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LtCmdr Hawkins - Phantoms


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(( Dining Chamber, Gallant Runner ))
 
Sandra: He does look taller. They must be slipping something into that replicated food they serve on those ships.
 
Walter: See? I told you--I swear he took on at least an inch and a half.
 
Hawkins: They don't put anything in our food mom, and I--
 
::He stopped in mid-sentence when his dad started to laugh. His mother grinned and tucked her bottom lip under her teeth, giving Hawkins a poke between his ribs. The Gallant Runner, a small-sized cargo vessel, sported a quaint dining room that seemed to collect more decorations and memorabilia every time he saw it. His parents proudly displayed various trinkets and curios from the extensive list of worlds they visited and species they'd traded with.::
 
::Being here made a swirling pool of warmth simmer in his belly. It was hard not to reminisce when you stood on the ship you were born on.::
 
Hawkins: ::A sloppy smile:: All right, you got me. So where is this mysterious guest you said will be joining us for dinner? 
 
Sandra: Don't worry, they'll be here in time. Let me go and check on a few things, and let you two talk.
 
::As his mom left through a hatch, Walter gestured to one of the seats and strode to the wall cabinet. Hawkins sat himself in the sturdy, ergonomic dining chair as his father brought a small bottle of dark red liquid and two small glass goblets. He filled them and slid one towards Hawkins before taking his seat at the table. Hawkins smiled and took the glass, sniffing it before taking a sip.::
 
Walter: I figure this may be the last time you get to enjoy the real stuff for a while.
 
Hawkins: Thanks, dad. Synthehol just isn't the same. 
 
Walter: I imagine. Well you seem so different, Frank. More confident. I guess serving out there in the frontier forced you to do some growing up, didn't it? From Ensign to Lieutenant Commander in a matter of months. 
 
Hawkins: That's an understatement. There's no way I could have seen that coming. Most people wait years.
 
Walter: I'm proud of you, young man. But that's not all that's different about you. 
 
Hawkins: Well, I've seen some things. I learned a few details that made it--it made it hard to sleep at night.
 
::Walter nodded in slow motion, merging his lips into an uneven line while his thick eyebrows descended over his eyes like black ice slipping down the side of a porthole. He drank from his goblet and slid his thick fingers onto Frank's forearm, squeezing it.::
 
Walter: Whatever it is, you can talk about it. I'll listen.
 
Hawkins: That's just it. I can't. I can't talk about it, not to anyone. I wish I could. God, dad, I wish I could.
 
Walter: ::Another squeeze:: It's a heavy burden. And that's why you requested a transfer out of the Gamma quadrant?
 
::Hawkins used his thumb and middle finger to rotate the goblet a few times before picking it up for a swig.::
 
Hawkins: Partly. ::Pause:: Mostly. And to be closer so I can visit you and mom when I get leave, if it turns to we can arrange it like we did this time.
 
Walter: Oh, we'll arrange it. Don't worry about that, home will always be there for you Frank. 
 
::The hatch swished open and his mother walked in with a giddy smile hiking the corners of her mouth up. When she stepped inside she slipped to the right. And stepping through after her was the person Frank never thought he'd see again. He lost control of his body for a moment, half-rising with his glass held loose in his hand. His mouth opened but something stuck in his throat--she was that stunning.::
 
Rachel: Hello, Frank.
 
::Hawkins managed to regain bodily control, setting his glass down. He stood up fully and his chair swiveled around as he bumped it with his knee, stepping away. The flesh on the back of his neck flashed hot and his eyes kept focusing on her the more he studied her face..::
 
Hawkins: Why... I mean hello. Why didn't you tell me you were coming? 
 
Rachel: I thought it would be a nice surprise.
 
Walter: ::Rising:: Excuse me, we better check on the food.
 
::His parents exchanged knowing smiles and slipped out of the room.::
 
Hawkins: I can't. I can't believe how much you've--how amazing you. Rachel, I never got a chance to... what have you been doing ever since I left for starfleet?
 
Rachel: Searching, I guess. Looking for my place, somewhere I belonged. 
 
::When she walked towards him, it was as if the room began to shrink and fade away into the background like a veil of mist obfuscated it.::
 
Hawkins: Did you--find it?
 
Rachel: Remember when we talked about running away together? To the--
 
Hawkins: --Vedimin cluster. My God, I haven't thought about that since--
 
Rachel: --and exploring the Vedimin temples, step by--
 
Hawkins: --date. It was on the 5th, and you were wearing that silver--
 
Rachel: --we could still do it--
 
Hawkins: --and I dropped my... wait, what? 
 
Rachel: --never stopped thinking about you.
 
::They were both older now, and there were those tiny differences you notice when you reconnect with someone after so long. Her smile had changed: it was somehow more reserved. Those things he remembered were still there, like the way she kept touching the pendant hanging from her necklace. He realized with a start it was the one he'd given her, in what seemed like a lifetime ago.::
 
::The people they once were, they were phantoms of a sort. Composed of fragmented memories that became hazier every time he thought about them. Was he a phantom that she'd held onto?::
 
Hawkins: I think about us often, to be sure. Maybe not often enough. Life on a starship is busy, busier than I could have imagined.
 
Rachel: We could still do it. I never--I never met anyone, not anyone important. 
 
Hawkins: ::[...]ing his head to the left:: You're being serious. ::A smile and a half-chuckle.:: Just drop everything and run off together?
 
::Her smile slackened, and refreshed, then slackened again. Like she was trying to stay happy in the moment, to stay positive. Her eyes darted downward, then back up to his face. He felt as if his response hurt her, and his excitement at seeing her took a backseat.::
 
Rachel: Is that so ridiculous?
 
Hawkins: No, not at all. It's not ridiculous--it's not ridiculous Rachel. It's just so--I have a career now. Responsibility. 
 
Rachel: You used to hate that word. I guess you're--a very different person now. So very different.
 
::And now he hated it even more. He took her hands in his, enclosing them.::
 
Hawkins: I still care about you. Think about you. But I can't just give up what I've worked to hard to achieve.
 
Rachel: I know. It was stupid of me to think you would. Stupid and selfish.
 
Hawkins: Don't say that. We'll always have what we shared. And I can still see you, from time to time.
 
Rachel: As friends.
 
Hawkins: Is that... so ridiculous?
 
::She smiled at him and kissed the big knuckle of his middle finger.::
 
Rachel: No, not at all.
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