Ch3.59 The Pearl

Sky sits, holding a glass with a liberal dram of whisky, neat, poured from a bottle he keeps in his locker, the gaslight in his office turned low. He has not yet sipped the whisky. He is sitting in one of the chairs for visitors. He did not want to have the desk shielding him from the visitor he is expecting.

The frosted glass inset on his door darkens, and he sets the whisky behind him on his desk just as the door flies open and Alma enters without bothering to knock. She closes it behind her, not quite slamming it, but not being gentle either. He stoically faces her, and sees not what he had hoped for but what he had expected. She is silent, shaking with anger, fighting to restrain herself.

“Alma,” he begins.

“No!” she cuts him dead. “Not Alma. Only my friends call me that!”

He feels the sadness wash over him like a wave, unstoppable. You should have known, he hears, that voice that sounds like the Commander’s. The way you recklessly opened your heart to her. Idiot. Desperate fool. You don’t have friends. You can’t afford friends. How can you have friends when you have to hide everything you are from them? The voice sounds like the Commander, but always much crueller. Just as honest, though.

As his face settles into a familiar emotionless mask, he nods and says, “I see. Sergeant...I am sorry. What I did was wrong. I should not have concealed Mayumi’s actions from you. I foolishly agreed to keep her secret for her. But after that, I could not break her confidence.”

Still standing in front of the door, Alma glares at him. “How can I trust you? How can I trust anyone when even my children lie to me with the aid of my commanding officer and the gods know how many other people? What a wonderful joke it must have been! Oh, how you must have laughed at my expense!”

Sky half rises, fresh sorrow breaking out on his face at these words. “No, Sergeant! I never felt the slightest humor in the situation. It ate at me. I have wanted to tell you, and feared telling you, ever since I made that mistake.”

Ignoring his words, Alma moves back a half step and raises an arm to ward him off. “I only wish I could ask for transfer from this viper’s nest… Keep your lies, Sky!” She spits out his name like a curse. “I hope you are better at living with them than you are at choosing your loyalties.” She turns away.

He tries to think of the words that will make this better. He tries, and is left still trying as she flings the door open and leaves without bothering to close it.

Minutes pass before he picks up the glass of whisky. For minutes more, he just holds it. Then he places it back on his desk, untasted. He feels no desire for it. He is already numb.

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