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A Long Expected Party

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#1 Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias


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Posted Star Date 22010.07 @ 02:58 (02:58 AM)

==Chief Engineer’s Quarters, USS Artemis, Delta Quadrant==


Benjamin sighed as he walked through his quarters. Nearly a month since he moved in, and despite Cera’s suggestions on how to arrange the place, he still didn’t quite feel at home in the large, lonely space.


Sure, he was excited to have space to spread out some. He had a table against the wall where he had his models spread out, paints on a rack in the corner with his brushes, ready to work whenever he had time. His bookshelf was on display with a number of texts he loved to read some, and a couch and chair were set up to talk and read in. His bedroom was just for sleeping again, rather than being a multipurpose space like in every other place he’d lived since… well, since he was a kid.


But he missed being close to other people. The only time he’d actually had single quarters – even if they were barely more than a closet – had been on Harkens’ freighter, and that hadn’t exactly been the best time in his life. He had set the still back up in the replicator here, moving it under the cover of repair work to the replicator system, and though he kept running it he hadn’t exactly been thrilled that it was there.


He’d been working on quitting his drinking, but was ashamed that he hadn’t been able to do so. Was he drinking anything close to what he had been? No. But he still couldn’t get to sleep at night without at least a taste, and he hated it. He didn’t mind the actual drinking – especially in a social setting – but the fact that he couldn’t simply choose not to was beginning to get to him. At least you’ll have something to talk to the counselor about next week, he thought, trying to find a bright side.


But that was for another day. Today, he had a bottle in his hand and a pair of tumblers in the other, and he set them down on the table in the living area. He’d broken out the good stuff for this – a bottle of whiskey he’d gotten from… somewhere. He unstoppered the bottle and took a sniff. Okay, so the alright stuff, he thought as he put it back. It was better than the rotgut he made, at least.


It had been far, far too long since he’d sat down with his friend and just… talked. He’d moved out with barely a word; they had spoken maybe three times before the whole asteroid base situation, and he could count on two hands the total number of minutes those conversations had spanned and still have fingers left over. He was disappointed in himself for it, but all he could do was try to make it up to him.


To that end he’d invited him over now that they were, if not settled in the Delta Quadrant, at least out of the immediate crisis. If nothing else, they just needed a chance to talk, to clear the air. Fortunately he was supposed to show up soon; the worst part was always the waiting.

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#2 Ens Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 22010.10 @ 01:48 (01:48 AM)

Just go already.


Perpetually early for everything, Nathan wasn’t yet late, but if he hesitated any longer, he would be. An ocean of emotions stirred beneath his rather stoic face that gave no hint as to turmoil that roiled beneath. However, it was also the absence of warmth in his demeanor that would have given away that something wasn’t quite right, at least to those that knew him. It felt a bit odd, hanging about near the Turbolift, but that was better showing up on his friend’s doorstep, feeling at odds with the entire situation.


I’ve heard more about Ben from Whitby than I have from the man himself.


Beneath his right arm, a rather plain wooden box seemed to gain weight with each passing minute of indecisiveness. Of course, it wasn’t the box itself that was the gift, but instead it was the means to transport it. Among Nathan’s growing list of hobbies, woodcarving was quickly becoming the go-to way for him to pass time, and even sort of meditate in an odd way. It was better than what he had been doing, which was sulking and doing nothing. It allowed him to make things, to create, and work his problems out in a healthier way. But, he had struggled to figure out just what it was that he’d make for Benjamin that the man didn’t already have, or have access to, with whatever relationship it was that he had with Cera. The thought had run through Nathan’s mind to just bring Ben a bottle of something expensive, but that just didn’t feel right for many reasons either.


Oh yes, and giving him this hand-carved combination cheese-appetizer-tapas-board is something he’ll find a lot of use for? Everything is replicated on a platter anyway. This is so cheesy… he paused mid-thought and frowned at the unintended word play.


It wasn’t the first time Nathan considered dematerializing the work, but he reminded himself that it wasn’t the function or even the use that Benjamin might get out of the item. It was the thought that should count. It was meant to be a housewarming gift, not a practical one. Not that Nathan even knew what kind of practical gift he could get Ben anyway that he didn’t already have.


