eternity, passed. Waited so long? What, days? Hours, maybe? But did she even want it? Fool! Of course you want it! It's just a kiss; just a 'thank you' kiss. Yeah, and that's why he hasn't taken his lips off yours yet.

 

As if the voice in her head took control of her body, she lifted her other hand and placed it on the side of his face. Her lips let go of his, regratably, and she met his eyes briefly before pulling him in close again. Blood and ashes! What was she doing? Quickly, and without another thought, Drea pushed herself away from Mehrin and stood up. She paced back and forth, her hands grabbing at the roots of her hair. For a while all she could do was pace and murmur, occasionally making words like "idiot", "fool" and "just like your Aunt Veri" audible enough for Mehrin to hear. Finally, ignoring any question or comment Mehrin may have made -if he even did, she never noticed- Drea spun around on a dime and pointed her finger at Mehrin, arm stretched out. "Blood and ashes, man! What was that for?" Her voice was callous and degrading, echoing from the walls.

 

OOC: I figure we'd just continue... I've got a few ideas, so we'll chat later.

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Light, Mehrin didn't want it to end, but end it did. He could still feel the aftereffects, the memory sensation of her lips. For a moment, their eyes met... and it was over. The suddenness with which Drea pushed away from him and stood up was astonishing. What are you doing?! Does this look like Anya to you? Don't you love Anya?! Drea was pacing across the room, her fingers tangled in her hair. The sound of muttering reached Mehrin's ears, but only a few words were discernable. Even angry and confused, she was lovely.

 

Listen to yourself, man! Are you going to throw away Anya for the first thing in a dress that crosses your path? Shaking his head, Mehrin tried to silence the voice, tried to ward off the rising guilt that he felt. He was a commander of an army! He couldn't afford- Listen to yourself. Excuses, excuses! She's dead. Anya is dead. You're not. The dead don't come back. You'd better really think about who you're being faithful to. She's been gone for close to two bloody years! "Easier said than done," Mehrin muttered softly. So that's how you're going to rationalize- whoa, wait a minute. She's talking to you.

 

Shifting his attention back to the real world, Mehrin saw that Drea was actually addressing him. And she wasn't happy. She had spun on her heel in mid-pace, her finger pointing at him like it was a lance. "Blood and ashes, man! What was that for?" The woman had more layers than an onion! One moment, she was worrying about him; that memory floated vaguely through his mind. The next, she was about ready to stab him. It's no less than you deserve, you bloody oaf, Mehrin thought derisively. Almost on top of that, another thought crossed his mind: Light, man, if I could, I would beat you across the head right now. Get over her! Move on!

 

All that was fine and dandy, but Mehrin still needed to extricate himself from the mess he had gotten himself into. Raising his hands defensively, he said, "I'm sorry. I know that I shouldn't have, but..." But what? But I think I love you? But I couldn't help myself? But I was collapsing and your lips broke my fall? How do I get myself into these things? "... it just seemed, I don't know... the right thing to do." Mehrin winced. That wasn't the right way to say it. "I mean, you're an amazing woman, and..." Shaking his head, Mehrin trailed off into quiet mutterings. This was a lose-lose situation, and he knew it. "I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't do it again, but I'm sorry nonetheless." For once, his entire mind agreed on something: This isn't going to be pretty...

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Again? He'd do it again? Light, what does that mean? Well, you would too, wouldn't you? All Drea could picture was running up to Mehrin, into his arms and kissing him for the rest of the day. So many reasons for her to give in and go.

 

But so many reasons for her to stay away. More reasons. First of all starting with the man sitting in front of her. She stood still, starring blankly at him, astonished at what his reply had been. The right thing to do? Amazing woman? Where had all this come from?

 

The words had come from her lips without her even knowing. "What do you mean by that?" He blinked, unsure what to say. Obviously he was having as much trouble trying to decifer what was real and what wasn't. Exactly. He thinks he's hallucinating again. "What is this, Mehrin? One of your hallucinations? You don't see me, do you? You see Anya. Anya." The word was more of a snear than a name. She didn't want to give him the chance to speak, not quite yet. She didn't want to hear what he had to say. She was wrong -she knew it- but the nanoseconds of satisfaction that she was right are worth more than that kiss. Are they? Yes.

