Intermission: "A Very Merry Christmas"
It was the silence that woke her, or so she thought, when her eyes suddenly snapped open. Her mind took in the gentle rhythm of the dreams around her and the quiet thoughts of those already awake. She squirmed from her curled up position to laying on her back, so she could stretch her arms out and then let out a soft yawn into a bawled fist. And then she was laughed out loud as she spotted the gift left on the pillow next to her.
That was so Melissa.
Even when told gifts would be handled later, she'd go out of her way to break the rules somehow.
When she reached out to pick up the shiny silver rectangle though, she stopped short of her fingers touching it. No, not Melissa. She picked it up pulling it over to her. And she knew, though there wasn't even a tag that somehow Zack had come into her room and gone out of it again to leave this. It was him. His bundle of nervous energy, caught up in some hard chaos in his head, permeating the paper.
Lyta's fingers traced the paper a moment, wondering why he'd come and left her an early morning gift even though he's specifically missed the Gala last night. Heather, Jason and Melissa had told her they'd been sure to make sure he was invited and felt welcome. And yet he still hadn't come, and no one had known why, because they'd all been sure he'd wanted to come and was coming.
Breaking the tape felt sort of like defeating her promise to everyone about presents later, but this secret gift on her pillow didn't seem part of that promise all at once. A minute later the paper was strewn on the bed and she was looking at the gift with a confused glance. It was a picture frame holding a picture she well knew. Zack and her sitting and laughing at some joke she couldn't remember the words for.
They looked incredibly happy. She looked incredibly happy.
It was long before everything had happened.
When her fingers, wrapped around the frame ran into something, she turned it over to find a piece of paper with scrawled words taped to the back. She sat back in bed, rereading it a dozen times and trying not to feel small and nervous by all it said;
This beginning was amazing, though its ending was contemptible,
This new beginning's been contemptible, so maybe the ending will be amazing.
"So there we are, middle of this horrid shoot out –where we could be dying any moment-," Melissa interjects over her shoulder to the crowd seated at the table, while flipping pancakes. "And they were still arguing like it's the second coming to ask for an iota of help from each other, or acquiesce to the idea they've actually been helping each other. I swear I would have burst out laughing, if I wasn't busy dodging fire."
"Or causing the battles," Lyta's voice caught everyone's attention, from where she'd suddenly appeared in the Kitchen doorway. Wrapped up in a thick, down robe, she looked content mostly staring in amusement at her life and time adopted youngling.
"Eee!" Melissa squealed, suddenly. "You're awake!"
"And," Lyta added with a smirk curling her lips. "Susan and I don't fight."
"Now," Melissa responded sarcastically.
"Oh, I'd believe it," a response came from the table, and finally Lyta took in who the everyone else in the room was. She'd assumed for family –Jason, Lennier, Melissa and their newest tag-along of Melissa's best friend, Ember- but not for Zack. Her eyes narrowed and then relaxed. She had assumed he'd have somewhere to go, but truly where else and who else did he really know here? He was smiling, though he suddenly had a nervous air once her eyes found him. He kept the smile though, as he continued in saying, "I saw them when they first met. Like oil and water, even though it was million times better than the sparks that flew between Susan and Talia."
"Well, not everyone can give in so easily to fate dictating who their next love of their life will be," Lyta said with a sardonic shake of her head.
"True, true," Jason said, pulling out a chair and motioning with his head for her to come sit.
"So when is presents around here, again?" Ember asked, sounding a touch impatient, as she fiddled with the breakfast placemat in front of her that had only silverware and her orange juice on it.
"And breakfast is served!" The younger redhead of the kitchen announced suddenly, tossing her spatula toward the dish cluttered sink.
"Later," Lennier replied calmly toward Ember.
"Later? Then what's first aside from food?" Zack asked, nudging and winking at Ember to show he was on her side.
"The best thing in the world," Melissa replied almost dreamily.
She brought plates first to Zack, Lennier and Ember and returned to the stove. Her quiet airy response seemed to set a fire into the air that effected them differently in sets. Lennier looked amused, Jason and Lyta both looked toward each other with a sort of calm but effusive joy, and Zack and Ember still looked at them all like they were holding a secret neither understood.
Melissa looked at Lyta almost expectantly as she brought the next set of plates for herself, Lyta and Jason. Raising an eyebrow, which got Lyta to give her a shrug and a smile, she started again, "Well, when I was young and my parents-"
She paused hard suddenly at that last word, then swallowed and started again, "I used to own this archaic set of Doctor Seuss books. I read them till they fell apart. I took them everywhere, but I lost them a long time ago. In a book called The Grinch, it's about Christmas you probably know, but my favorite part….it's after all the gifts are gone and they all come out to sing. It's kind of like that."