A monogram engraved onto a deluxe hyperspanner to make it personalized? Either that, or maybe one with a wrist strap so he doesn’t lose it, there was a chuckle, followed by a headshake and short sigh.


Then long sigh escaped him. And another. Finally, some kind of impetus struck him, and his feet started to move. One foot, other foot; left foot, right foot. It almost felt like he was marching, and Nathan felt bad about it. He was going to see his friend, and here he was feeling like it was like a parade march... if casual jeans and a t-shirt were somehow a uniform. There wasn’t any time for him to go over those sensations and thoughts, for as quickly as he had decided to leave the Turbolift area, he’d managed to cover the ground needed to reach the Chief Engineer’s Quarters.


Cracking his neck twice, Nathan let out a final sigh, put on a smile, and pushed the call button on the console.

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#3 Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 22010.13 @ 01:07 (01:07 AM)

Benjamin was relieved when the door chime rang a few minutes later. He had begun to get worried - the man was typically early to everything, and with the appointed hour approaching it had gotten him just a touch worried. No, he just got caught up doing something, he thought. Though what he could have gotten caught up with... that was anyone's guess.


Walking over to the door, he opened it with a smile. "Come on in," he told Nathan. "Grab a seat; I got some of the good stuff if you want it, or whatever else you'd like." He waved over at the living area, the two glasses already set. "I didn't think to get any food out, but if you're hungry..." he shrugged. "I'm open to suggestions."


He sighed heavily as they walked over to the chairs. He hadn't wanted this to be awkward, but inevitably it had gotten there. Why? he wondered to himself. They were friends; nothing about that had changed. And yet here he was, unsure even where to begin. He turned and looked at his friend, and saw the box under his arm. He chuckled. "You didn't have to do anything," Benjamin told him. "You're my friend; all I need from you is..." he sighed. "Just to know you still are."


Sinking heavily to the chair, he started to pour - both the whiskey and his words. "I'm sorry," he started. "I didn't mean to just leave like that. The captain gave me the new job, the quarters got reassigned, and before I could think we were on those trials for jumping the fleet. Then I had to figure out how to manage a department, keep the ship working, and before I knew it it had been weeks and I still hadn't found a chance to talk."


He picked up his own glass and took a sip, savoring the - relatively - smooth taste before he continued. "I could make excuses. Work kept me busy. I've developed a lot of terrible habits the past few years. I didn't know what to say. But the simple fact is that I didn't make the time when I should have, and I'm sorry. You're probably the best friend I've got, and I treated you badly."


Another sip, and he leaned forward on his knees as he looked across at Nathan and that box - had he built that himself? he thought. "I never even took the time to ask you about Michelle," he thought, "or how your parents took the idea of you heading out into the Delta Quadrant. I'm sure they were okay, but I am curious about her."


Whitby, despite being a gossip after Cera's own heart, had sternly refused to tell Benjamin anything about Nathan. "You have got to talk to him," she would say instead. And he couldn't help but agree, even if he never quite found the time for it. His own family had questioned the wisdom of heading so far out deliberately, but had wished him well - his sister had even sent him a long playlist of her band's music to tide him over - so he presumed it was a similar story from Nathan's family.


But Michelle... last he'd heard, he'd proposed, but he hadn't heard anything since then. Given that she wasn't on the ship, he just hoped that she'd taken his departure alright.

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#4 Ens Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 22010.18 @ 00:41 (12:41 AM)

Walking in, everything felt a bit odd to Nathan. The room was too big, and didn’t at all have the same vibe like their old Quarters had had; there was far more on display than what the old Casa did when they were rooming. Models, books, all sorts of things filled the space in an area that was actually a functional living room and not just a sort of shared foyer. Two factions drew into battle formations within Nathan’s brain; one of envy and the other muditā. Mostly, the latter was the stronger emotion of the two, with Nathan decidedly being vicariously joyful for Benjamin, knowing that the man had more than earned his spot as Chief Engineer. And as Ramius thought more on it, the begrudging side of him seemed to melt away.


Finally, he moved from the door and toward one of the proffered seats.


“I could do some snack type stuff maybe, though I’m not crazy peckish at the moment,” he responded, while eyeing up the bottle on the table, a slight eyebrow raising upward.


Whiskey and not the still stuff? Hmm.