 

"I wont have it, Mehrin. I wont be number two! I'm sick and tired of always being put behind someone or something. It's me or it's the door. You choose." Light, where did that come from? She went from condemning him to forcing him to choose her or she'd leave? Wouldn't you, though? Leave the Band? Could you really take another rejection like that? Another loss? Light, what did she do?

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Well, this is going about as well as I expected, Mehrin thought as Drea retaliated. What had he been expecting? Had he really thought that she would run across the room to him, leap into his arms, and kiss him for the rest of the day? As pleasant as that would have been, Mehrin knew that it wouldn't have happened. Light, he wished that it would have, though. But to accuse him of still hallucinating? The memory was too close, and he knew that he wasn't. Any attempt to deny it, to explain, though, was blatantly ignored. Nothing he could say would slow the accusation. "I wont have it, Mehrin. I wont be number two! I'm sick and tired of always being put behind someone or something. It's me or it's the door. You choose."

 

That was enough. She wanted him to choose. Either reject Anya for her, or watch Drea walk out of his life. Blood and ashes... About half of him was telling Mehrin to tell Drea to leave, to choose Anya over her. But the other half... You're not actually considering it, are you? Light, man, don't be a fool. If she feels anything of what you feel for her, she'll understand. You never let go of her, did you? He hadn't. The choice should have been easy, but it wasn't. What did the dead offer the living? What could the dead offer the living?

 

Nothing.

 

Closing his eyes, Mehrin sat in silence for a few moments, thinking about that. Nothing. It carried significance. "What do you mean by that?" Mehrin retaliated, bringing Drea's own question to bear. "Do you have any idea how cruel you are being, not only to me, but to yourself? I know you, Drea. The Band is your home. Would you really let a fool of a man force you out of your home?" With a groan, Mehrin stood. Muscles in his legs protested the movement, the weight being more than they had borne for the past three days. Even in his soreness and tiredness, it only took a few steps to close the distance between him and Drea, his hands resting on her shoulders. "Do you really believe that I'm seeing things? All I see is you, Xandrea Raylin. I can't make you stay. I don't see why you should, honestly. Here I am, a man who has spent the past two years in a bottle trying to avoid his problems rather than deal with them. No more." Mehrin's voice dropped to something less caustic, more warm. "Those three days brought back my worst nightmares, my biggest issues. I'm ready to move on. Just, please, don't leave me like this." Breathing a heavy sigh, through his nose, Mehrin repeated, "Please." In his mind, however, another matter had come to the surface: Light, you need a bath!

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Was he begging her? But for what? For her not to leave the Band or him? She couldn't help but feel ashamed of what she suggested. She couldn't really leave the band. She'd die before that ever happened again. This was the only home Drea had ever known, and she hoped it stayed that way.

 

"I'm sorry." She said simply, and let the silence after her reply last just as long as it did before. She sighed deeply. "I don't know what to say, Mehrin." her shaking voice seemed to echo off the cloth walls of silence. "I- I just- it hit me as a surprise. It- it's been so long, and to be touched by someone like that was just-" She looked away from him and closed her eyes. Was her face red? She couldn't tell but it had suddenly become warmer in his rooms. She wished she could ignore any of this happened. Go back in time and let him wake up, find out what happened and leave. The report still has to be finished and she had a meeting with Ata later, that would probably have to be pushed back now. Those would both be accomplished and she could go on living her life as the scout's banner captain. Humble, content, miserable, successful, lonely. "Forget it, Mehrin. Lets just forget it. Let's start over."

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"You don't really want to start over, do you?" The silence after the question was no surprise. Mehrin had known the answer before he'd asked. A finger on Drea's chin gently guided her head back around, bringing them face to face again. Light, but she was beautiful. "I'll be damned if I want to," Mehrin said softly. Much longer, he'd sound almost natural. The urge to kiss her again was almost overpowering, but now was not the time for it. She was just as confused about all this as he was. To make it worse would not help the situation.

