Title: Broken Hero

Author: Aelan Greenleaf

Category: Alternate Universe; Angst

Summary: "I give his hand one more squeeze, thank him with a nod of my head, and walk out of The Dragon's Tale, without my story but with more understanding of Enterprise's broken hero."

Rating: PG

I walk into the dimly lit bar on Alpha Centuri, and immediately choke on the smoke hanging in the air. I cough twice, gather myself, and continue onwards. I scan the faces of these sullen and lonely people, sitting in a desolate bar in a broken part of the city. Faces all around me reflect those dark emotions that I fear; emotions of isolation, loneliness, failure, desperation and doubt. Emotions that were drowned within drink upon drink, until their minds were so overloaded that they couldn't remember who they were.

I look away quickly from those defeated visages, and concentrate on finding my target. A quick word with the brooding bartender, and I find my goal hunched over in the far corner, beneath a flickering light that only accentuated the shadows under his eyes.

I approach with caution, not quite knowing if this was the man I wanted. But even as I thought that, I identified the shape of his jaw, the slight draw of his cheekbones with the face that I had seen plastered over every news broadcast when I was a child.

The sunken eyes, though, were not what I remembered. Nor the dullness of those once sharp blue eyes, or the greying stubble that dotted the outline of his chin. This was not the hero that I had so idolized in my younger days.

"Excuse me, but Mr.-" I started, but was immediately silenced by the rise of an arm.

"You can sit, Ms...?" he asked, without looking at me.

"Fitzgerald." I answered quickly, "Kate Fitzgerald."

He nodded, and it seemed that a whisper of a smile flew across his face, although it could have just been that damned light.

I sit down gingerly, sliding into the faded pleather seats. I place my notebook down upon the worn table, and let my arms fold awkwardly into my lap.

"Now, Ms. Fitzgerald." he said quietly, while looking at me intently with those dull blue eyes. Inadvertently, I shiver. "What is it you want?"

Looking down abruptly, I open up my notebook and take the lid off my pen. "Just a short interview please, sir, if you don't mind."

He opens his mouth, then closes it again immediately. Raising his hands to face after a moment, he rubs at his eyes. A murmur came forth from his lips, but before I can decipher it, he looks up once more.

"Alright." he answers with a sigh.

I ask him all the questions I had prepared: What he was doing now? Why on Alpha Centuri? Why not with Starfleet?

Every question I asked was answered with evasive answers: business; because of his job; because of certain reasons. I had nothing substantial to put in my article yet, and I was getting frustrated.

Finally, after another few minutes of the same, I put down my pre-prepared questions, cast aside my notebook and just stare at him in the eyes. "You used to be a hero," I started calmly and quietly, "What happened?"

Silence overcame the gap between us, and for a long moment he just stared right back into my eyes. Finally, after what seemed a millennia, he broke the contact, and bore a hole right down into the table.

"I couldn't save her." he whispers softly. "I told her I'd save her, that I'd keep her safe, and she just smiled her beautiful smile and said she knew I would." I saw a tear glisten in his right eye, and I realized then exactly what had happened to that man I had seen on those newscasts so long ago, when the dream of space-travel was young.

I reach my hand across the table, and take his cold and clammy one into mine. He looks up, and I smile softly, sadly.

"I'm sorry." I sympathize quietly.

He smiles back too, with all the pain and suffering of the world written into it from the past twelve years. "I know." he replies just as slightly.

I give his hand one more squeeze, thank him with a nod of my head, and walk out of The Dragon's Tale, without my story but with more understanding of Enterprise's broken hero.