"We're going to go sing? Like caroling?" Ember asked, audaciously, like this was something outlandish.
"Not exactly," Melissa said, smiling impishly as she looked from Lyta to Ember.
"Well, I'm confused," Zack stated, laughing, after finishing up a bite of food.
Melissa looked from Ember to Zack suddenly, her face paling as she spun to face Lyta, it was Lennier who responded to his words, amid the silence between the redheads. "I am certain they'll explain it when the time comes for us to understand."
"I'm sure," Zack replied to Lennier as they ate food, both not catching the silent conversation that flew between the redheads only a few feet from either of them. "They always tell us everything – later."
A few giggles came from around the table and conversation returned like normal to the table. The kitchen was filled with laughter and joking, with the truly good conversation of friends new and old that can only be perfected by the art of trials, tribulations and the wonderful of holidays.
Zack handled the end of breakfast. It was his offer as he'd told them at the end of the meal, because he had so little else to offer them here in general and especially on this holiday. Also, he felt he needed to be able to move and get up. To be useful was something he was starting to feel pulling at him like a terrible storm. On Babylon 5 there was always something for him to be doing, taking care of, delegating or deciding.
"I'm sure we can find something for you to do," Lyta said from the door.
He almost smiled once he'd realized it was she and finished drying the cup in his hand not looking to her yet. Partially because he was still getting used to people reacting to something he was thinking of and otherwise because he wanted to keep certain thoughts from being thought is she was reading his. "I'm sure someone will find something for me to do sooner or later. I just feel restless and useless. But then it's only been the first week or two. Most new beginnings are…rough."
"Yes," Lyta said softly, after a seconds pause. She had noted his stumbling into the beginning reference without meaning to and then pausing mid his own sentence because he felt his own stumble into it. It was rather cute in a sort of childish way. So she covered it up for him. "After all, we could always sit down at some point this week, go over your strengths and weakness, Sanctuary's strengths and weakness', and find a perfect fit for the two of you together."
"That would be nice," he said, giving her a smile before picking up the next plate to dry.
"We noticed your absence last night during the Gala," Lyta stated more diplomatically than she'd originally meant the statement to be.
"You know me," Zack replied, coolly. "I don't like big parties and stuff."
"You didn't seem to mind on the station," Lyta replied suddenly, and almost covered her mouth when the statement came out. She hadn't meant to say it and even more she hadn't meant to mean it. And she did. He'd taken her out the last time as a not-a-date basically, and then not shown to this one. And until this moment she hadn't realized it had truly grated.
"You and," he focused on the plate and placing it on the drying rack before finishing the second name, "Byron seemed to look like you needed space last night."
Lyta let out a strange and strangled sound through closed lips that might have been a laugh if they were open. She cross her hands on her stomach and wondered which one of them seemed more the teenager suddenly, because they were vying well in an odd way. "Byron and I are friends. Well, if you can call it that. Mostly, it's for Heathers expense."
"Yes, the councils secretary-"
"I know who she is," he said, easily, not being rude in his interruption.
"She thinks I've given him a raw deal in refusing him entrance to my life again," Lyta started calmly, leaning against one side of the door and not looking at him herself. "That I'd torn up the council with my temper tantrums and that I should stop playing god with this world, if I left the running of it half to my choice and half to it's occupants."
Zack looked over toward her and she felt and saw what he did, even though she hadn't been prying. There was the image of her and Byron walking into town holding hands, smiling and talking, and then hugging, with the emotions of confusion, anger, and jealousy all as an undercurrent. Her eyes met his and so many questions filled her mouth.
"Are you telling me you two aren't ready yet?" Melissa asked, pushing at Lyta, her coat already on.
"We were just leaving," Zack told her, with an infectious smile. "I was just holding Lyta up with questions about this lovely planet all over again. I'm getting my coat now. Should we meet you on the steps?"
"Yes," Melissa said drawing her words out slowly. "We've been waiting fifteen minutes already. You two need to hurry up or you'll miss it."
And then she was gone again, and that odd silence was back, which Zack tried to push past even though she hadn't said anything since talking about Heather and her council still. "I'll go get my coat. Where's yours?"
"I don't need it," Lyta said.
"You'll be cold."
"Only if I let myself," she replied with a light secretive smile.