"You didn't have to do anything," Ben’s voice broke his concentration on the minute detail, "You're my friend; all I need from you is... Just to know you still are."


“Not at all,” Nathan had responded reflexively, though then realized how the statement could be taken, and added to it,


“I mean, about the box. I couldn’t very well come without a housewarming gift…” he paused, “er. A Quarters-warming gift.”


Ramius had purposefully left out commenting on the second half of Ben’s statement. There were plenty of words that were sitting at the tip of his tongue, and few of them seemed civil enough for the beginning of a conversation. In the past, he might have just said those things, though now he kept his mouth in check more often than not. Placing the gift on the table, he then looked to Benjamin and the way he sunk into the chair, and Nathan knew there was more to be said. While Elias started to pour, Ramius motioned for a splash in his glass as well. He listened carefully even as he grabbed for the libation, bringing it up to his nose to take in the aromas.


"I'm sorry,” Ben said, and it echoed in Nathan’s ears.


Sitting quietly, the young man tried to keep a stoic face. There were just too many emotions in him that whirled about like a fire-devil spinning about in a sea of ash and soot. Just hearing Ben talk about it dredged up many things that Nathan had been busily burying in his subconscious since his ex-roommate had done a midnight run, except never came back. But as Benjamin continued, a different vein of feeling was struck, especially as the words ‘best’ and ‘friend’ were uttered. A mix of thoughts and sentiments washed over Nathan’s face, before he quickly covered it back up; though it didn’t stop the emotions themselves from rushing around.


It was at that point that Nathan took his first sip of whiskey, enjoying the flavor that hit his tongue, while the heat that emanated afterward was welcomed too. It didn’t burn like the rotgut did, but there was actual flavor beyond just pure ethanol.


"I never even took the time to ask you about Michelle…”


Nathan froze. Unmoving, he had missed the entirety of what Benjamin had asked next; he could have been a statue as even his breath was held. The name brought immediately the recollection of her face, and it was something that he couldn’t shake, at least not right away. As his breathing returned, forced by his brain to do so, he finally managed to blink. Slowly, the rest of his faculties came back, but Nathan stayed quiet for a long while after. How long, he didn’t know, but it was long enough for his fingers to turn slightly white in places from the pressure that he’d held onto the whiskey glass with. Releasing the grip a bit, he brought the glass up to his lips and took a sip again. There was a sort of heaving sigh as Nathan tried to get air back into his lungs to catchup on the lost oxygen from before. His brows furrowed together harshly, though his lips were pulled down into a more sad looking sort of expression.


“There is… a lot, to unpackage.”


Placing the glass down onto the table, Nathan then sat back in the chair and steepled his fingers in front of his mouth, as though he were about to say a silent prayer. And, perhaps, he was. The cogs turned, as he considered how he wanted to approach it all. Ben had done an excellent job in defusing the bulk of Nathan’s frustration and anger by being so upfront with the apologies. There was a lingering resentment at the bottom of that barrel, but nothing that couldn’t be covered and eventually forgotten over time. And then the pain that still traced its way through his veins made itself known too. But, mostly, it was lessened significantly. Finally, he dropped his hands, and looked directly at Ben.


“I can’t imagine what you’d have to do to not be my best friend, Ben. We’ve fought and bled together. I consider you a brother.”


There was a pause, and Nathan broke eye contact for a moment. Taking a deep breath in, letting it settle before releasing it, he returned his gaze.


“But I won’t lie that I… I’m hurt. I felt abandoned, not once but twice over. Both from people that I trusted the most. More than I ever thought I’d be able to trust. I don’t… I… suffice to say that **** got dark as **** for me. I’m still reeling from it all. It was like I was stuck on the wrong side of a weir, just tumbling over and over, getting a gasp of air but slowly drowning just the same. I’d grab onto anything just to get some stability, and maybe I’m still flailing,” he stopped himself suddenly, realizing that he was rambling.


Reaching forward, Nathan grabbed his glass and took a good swig, finishing off what had remained there. The empty glass was gently placed back onto the coaster.


