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BLUEHEART - San Francisco (Part 2)


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((San Francisco, Earth))

::The surface of the bay was refulgent. A cold salty breeze swept inland and into the refurbished San Francisco Ferry Building, now filled with bistros and cafes and quaint cozy restaurants. They sat facing each other at a small round table by the waterfront, the rays of sunlight pleasant on the skin and brilliant on the bunch of mauve and pink petunias at the center of the table.

Coffee is always a bad idea when it comes to ex-flames. He thought about this as he sipped his beverage staring out onto the resplendent bay. He also thought about other things. Things from the past.::

((Flashback – 4 years ago, Migrant Colony Medical Camp, Mars))

::Their relationship had been on the verge of collapse for some time now. Raj had continued to water and nourish the wilting relationship obsessively, not realizing that he was in fact drowning them both.::

MATTHEWS: ::gently leading him aside by the elbow:: A word, Raj?

BLUEHEART: Sure, Dylan. ::His heart sank.::

MATTHEWS: Look, this isn't working out. We both know it. We both need to move on.

BLUEHEART: Okay. ::He smiled. He surrendered.::

MATTHEWS: You're hurt, I can see that, but this is for the best. If only….

::That evening Raj had returned home to his temporary quarters and stripped off all his clothes before stepping into the common shower room. Finding it deserted, he turned on the water to a scalding temperature, and sat under the cascading water jet, naked, with his knees drawn up close to his chest, too numb to cry, too numb to feel any heartache. He unclenched his right hand where he had concealed a scalpel he had sneaked out of the infirmary. He stared at the gleaming blade for the longest time, his heart never even picking up pace. How tranquil it would feel to be numb and unaware towards everything, forever, he contemplated.

The universe had conspired against him that evening. For the waters did not run scarlet.::

((End flashback))

::Raj shuddered. The gentle breeze was cold. But not that cold.::

MATTHEWS: Sorry I haven't kept in touch.

::There was a tinge of sadness in his voice. Maybe Raj just imagined there was. The Starfleet officer gently placed his cup on the table and cautiously gazed into a set of incredibly deep blue eyes. The years have been good on him, he thought to himself. He still looked essentially the same as he did all those years ago. The strong jaw, the distinguished nose, the furrows creasing his brow. If at all, those fine lines radiating from the outer corner of his eyes only lent an air of distinction and success to that handsome face.::

BLUEHEART: I wouldn't expect you to. ::His smile was not a smile.::

MATTHEWS: ::removing his jacket and placing it over the back of his chair:: So tell me, officer. ::He leaned forward, gripping both elbows as he placed them on the table.:: Who's that handsome specimen I saw you with earlier?

BLUEHEART: ::trying to disregard the sparkle in those mesmerizing eyes:: Em? ::This time it was a smile.:: He's…. a xenolinguist. Part of the crew.

::The bay was like a bowl of diamonds glittering under the noon sun.::

MATTHEWS: ::chuckling:: Em. That's his name, is it? Well he's not only a xenolinguist. ::There was that sparkle in the eyes again.:: He's more than that. He's someone special, isn't he? ::He smiled broader.:: I'm really glad you found----

BLUEHEART: Can we not talk about Em? ::He reminded himself to smile. And did.::

MATTHEWS: ::leaning back in his seat but still retaining that infectious smile:: Now you're being defensive. ::He even chuckled.::

BLUEHEART: No. I'm being protective. Of my privacy. oO And of my friends. Oo ::He sipped some coffee because he couldn't smile. Not this time.::

MATTHEWS: Okay, okay. Right. So.. ::running a hand through his wind-swept hair:: what's it like being on a starship?

::Raj inwardly groaned. But at least that unclassy, worn out question was a little effort on Dylan's part in the right direction. He unfastened the buttons of his formal attire jacket and removed it, folding it neatly before placing it gingerly on his lap like one would a newborn kitten.::

BLUEHEART: oO In four years time you can ask your brother. Oo It's cool. ::pause:: Well, actually it's pretty awesome. oO If you don't count the mutiny and my ill-stricken holodeck adventures. Oo

::He caressed the velvet of the petunias. A massive cloud lumbered across the sun, its shadow silently gliding over the shimmering surface of the bay. The wind, still as cold, picked up speed momentarily, ruffling the doctor's already tousled hair. Raj couldn't bear looking lest bittersweet memories be awakened, so he glanced away, out onto the dark shape rolling across the bay. A seagull swooped down near their table and perched itself on the railing some feet away. It squawked loudly, gawking at the pair for the longest time with inquisitive eyes, then flew off into the re-emerging sun, perhaps bored with the placid antics of the two mundane humans.::

MATTHEWS: I bet. ::There's that dimple at the left corner of his mouth. Raj had been wondering what was missing from that face.:: You see a whole different set of patients in the military, huh?

::A waitress appeared out of nowhere and refilled their cups. The sweet aroma of cinnamon coffee, like the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, was breathtaking.::

BLUEHEART: ::inhaling the beguiling scent and cradling the cup in both palms:: I'm not a medical officer on board the Discovery. But yes. You see a lot more combat-related injuries and novel pathogenic diseases. I guess. ::The coffee was divine.::

MATTHEWS: Oh? ::He crossed his legs under the table.:: You're not practicing on board?