Zack gave her a strange glance but walked past her out into the hallway and started getting his coat out of a closet, thinking that the house seemed so old itself. But he'd been told Lyta had chosen this house and constructed large part of it herself, too. Wanting it to be rustic and natural and needing tending. He'd gotten a lot of stories about how powerful and how humble she was lately…and it was strange trying to relate the legend of Lyta and the girl he always saw when he looked at her.
And he needed to get a hold on that, too.
"All ready?" He asked, going to open the front door.
Lyta nodded, and right as his hand pulled the door open she said, "Thank you for the picture this morning."
He looked back in shock at her words, but only to be interrupted by a cheer that roared from outside the door causing him to look back outside. The entire road before the house was filled to the edges with people as far as he could see. On top of the steps at the house stood those he had breakfast with plus what appeared to be the council –those he'd met and few others-, and the steps were empty, but right where the ground started a massive huge crowd stood.
Calm and bright and smiling.
Lyta could hear them long before she could see them, but seeing them brought a few tears to her eyes. They came because the council had announced this location, and because the council wanted her paid a due even if no one so much paid it to her as much as an unnamed person they never knew was her also. She walked passed Zack and his shock as most of them began to hold hands.
It started as a low hum somewhere in the middle or the back, beautiful and sad. And as Melissa slid into her side under her arm, like the daughter that she'd never had, she felt the first crescendo that would be all those voice singing inside themselves and each other.
Not a song of words, but of hearts and lives.
Her eyes still shining, she looked down into the bright red hair of already tear-stricken face of Melissa who'd called her name, who wasn't looked at her but behind her. She looked back to Zack at the door still. He looked like he was trapped somewhere and confused. Letting go of Melissa who moved in toward her friend and other family members, she walked back across the landing toward him.
His eyes were still on all the people. He couldn't tell what was happening but he could feel it. Not in a way that he knew what was happening. But in the way anyone could feel a coming storm. It crawled up your spine, raising all the hairs on your body and filling you with static energy. It made him nervous and twitchy, so when Lyta said his name out loud. The only sound he could hear in what felt like a blasting noise he couldn't, he jumped out of surprise.
"Zack," she said his name again softly, holding out a hand to him. "Do you trust me?"
"With everything in me," he said suddenly, so suddenly that when his words registered in his mind, his face flushed crimson. And his vision shifted to the ground, but she was still walking toward him and her hand was out.
"Come with me. I promise it won't hurt," she said, as she reached down for his hand and pulled him toward the people behind her.
Zack she said it softly, and tried not to look a little hurt or concerned when he jumped again. He hadn't expected her to speak inside his mind and she squeezed his hand, before looking out at all of the people beyond her. The world that she was so proud of that it hurt.
Trust me. He nodded as she directed him to sit down on the middle of the stairs with her and then something happened that he wasn't sure he could even describe.
It seemed like the entire world suddenly shifted and he was glad he was sitting, because he felt like he couldn't stand or hold himself. She squeezed his hand and he kept breathing. What had been crawling up his spine crawled up into his mind and broke wide open. And it was like music and it wasn't music all at once. But it was beautiful and so heart breaking.
Zack could see it all like it was an unending waterfall washing across his/her/their body. The lives they'd come from, the hard ships they'd endured, the family they'd lost, the lives that'd been torn….and then something else. The hope that they'd gathered, the lives they'd been offered, the world they'd been given, the lives they could earn, the families they could raise, the freedom they could cherish.
As the tears started to fall down his face, she watched him calmly. These were the stories she counted as more precious than anything she could procure or steal or earn. These were the lives of her people, and yet she watched his face. This face who'd haunted her once upon a time for a early adult puppy love to someone who'd directed her life to bars and locked rooms. Who'd give up his life and come half way across the universe to her, who distrusted and suspected his every move, with no motive other than to help.
Who wondered even as he cried if he felt for them really. Even though linked into all of them, there was no way to lie about the emotions that flooded him. The utter honesty, hurt and rejoicing for them was real. Those eyes filled with tears that didn't see her anymore but them, and her through them as their redeemer.
It was an auspicious beginning, she admitted, holding his body close to her as he floated through a sea he'd never known.
She noted looking over her family,
the cosmic enitity, a man who was more than anything anyone could imagine holding a small brunette hair silent child of untold power,
-the warrior, once lover, and dearest friend who was more loyal than friendship or love or self could earn,
the daughter or sister who hate had garnered and love had kept hand in hand with a best friend who could mean any number of future paths not knowing loneliness,
even the once dead lover holding hands with a woman who could be a future passionate friend and ally
Sometimes….sometimes the most auspicious beginnings could have the best of endings.