“I know… I know that you know all that. You wouldn’t have invited me here, and wouldn’t have offered apologies otherwise. At the time I didn’t quite understand it all. But I’ve come to realize that you were caught up in things, and hearing you say it just reaffirms what part of me believed and knew from the very start; Chief Engineer isn’t an easy job. Less so when you’ve gotta monitor a system that hasn’t exactly been stress tested they way it was for our jumps. I mean… I knew all of that, but at the time… it, it just didn’t set. So… I guess that was just a long-winded way to say, I accept your apology,” Nathan chuckled, though it faded quickly.


Again, he leaned toward the table and picked up the glass that had just been refilled by Ben. This time, it was a more measured sip. He closed his eyes, forcing himself to taste and enjoy the drink instead of just throwing it down his gullet. Nathan’s hand still held the glass as he opened his eyes, which were now fixated on something across the room.


“She had said yes, you know. It was a yes. I’d never been so happy in my life, I think. But it was also the shortest span of happiness I’d ever had too,” another sip occurred.


“I hadn’t told her about the next upcoming Megasphere mission. Never mentioned it because… I dunno, there were a lot of reasons. Even just for the sake of operational security I probably shouldn’t have told her. But, I did. We argued some. I can understand her anger now, but at the time I thought she was being irrational... like the dumbass I am. There were words exchanged, the placing of guilt onto people… and then I confessed that I had volunteered for it.”


There was another long silence as he stared off. In reality, he was reliving every moment in his brain, as though it was all happening again.


“I don’t know why I said it; I have a compulsion for being honest, I guess. That was the nail… in the… and she said that security was already scary enough, and why would I go and volunteer for something like that? She couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t understand. There was plenty of misunderstanding.”


The seconds ticked on, as he kept going through the motions of those memories. But something snapped him back, bringing him into the present. He could feel his eyes welling a bit and he suddenly felt ashamed. But then he decided that Ben would likely understand. Still, he wiped his eyes so that he didn’t blubber completely.


“It didn’t help, everything that had happened on the planet before… er, the Megasphere. I mean, that didn’t help the situation, because I think it shook her some. Eroded her confidence in herself. In her choices.”


Yet another sip, and this time he held it in his mouth and swished it around before tilting his head back to gulp it down.


“She left that night. I don’t know how she got the transfer request in so quickly, but something tells me Tyra signed the orders the moment she saw them. There was no love lost there after the mission, I think. I don’t even know where… where…” he sighed heavily, gritted his teeth, and forced himself to say her name, “I don’t even know where Michelle is, or if she is okay. And I’m terrified to even find out…”


The last sentence sort of fell off, and Nathan went quiet. Only a moment passed though, before he suddenly looked up, straight into Ben’s face, and said,


“…but I still ******* love her, and I don’t know if I ever won’t love her.”


There were plenty of unasked questions in Nathan’s face then. The kind that, if answered in a certain way, would reassure him. But also the kind that, if answered truthfully and honestly, would give him little succor though might shorten the length of time it took to heal. Perhaps he already knew the answers too, but even after a month of asking himself, still didn’t accept or understand them.

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#5 Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 22010.21 @ 01:17 (01:17 AM)

Benjamin released a breath he didn’t know he had been holding when Nathan accepted his apology. He had been sure he would, but he hadn’t been sure. Things were tense, on both sides, and they hadn’t done anything until now to try and relieve that; to hear him talk about how tough his own journey had been these past few days and weeks made Benjamin realize just how much this had been needed, and weeks ago.


He smiled and nodded, taking a sip of the whiskey as Nathan savored some of his, eyes closed. When Nathan opened them again, he wasn’t looking at him anymore, eyes fixed across the room instead. “She had said yes, you know. It was a yes.”


Benjamin felt his heart sink as Nathan kept talking, a little rambling as if he hadn’t really told anyone else. How did I miss this? he scolded himself. To know that Nathan had first hit the high of getting engaged, and then Price had just… just left him. He heard Nathan try to justify it, saying the trauma of the Megasphere mission might have caused it, but Benjamin just couldn’t agree.


By the end, the words were just barely getting out of his mouth, coming out of a nearly clenched jaw. “I don’t even know where Michelle is,” he finished, “or if she is okay. And I’m terrified to even find out…” He fell silent for a moment, before looking straight up at him, catching his eyes. “…but I still ******* love her, and I don’t know if I ever won’t love her.”