BLUEHEART: No. I'm the First Officer. Counselor before that.

MATTHEWS: Wow. That's news. First Officer. ::He took a sip of his coffee.:: You were so passionate about Medicine in school. I thought for sure you'd win the Nobel prize one day. ::Perfect white teeth. Again.::

::The giant cumulonimbus was taking its sweet idle time to stroll across the pale blue sky. As punishment for its lassitude, it got lanced by several shards of sunbeams piercing their way through to the surface of the bay. It was a beautiful. Almost serene. Gloomy and bright all at once. Just how Raj thought perfect weather should be. Should always be. A slim shaft of sunlight hit their table. The petunias seemed more opulent in color than before. Something glinted, gleamed, catching his eye. Dylan's left hand rested on the table top, palm facing down.::

BLUEHEART: ::shrugging:: People change I guess. ::He had spoken the words without forethought.::

MATTHEWS: You're right. ::There was that tinge of sadness again.:: People do change. But it never occurred to me you'd quit Medicine. Why did you?

BLUEHEART: ::staring right through and beyond Dylan's handsome face:: You know why. ::He stifled a sigh.::

MATTHEWS: ::It was he who sighed.:: Perhaps I do. But I'd still like to hear it. For the record.

::Patrons were walking by, to and fro. A child was crying somewhere, maybe lost and unable to locate her guardians. The ferry building was swarming with people.::

BLUEHEART: I couldn't stand to be near you. ::He said it so casually, like he was mentioning the weather forecast.:: There. I said.

MATTHEWS: ::downcast eyes:: Thank you. I understand.

BLUEHEART: I don't think you do. Understand. ::His voice was as cool as the light breeze streaming through Dylan's curls.::

MATTHEWS: ::Another sigh.:: I told you the reason----

BLUEHEART: Well, I had stopped listening after "this isn't working out". ::It was a mystery how he remained cool, composed and collected right then.::

MATTHEWS: The next instant you vanished.

BLUEHEART: You expected me to stay? ::He almost snorted. Almost.::

::Dylan Matthews remained silent. Now it was he who looked past Raj into that mystical eternal space that stretched till the edge of the universe. The silence was unnerving, uncomfortable. But necessary.::

MATTHEWS: I'm truly sorry, Raj.

::He leaned forward. His words were soft, warm, heartfelt. Raj quickly drew back anticipating Dylan's hand reaching out to touch his. Of course, it was all in his imagination.::

BLUEHEART: It's okay. ::It was not.:: That's all in the past. ::A forced smile. A pathetically fake smile.::

::In a parallel universe, the waters might have actually run scarlet. And Raj Blueheart may not have existed to see himself rise through the ranks in Starfleet. He shuddered again at the macabre thought. He also considered revealing to the man before him what he had set out to do that fateful night. Kill him softly and slowly with guilt. Make him suffer the same way he did four years ago, alone and naked in that shower stall, under the streaming hot water, a stolen scalpel poised and quivering in his hand.

Yet he didn't. He couldn't. A certain desperation, a vacuum, was already present in the man, slowly devouring him from within.::

MATTHEWS: ::managing a forced smile himself:: Yes, the past. The past is always a good place to start.

::A hover-ferry hurried by, an amalgamation of native Terrans and aliens alike acting all touristy on board the speeding craft. A passenger's large yellow hat flew off in a gust of wind. Raj watched it soar into the clouds then plummet into the bay. He returned his gaze to the glimmering object diverting the sun's rays into his eyes. Suddenly self-conscious, he tried to look away, swiftly and inconspicuously, but was too late.::

MATTHEWS: I still wear it even though it has been two years…. ::He brought his hand up to his chest and twisted the gold band round and round and round his ring finger.::

BLUEHEART: I'm sorry. ::He didn't know exactly what for, but it seemed like the appropriate thing to say.::

MATTHEWS: ::shrugging:: No, it's all right. ::He stretched his long legs under the table. He paused a bit, taking his turn to stare out at the Golden Gate Bridge. Then, as if reading Raj's mind, he spoke, with that same tinge of melancholy in his voice.:: The infirmary he was working in on Xaloq IV was bombed.

::Melancholy was highly infectious. Raj felt his heart implode with sudden, unexpected sadness. When he looked at Dylan, he almost saw a different person before him. How was it that stories, happy or catastrophic, were able to morph a person's features right before one's eyes? Dylan had aged ten years, such was the grief still strong and menacing within him.::

MATTHEWS: No one survived. ::He looked away. Far away.:: He was at the wrong place at the wrong time…. ::The lively sparkle in his eyes had been replaced with glistening moisture.::

::The languid cloud finally set the afternoon sun free from behind its murky veil. The waters of the bay was gloriously refulgent once again. The cool salty breeze had died down but the sea gulls still glided high above on lofty air drafts. The Golden Gate Bridge stood majestic but silent in the distance, casting a keen eye on two men revisiting their past in the present.

He hesitantly reached out a mildly tremulous hand, across the table and coffee cups and petunias, to drape over Dylan's.::

TBC
=======================================
LtCmdr Raj Blueheart
First Officer
USS DISCOVERY-C

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