 

"I'm sorry, I handled this all poorly." Sighing, Mehrin dropped his arms back to his sides. "If you want to start things over, we can," Mehrin said gently, his eyes still on Drea's. "However, I don't want to. I..." Mehrin took a deep breath. It was so easy to accept it in his mind. Maybe it was a fragment of Anya's memory holding him back. Would Anya really want you beating yourself up about her? A shake entered Mehrin's voice as he started again. "Drea, I love you." There, he had said it. He had opened himself up for whatever came, be it acceptance or mockery.

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She didn't know to laugh or cry, to jump for joy or run and scream, to kiss him or slap him. She suppressed a smirk struggling to spread across her lips, and if it hadn't before, her face definitely turned a humiliated shade of pink. Drea had not expected anything close to that comment to come out of this conversation. Hoped, but not expected. Dreams were for young girls who didn't have a division to run, reports to write, responsibilities to adhere. She may be young, but not always naive. Not always.

 

The question was, did she love him back? Of course you do, Drea. Don't be ridiculous. But did she really? And was she ready to admit it? Was she ready to give up all defenses and let another man in her life? Risk loving someone and losing them months, possibly days later? Love meant sacrifice, honesty, trust, expectations and commitment. Love means companionship, joy, attraction, pleasure and devotion.

 

Was Mehrin only saying it because that's what she wanted to hear? Because he felt guilty, obligated to say something of such magnitude to her? Trying to get her to stay? Does he think he loves her because they kissed? Or did he kiss her because he loves her?

 

Had Cab even ever said those words to her? Had Cab been a man who adored Drea or who merely longed for a lover? Had Drea even minded the second? Did she need the same things he did back then? Did she now, or was this different? Was she attracted to Mehrin, or did she truly love him the way he intended? To repeat thos words now would be... deceitful.

 

"Those are big words, Commander." Se answered tenderly. There was a bit of forced amusement in her tone. "A bit too big for my nerves right now. And however much you mean them; I cannot return your sentiments. I'm sorry, but if you'll excuse me, I have a report to finish before noontime." She bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement, and turned to leave. "Have a good day." She dared not say his name and she knew better than to adress him formally- again.

 

She let her feet carry her, her shaking knees barely able to keep her up and her pace was faster than it needed to be. Drea passed by recruits and other scouts she knew, ignoring them. She had no desire for small talk, fearful of what her mind would blurt out before thinking. When she was far enough away from Mehrin's rooms, Drea stopped behind the cold stonewall of one of the mess halls and leand up against it. The cool rock was a welcomed treat against her feverish skin. "Drea, what are you doing?" She breathed, looking up toward the sky. Thick gray clouds drifted by, a storm was on the way.

 

"Banner Captain, Raylin!" Her name echoed in her mind. Without seeing who it was, Drea quickly turned and headed to her rooms, where she planned on locking the door and staying for the remainder of the night. Lachlan would have to deal with AD and send her report to Shep when she finished. Light this was unexpected. She felt sick to her stomach and quickened her pace.

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It took Mehrin a moment to realize what was going on, and by the time he knew, she was gone. It was all he could do not to fall to the ground in tears. Did she not love him? Did she not know? Not caring how he looked, Mehrin strode out of his room and into the streets of the Citadel. He could just make out Drea, leaning against the stone wall of one of the mess halls. "Banner Captain Raylin!" he shouted. Either she didn't hear or she heard all too well. She turned away, her pace quickening, and she was out of sight.

 

It was with a heavy heart that Mehrin found himself back in his room, seated on his bed. Ragged sobs escaped his mouth. Two loves lost. One would not accept him. One he couldn't let go of. "Light," he gasped between sobs. What kind of ruin had he made of his life? A daughter whom he didn't know how to care for. A love who didn't accept him. And a ghost from his past who wouldn't let him rest. Is she not letting you rest, or are you not letting her rest?

 

That thought haunted him for the rest of the day. Even after he had bathed and returned to his regular duties, Mehrin wondered about that. More than once, he wanted to go to her, to try to explain to her how he felt. Every time, though, he held back. I told her how I feel. She needs time. Half-listening to his first petitioner of the day, a sudden thought struck Mehrin. I can't do anything about Drea, Light help me, but I can do what I need to do for Anya...

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