Benjamin sighed, recognizing the look on his friend’s face. He’d seen it far too often, though it was years ago from his own face. Most often, he’d seen it in the bottom of the glass, staring back at him in judgement. He knocked back the rest of what was in his glass, and then got up for a moment. Walking to his hobby desk, he got a couple of paper towels and brought them back over, setting them down on the table in front of Nathan as he walked the other direction.


After what felt like enough time, Benjamin returned with a clear, unlabeled bottle full of some liquid. He took the spare paper towel he’d stuffed in his own pocket, wiped out his glass along with Nathan’s empty one, before pouring some of the rotgut into each glass. He sighed, and smelled his glass a moment as he settled back into his chair, head looking down into the glass for a moment while he thought about what to say.


There were two options, to Benjamin’s unfortunately experienced eye. The first, and the immediately kinder option, would be to reassure him. Obviously, Michelle was a ***** and wasn’t worthy of him in the first place. Or maybe go with yes, the Megasphere broke her, and you can blame the Borg for taking away your chance at happiness with her.  Something along those lines. It would take the sting out, and would help him hold it together for a while.


But that wouldn’t help in the long run. It might redirect his anger outward, but it would manifest somewhere, somehow. Combined with his tendency to wear his heart and emotions on his sleeve, and to speak his mind, it wouldn’t be long before the captain lost patience with him and he was at minimum off the ship, and possibly out of the service completely.


And Benjamin had already been there and done that. He took a sip of the alcohol he’d poured, reminding himself of what the result of that kind of despair was.


The second, and more painful option, was simply to go to the truth. It sucked, he was well aware. But if any one of multiple people had been honest with him eight years ago, it was likely he never would have fallen in with Harkens and his smuggling crew. He’d be without a lot of scars he had now, both physical and emotional. And maybe he wouldn’t be here in Star Fleet now, but he’d be lying if part of him didn’t wish he’d had that chance.


Maybe I’m not where I wish I could’ve been, he considered as he saw his reflection ripple in his glass, but maybe I’m where I’m needed most.


“I wish I could tell you why it happened,” Benjamin said, still looking down. “The only people that can answer that question are you, Michelle, and God.” He took a breath, and looked up at his friend, locking eyes for a moment before loosening up his gaze.


“As much as I’d like to blame the Borg,” he continued, “from my position as an outsider, I don’t think that’s it. Contributing maybe, but that’s not the reason. The reason is simple: you were both moving fast, and with you going on the away team she was scared. It wasn’t a decision she would make, and it highlighted the major difference between you – that you were always one to leap into the action, while she wasn’t.


“She was scared not just of losing you, but of having to feel that terror over, and over, and over, and over again.” He took a sip, swallowing hard to make sure it went down, before continuing. “As much as you love her – and she loved you, from everything I saw – she couldn’t handle that, and ran.”


He looked back down into the glass for a moment, before setting it down and looking back at Nathan. “I wish I could say some words to make it easier, make it hurt less. But I can’t. There are no such words. All I’ve got is time, and for you to know that no matter how much it may feel like it at times, you’ve got to remember one simple thing.


You’re not alone in this,” he finished. “I’m here, and I’ll do my best to not drop off the face of the earth again like I did. You’ve got Eliana still there, as well. We’ll help you get through it, alright?” He smiled a genuine, if a little wan, smile. “Just know there won’t always be alcohol involved.”

Edited by Lt (JG) Benjamin Elias, Star Date 22010.21 @ 01:28 (01:28 AM).

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#6 Ens Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 22010.24 @ 03:35 (03:35 AM)

There was little that Nathan could say or do in the silence that followed his obvious revelation, except to attempt to stifle the welling of tears and onslaught of emotions that stormed his mind. He’d heard Ben sigh and get up, but didn’t recall him coming back. Somehow, in the intervening time, paper towels had been set before him. Grabbing up one, he patted his face which was wet; a surprising discovery as Ramius didn’t feel the waterworks start. His heart lurched, pummeling the ribs in front of it as though it were in a prison, demanding the jailors to release it. A hand came up, to press against the part where it hurt, even if it did little to dampen the ache. Meanwhile, his stomach churned and roiled, threatening to make him sick. The alcohol had sat heavy, and Nathan could feel it still in the back of his throat as though he’d just drank a sizeable swallow.


The scent of paint thinning ethanol struck him, knocking his brain from the cycle of thoughts and memories tumbling about in a chaotic fashion.


Rotgut, a thin smile spread out for the merest of moments before disappearing, though the comfort from the vile smelling substance remained.


Ben looked thoughtful as he stared deeply into the glass in his own hands, and Nathan had realized how stupid he’d been not to try and seek out his friend earlier. Even when Ramius wasn’t in trouble with something, Ben was always a steadying force for him. How far ahead could he have been had he just asked Elias for a night to hash out thoughts? It was easy to ask that, as things had just been settled, Nathan considered as the hindsight kicked in.


“I wish I could tell you why it happened,” the rich voice was comforting, and Nathan listened intently even as he leaned forward to grab his newly filled glass of poison.


Hearing Ben say her name caught his attention, and he looked directly toward his friend, while clutching his glass close into his body. How the man across from him was able to boil it all down seemed wizard to Nathan. And he agreed with much of it. There was a dichotomy to relationships, and as Ben went on with his analysis of everything, the truth of the matter became clear to Ramius: that getting into relationships was simple, but staying in them, well that was the trick. Whatever had clicked initially didn’t always mean that the entire picture was considered. Pulling back, and seeing the puzzle that was a person in all their complexity, often revealed truths that were never brought to life in the early passionate days of a fledgling romance.


“She was scared not just of losing you, but of having to feel that terror over, and over, and over, and over again.”


That statement resonated loudly with Nathan. Mostly because of how concretely accurate it was. She had never been happy with how much risk was involved in his job, and even less so when he willing pitched himself into the fray. That would never change, unless Nathan switched Departments. Was that something he should have considered, a Department change? Those were the kinds of questions that could drive someone mad, he knew, and it was too little too late anyway.


The finishing statement that Benjamin said, made Nathan chuckle and nodded knowingly. Though, almost in an act of defiance, he took a good sample from his own glass. The burn was immediate, rageful in its reintroduction to his tastebuds, yet somehow so incredibly consoling; a dangerous trait when it came to the substance.


“I know. I should have reached out somehow. And hearing you say it, I feel almost ashamed that I didn’t tell you or Eli just how ****** up I was. But, being deep down in that abyss. It just swallowed me up. Wouldn’t let me up for air. Would’ve sank a message in a bottle too if I would have thought of that.”


Shifting to find some comfort in his seat, Nathan sighed loudly.


“It’s funny in a way, when I look back at everything I ever considered a ‘serious’ relationship in the past, whether that was way back, or even just at the Academy. There were real feelings in all of those relationships. They had all hurt when they ended. But none of them. Not one of them, could rate anywhere near to what I’m feeling now. They almost seem like base infatuations in comparison. And I just don’t know how I ever could have been so stupid to have fallen so completely for her. Never once did I ever consider that we might not be compatible, or that something like my job would ever get in the way, particularly with both of us being Fleeters.”


Sipping the clear ether-like liquid, Nathan’s face screwed up slightly. Another shift in the chair failed to find him any relief, though he did consider his discomfort wasn’t physical to begin with anyway.


“I hadn’t been with her that long had I?” he looked to Ben now.


“I just want to know when this’ll stop. Or at least eases. Cause I feel like a damn mess and an idiot.”


Nathan laughed then. Straight up nearly howled, before getting control of himself.


“I mean, I feel like more of an idiot than usual,” another round of chuckling rolled out from him as he took a sip to steady his senses. And steadied they were, like a slap to the face, the alcohol hurt him just enough to bring him back.


“I’ve tried all the old tricks. Working out until I can barely move. Taking tons of extra duty shifts to keep me busy. Chess, puzzles, cello… I’ve even been trying my hand at the guitar. The only thing that has been really working is the wood working,” he nodded to the box on the table.


“Something about it; keeping my hands busy and my mind focused, while creating something tangible when I’m done. It’s about the only thing that really keeps me from turning inward toward my thoughts.”


There was a pause, and Nathan took some time to look at the bottom of the glass.


“I need someone to tell me what to do. Because I’ve never been here before. Feel like I want a new heart cloned and transplanted, if that’d even help,” he shrugged, sipped, then sighed.


“After all this time, there should be a manual on heartbreak, right? It’s twenty-four twenty damnit.”

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